Aric Almirola, come on down!


Aric Almirola, come on down!

You are the lucky winner of the grand prize, the opportunity to drive the legendary, iconic Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43. You have been chosen to follow in “The King’s” footsteps. It’s a big honor, but if you drive smart and listen to Richard, you will be fine.

Almirola is the chosen one, after weeks of speculation and rumors have had NASCAR fans buzzing about who would fill the vacant No. 43 seat. Possibilities included David Ragan and Kurt Busch, but as I discussed recently, Almirola's qualifications made him strongest possible driver to fill the position.

With 35 career Cup starts Almirola has some experience in the series including a notable stint in 2010 when he finished the last five races of the season in the No. 9 Ford for RPM. During the final race of that season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Tampa, Fla., native posted a career-high fourth-place finish.

Almirola began driving part-time for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series starting in 2010. After a successful season in which he finished fourth in the championship points, Almirola re-signed to return to JR Motorsports in the No. 88 for the 2012 season.

Things changed just two weeks ago when AJ Allmendinger decided to leave RPM."The King" came calling, an offer that any driver would not refuse.

Looking to get the No. 43 back into victory lane, Richard Petty Motorsports made a somewhat bold move by choosing Almirola over the more experienced Ragan. In this case, I think Almirola’s limited experience can be a bit of a benefit to the team.

RPM offered the 27-year-old driver the chance of a lifetime. With the backing of “The King” and his loyal fans, Almirola has a chance to return the team to its glory.

The last time the No. 43 visited victory lane was in 1993 when John Andretti won at Martinsville but since that time has been denied a return visit.

Can Almirola be the driver to visit victory lane for RPM?

Yes! In the 2011 season Almirola had an average finish of 12.1. With seven top fives and 18 top 10s, he had only 3 finishes outside the top 20. He has shown that he has the talent in the Nationwide Series and that talent should parlay into good finishes in the Cup Series the second time around.

In an interview with Bob Pockrass of SceneDaily, Almirola said, “When they called, I was dealt a [decision whether] to stay where I was at where I was comfortable and felt like I had a home or to take a chance and go and make a career in the Cup series. Every race-car driver – if they tell you differently, they’re lying to you – every race-car driver wants to race in the Cup series, that’s just the fact of the matter.”

“Nobody wants to compete at a lower level. Everybody wants to compete at the highest level they can possibly compete at. I’m the same way. I’m no different. I got offered the opportunity to compete at the highest level in NASCAR with a great team that has very competitive equipment.”

The key is the level of competition. AJ Allmendinger did very well in the No. 43 during the 2011 season. Finishing the season in 15th place after one top five and 10 top 10s, the 43 team has seen steady and marked improvement from years past.

With just eight days until testing for the Daytona 500, RPM and Almirola made this decision in the nick of time. No runner-up needed, this is one prize that is not a dud! 
Aric Almirola, come on down! Aric Almirola, come on down! Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, January 05, 2012 Rating: 5