Aric Almirola to drive 'iconic' No. 43

Updated: January 5, 2012, 12:48 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Aric Almirola was named driver of the famed No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports Wednesday.

Almirola finished fourth in the Nationwide Series standings this past season for JR Motorsports. He will replace AJ Allmendinger, who two weeks ago was named Kurt Busch's replacement in the No. 22 at Penske Racing.

"One of the things I am most excited about is to have the chance to drive a car as iconic as the No. 43," Almirola said in a statement. "There is so much history surrounding that number and to have my name above the door will be really special for me."

Cole Whitt replaced Almirola at JRM.

This won't be Almirola's first stint at RPM. He replaced Kasey Kahne for the final five races in 2010 after Kahne moved to Red Bull Racing.

"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," team co-owner Richard Petty said in a statement. "We have had the chance to watch his progress for the past several years and we had success with him in the past."

Almirola, who will be paired with Greg Erwin as his crew chief, had a career-best fourth-place finish in the Cup season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The Tampa native has 30 other Cup starts, mostly for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. He also finished second in the Truck Series in 2010 with two wins for team owner Billy Ballew.

Sponsorship for the 43 remains to be determined. Best Buy recently announced it was leaving to sponsor Matt Kenseth for nine races and Carl Edwards for two at Roush Fenway Racing.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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