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Almirola to pilot legendary No. 43

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

Aric Almirola will drive the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2012. For Almirola, it's the opportunity he's been after for years. For RPM, it's a gamble.

Almirola has 35 Cup starts over a four-year span, the last coming in 2010 driving for … Richard Petty Motorsports. In his brief Cup career, he's posted one top-five finish and two top 10s, and his most extensive season was 12 starts in 2008.

While his Cup résumé is thin, that could just be because he's never been given a full chance. He bolstered his stature after finishing fourth in the Nationwide Series driving for JR Motorsports in 2011.

"This is the first real opportunity I’ve had to drive in the Cup Series full time," Almirola said in a statement. "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 vacancy in the 43 occurred when AJ Allmendinger bolted to Penske Racing to fill the seat formerly occupied by Kurt Busch. David Ragan, out of a ride at Roush Fenway, certainly got a look by RPM; in the end, however, the organization decided on Almirola.

"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," said team owner Richard Petty. "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."

As of now, the 43 is looking for a full-time primary sponsor after Best Buy took its funding to Roush Fenway.

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