Darrell Wallace Jr. to replace Almirola at Richard Petty Motorsports in 2018

Richard Petty Motorsports will part ways with Aric Almirola after the 2017 season.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. is expected to move into the ride next season.

Almirola, 33, first joined RPM for the last five races in 2010. After a full-time season with JR Motorsports in 2011, he moved back to RPM to drive the No. 43 Ford for 2012 with Smithfield as his sponsor. Smithfield announced earlier on Tuesday that it will cut ties with RPM at the end of this season.

“We have had numerous discussions with Smithfield Foods regarding the extension of our relationship dating as far back as February,” a statement from RPM read. “Over the past few months, Smithfield had continually told me they wanted to be with us, and I recently shook hands on a deal to extend our relationship. I come from a time when we did major deals with sponsors like STP on a handshake. I’m sad to see this is where we are now. This decision is very unexpected, and we are extremely disappointed in this late and abrupt change of direction.

“Losing a sponsor of this magnitude in September is a significant set-back to Richard Petty Motorsports, but Andy (Murstein) and I are committed to moving forward with the No. 43 team. We have a lot of great partners who have expressed their continued support, and our fans will rally around the No. 43. We’ve been around since 1949, and we’ll be around a lot longer.”

Almirola scored his first and only career pole, at Charlotte, during the 2012 season. His first career win came two years later in the 2014 Coke Zero 400. That was the last Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory for RPM. In addition to the win, Almirola has posted 10 top fives and 28 top 10s in 204 starts with the team. He was sidelined in May for eight races this season following a…

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