Richard Petty Motorsports announced on Wednesday that Aric Almirola has been hired to replace A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel of the No. 43 RPM Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2012. Allmendinger left the Petty organization in December to drive the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge.
"I'm very excited about this opportunity to not only drive the historic and iconic 43 car, but to work with all the people here at Richard Petty Motorsports," Almirola said. "I had the privilege last year of sitting on the couch on Sundays and watching the races, and I saw how competitive their race cars were on a weekly basis and that was a big factor in making the decision to come over here to Richard Petty Motorsports."
Almirola comes to Richard Petty Motorsports from the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned JR Motorsports, where he drove the No. 88 JRM Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series. On the same day as the announcement from RPM, recognizing Almirola as its new driver, JR Motorsports announced that Cole Whitt will replace Almirola in the No. 88 Nationwide Series car.
I'm excited to be his teammate now.
Almirola still had time remaining on his contract with JR Motorsports but would have been unable to drive for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series and Richard Petty Motorsports in the Sprint Cup Series because of the car manufacturer conflict, as JRM fields Chevrolets and RPM Fords. He was, however, granted a release from his contract with JRM.
"I'm a little bit sad leaving where I left," Almirola said. "I had a good home there with Junior Motorsports, but it was important for me to have their support to come do this. I talked with Dale and Kelley quite a bit throughout this whole process and they supported me 100 percent. Dale said that was the main reason for him having a Nationwide team was to get guys in the Nationwide car at his shop and to give them an opportunity to go and make a career out of racing in NASCAR."
Almirola is not new to the Sprint Cup Series or Richard Petty Motorsports.
"I got the privilege to drive here at the end of 2010 when I ran five races in the 9 car and got to work with a lot of the people here at Richard Petty Motorsports then and had a lot of fun driving that car at that time," Almirola said.
Almirola was a temporary replacement in RPM's No. 9 Ford at the end of the 2010 season when Kasey Kahne left the team before the end of that season. Marcos Ambrose was later selected to drive the No. 9 car in 2011 and remains with the organization and is now Almirola's teammate.
"Me and Marcos actually started racing in the Truck Series at the exact same time, so we've been friends on and off the race track through that," Almirola said. "We talked a lot when we were racing in the Truck Series together. I've watched him go on to Cup racing and have kept up with him and see him throughout the garage. I've always had a friendly relationship with him, and I respect him a lot as a race car driver, so I'm excited to be his teammate now."