Aric Almirola Becomes One More Cup Series Experiment as Driver of the No. 43

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2012

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 04:  Aric Almirola, driver of the #88 Grand Touring Vodka Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on November 4, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Richard Petty Motorsports announced today that Nationwide regular Aric Almirola will drive the legendary No. 43 made famous by "King" Richard Petty, but you have to wonder if he is really the best choice.

Almirola may have finished second in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series during the 2010 season, but has only one NASCAR Nationwide win and that was in 2007.

JR Motorsports put Almirola behind the wheel of the No. 88 car full-time in 2011. Having made 34 starts, he notched seven top-five and 18 top-10 finishes last year.

During the past four years, the Tampa native ran 35 Cup races with only two top-10 finishes. He has driven for several teams, including Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Almirola has been released by JR Motorsports to fulfill obligations with RPM.

Almirola came from a karting and open-wheel modified background before being the original member of the Joe Gibbs Racing/Reggie White Drive for Diversity program.

One has to wonder if this young man is going to have much impact behind the wheel of the No. 43 even with quality equipment and Greg Erwin as his crew chief.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Almirola has potential, as so many drivers do, but that may not equate to anything more than a top-10 finisher in the No. 43.

Several more experienced drivers were available to RPM, so why did they feel comfortable with Almirola as their pick? Will future sponsorship end up playing a major role in this decision?

Petty had been impressed with him when he filled in as a driver for them after Kasey Kahne made his sudden departure to Red Bull Racing in 2010.

It appears Almirola has hit the silly season jackpot with a move from the Nationwide series to  No. 43 at RPM.

Almirola said, "One of the things I am most excited about is to have the chance to drive a car as iconic as the No. 43."

He added, "There is so much history surrounding that number and to have my name above the door will be really special for me."

There is no doubt that Almirola is a nice, young man, respectful and well-liked in the NASCAR arena.

He has been called upon by Hendrick Motorsports to fill first-class rides like the No. 48 and No. 24 when Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon were on baby watch.

For the most part, Almirola takes care of his equipment. Aggressive would not be an adjective used to describe this driver.

Richard Petty said, "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."

Now as the 2012 season unfolds we have one more somewhat odd pairing of drivers and teams that could be real sleepers who surprise us with wins and impressive stats or just be snoozers.

Kurt Busch with Phoenix Racing, David Reutimann with Tommy Baldwin Racing, Mark Martin with Michael Waltrip Racing and on it goes with swaps that are rife with uncertainty as far as performance is concerned.

Almirola has reason to smile, but will he live up to expectations by the management of RPM? The replacement for Best Buy's sponsorship has yet to be announced for the No. 43.

 Quotes and information obtained for this article courtesy of Richard Petty Motorsports.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!