Though it has not been officially announced, it is being reported that Richard Petty Motorsports will be hiring Aric Almirola to drive the No. 43 during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The car is currently without a main sponsor, but that could change with Almirola behind the wheel. The car was previously driven by A.J. Allmendinger and sponsored by Best Buy. When Best Buy pulled their sponsorship earlier in December, Allmendinger began looking for a new ride, which he found at Penske Racing.
Almirola made his NASCAR start with Joe Gibbs Racing as part of the Drive for Diversity program in 2004. In 2006, he started driving in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and one year later, he moved to the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He left JGR during that season. Almirola then went to Dale Earnhardt, Inc. He has also been behind the wheel at Phoenix Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports, when Kasey Kahne was released from his contract in 2010. In 2011, JR Motorsports announced Almirola would drive the No. 88 NASCAR Nationwide Series car. During his NASCAR Nationwide career, he has raced in 71 races and claimed one victory which came during the 2007 season in a race that Almirola started and Denny Hamlin finished at the Milwaukee Mile. During the 2011 season, he finished fourth in points, his best finish in the series as well.
There are a number of NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers still looking for a ride in 2012 and hopes are slowly fading for them. David Reutimann was out of a job when Michael Waltrip Racing replaced him with veteran Mark Martin. Brian Vickers has been looking for a new year since Red Bull Racing closed its doors after the final race of the season. David Ragan lost his sponsor for 2012 and asked Roush-Fenway Racing for a release from his contract to pursue other opportunities.
Personally, I wish that Richard Petty Motorsports would hire an existing Sprint Cup driver. Almirola has only two years experience in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. With such limited sponsorship opportunties, I would prefer to see exisiting drivers such as Ragan and Reutimann get a ride prior to Daytona SpeedWeeks. If the rumors are driver, it is a wonderful opportunity for Aric Almirola and hopefully he will make the most of it.
Stay with Stock Car Spin for the latest on Silly Season 2012.