Almost a month after AJ Allmendinger left Richard Petty Motorsports for Penske Racing, RPM has now found the Dinger’s replacement.
Aric Almirola, who drove in the Nationwide Series full-time in 2011, signed a deal to drive Richard Petty’s iconic #43 car in 2012. Almirola’s last stint in the Sprint Cup Series came when he was the replacement driver for Kasey Kahne for the last 5 races of the 2010 season. During his full-time stint in the Nationwide Series, Almirola finished a career-best 4th in the Nationwide Series as driver of the #88 for JR Motorsports.
Almirola released the following statement on the news:
“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.”
The King himself, Richard Petty, also issued the following statement:
“We are thrilled to welcome Aric Almirola into the RPM family. 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.”
This just adds to the craziness that was the 2011 off-season. For it being one of the best off-seasons in years because of the highly successful 2011 season, 2012 seems to me like it will be an interesting one. With moves like Bowyer/Martin to MWR, “The Dinger” going to Penske, Busch going to Phoenix Racing, and Almirola going to run full-time in the Cup Series once again with Richard Petty Motorsports, it seems that 2012 will be another interesting but exciting season…
As for reacting to the news, I don’t necessarily hate the move, but I think Petty could have gotten someone like Ragan or Brian Vickers. However, I do believe its great that Almirola will get his first chance at driving a full-time ride. Back in 2009, Almirola drove the #8 car for DEI, which unfortunately tanked after lack of sponsorship. Everyone deserves a chance, and Almirola is getting that chance with Richard Petty for the 2012 season.