Aric Almirola is taking over the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 following the departure of AJ Allmendinger, a move that raised a few eyebrows given the number of high-profile drivers still without a ride. Specifically, the move marks another disappointment for David Ragan, who has now missed out on both the No. 22 and No. 43 seats.
Here's the question, though: did RPM err in picking Almirola over Ragan? Let's consider the stats. Almirola has run less than a full season, all told, in Sprint Cup (35 races over four seasons from 2007 to 2010) and notched only one top 5 (fourth place at Homestead in 2010) and two top 10s during that span.
Ragan, on the other hand, is at age 26 almost two years younger than Almirola. He's run 182 races in the Sprint Cup series, and has one win (last July at Daytona), 12 top 5s and 30 top 10s. Almost half of those numbers came in the 2008 season, but Ragan has struggled for much of the rest of his career.
By all accounts, Ragan is a good guy and a solid teammate. But clearly, Roush Fenway ran out of patience with him, and even a near-win at the Daytona 500 and a victory at the same track a few months later weren't enough to instill confidence in either RFR or sponsor UPS. So this seems to be a case of potential over performance, with RPM clearly hoping that Almirola has untapped possibilities.
Almirola better be ready; even though Richard Petty Motorsports isn't an elite team, the iconic number and owner mean he'll always draw notice. And Ragan? Odds are very good that he'll be back in a Sprint Cup ride, perhaps even sometime this season. But for the short term, the frustration continues for the Thrilla from Unadilla.
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