NASCAR Race Weekend Central

RPM inks Almirola to drive iconic 43 car

CONCORD, N.C. — Richard Petty Motorsports on Wednesday announced that Aric Almirola will drive the legendary No. 43 car in the Sprint Cup Series in 2012.

Almirola has made 35 starts in the Cup Series, his most recent stint coming in 2010 when he finished the last five races of the season in the No. 9 Ford. During the final race of the season at Homestead, the Tampa, Fla., native posted a career-high fourth-place finish. Almirola drove a JR Motorsports entry in the Nationwide Series in 2011 and capped off a successful season with a fourth-place finish in points.

“One of the things I am most excited about is to have the chance to drive a car as iconic as the No. 43,” Almirola said. “There is so much history surrounding that number and to have my name above the door will be really special for me.

“This is the first real opportunity I’ve had to drive in the Cup Series full time. Last year the No. 43 team had a lot of speed and was competitive on a weekly basis. Greg Erwin is a great crew chief and I’m excited to work with him. Everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports has a lot of enthusiasm and drive and I’m really looking forward to getting to work.”

Almirola will join a team that is poised to compete for a spot in the 2012 Chase. Almirola will get behind the wheel for a team that earned one top-five finish and 10 top-10s in 2011 en route to a 15th-place finish in the owners’ standings.

“We are thrilled to welcome Aric Almirola into the RPM family,” Richard Petty said. “We feel extremely fortunate to have had a number of very talented drivers interested in joining our organization, but ultimately we felt Aric would be the best fit for the team and for our current and potential partners. We have had the chance to watch his progress for the past several years and we had success with him in the past. We are really confident in his potential as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. We think Aric has all the makings to be the next bright star in our sport.”

Almirola began his racing career competing in go-karts before joining the open-wheel modified ranks in 2000. He was an original member of the Joe Gibbs Racing/Reggie White Drive for Diversity program. Almirola made his NASCAR national tour debut in 2005 in the Truck Series and began his Nationwide Series career in ’06, driving for JGR. Almirola drove a part-time Cup Series schedule for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2008 before heading back to the Truck Series and earning a runner-up finish in the point standings in 2010.

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