NASCAR

Aric Almirola to drive No. 43 for RPM

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)

Richard Petty Motorsports hired Aric Almirola on Wednesday to drive the famed No. 43 in NASCAR's elite Sprint Cup Series, and Cole Whitt will replace him at JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series.

Almirola left JRM to make another attempt at the Cup Series, this time in the car seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty made famous. He replaced AJ Allmendinger, who left the team last month to take a job 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. ''There is so much history surrounding that number and to have my name above the door will be really special for me.''

Almirola has 35 career starts in the Sprint Cup Series but none since he drove the last five races of the 2010 season. He finished a career-high fourth in the 2010 season finale at Homestead.

Whitt, meanwhile, moves to JRM as a full-time teammate to Danica Patrick in NASCAR's second-tier series. The 20-year-old will also run for rookie of the year.

Whitt finished ninth in the Truck Series last season with one pole, two top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. He was a development driver for Red Bull Racing, which closed last month.

Whitt is also the youngest driver to win the USAC National Midget championship, which he did in 2008. Other former USAC national champions are Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne.

''Cole is the guy we wanted, and we're lucky to get him,'' team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. ''He's got raw, untapped talent, but we are most impressed with his ambition. I sought advice and input from people I respect in the industry, and the overwhelming consensus was that Cole has the potential to do great things in this sport.''

Tagged: Aric Almirola

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