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2012 Ride: No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Fusion
2012 Primary Sponsor: Smithfield Foods
2012 Car Owner(s): Andrew Murstein, Douglas Bergeron, and Richard Petty
2012 Crew Chief(s): Greg Erwin (Races 1-9), Mike Ford (Races 10-26), Todd Parrott (Races 27-36)
2012 Stats: 36 Starts, 0 Wins, 1 Top 5, 4 Top 10s, 3 DNFs, 20th in Points
Best Finish: 4th – Martinsville (Fall).
Average Finish: 20.0.
2012 Team Ranking: 2nd of 2. Almirola and his No. 43 squad came on strong late in the season, but teammate Marcos Ambrose was better over the duration of the season, delivering a win and a higher ranking in the point standings.
High Point: This one’s easy. Almirola was the class of the field during the fall race at the newly repaved Kansas Speedway. Almirola led the second most laps in the event (60) and appeared to have the field covered up until a late-race crash ended the No. 43 team’s day. Despite coming home with a wrecked Ford and 29th place finish, Almirola’s superb performance over the course of the race was ultimately what saved his job going forward into next season. If not for flat tires, derailing his ability to stay up front (and ultimately wrecking the car) he could have very well ended the day in Victory Lane.
Low Point: After delivering consecutive finishes of 35th, 32nd, and 26th at the end of the regular season, Almirola found himself mired in 22nd in the points with hot rumors swirling around saying that he would not return to the No. 43 for 2013. By this point in the season, it was practically considered a foregone conclusion that Almirola would not be back in the Cup Series in 2013, and in a last-ditch effort to spark some life into the No. 43 team, RPM officials decided to swap the crews of the their two teams. Almirola responded to this crossroads moment of his career with a markedly improved string of performances in the Chase, and ultimately the low point that Almirola found himself in after the fall Richmond race was just what was needed to give him a boost going forward.
Summary: Almriola, who for all intents and purposes was a bona fide rookie, did about what was expected of him in 2012, and even managed to turn a few heads towards the end of the season. Almirola improved from the start to finish, and although that improvement seemed to move at a glacial pace at times, it was enough to save his ride in 2013.
Almirola’s performance in late season runs at Kansas, Chicago, and Martinsville served as testament to his skill and ability to hang with the big boys, but his inability to run well consistently was arguably the most troubling aspect if his season. He’ll absolutely have to correct that, turning ups and downs into solid top-15 finishes if he wants any sort of long-term future in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
2013 Outlook: Solid. The Almirola-Parrott combination turned heads at the end of the season, and if Almirola can maintain the level of confidence he forged as a result, the No. 43 team could be an intriguing one to watch in 2013. Remember, this head wrench won a championship, with Robert Yates Racing and Dale Jarrett back in 1999 and can coax the most out of his driver with the right chemistry.
2011 Frontstretch.com Grade: N/A.
2012 Grade: C+.
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