Richard Petty Motorsports announced that Aric Almirola has signed on to drive the team’s legendary No. 43 Ford in the Sprint Cup Series in 2012. AJ Allmendinger left the team to drive Penske Racing’s No. 22  after Kurt Busch parted ways with the team . Busch signed to drive for Phoenix Racing .
Almirola drove JR Motorsports’ No. 88 in the Nationwide Series last season, finishing fourth in the championship standings. In 34 N’wide races, he posted seven top 5s and 18 top 10s.
He has also made 35 career Sprint Cup Series starts, posting one top 5 and two top 10s. The top five came in the 2010 Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the No. 9 RPM Ford, which had been vacated by Kasey Kahne.
One of the things I am most excited about is to have the chance to drive a car as iconic as the No. 43. 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.
Team owner Richard Petty said:
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.
No word on who will replace Almirola at JRM, but rumor has it that Camping World Truck Series driver Cole Whitt could be in line for that ride. David Ragan, who was a candidate for RPM’s No. 43, is said to be a candidate for JRM’s No. 88.