JOLIET, Ill. — Aric Almirola has searched for a NASCAR Cup ride the past several weeks, and while it appears he has found one, he spent Friday afternoon declining to answer questions about 2018.
The Richard Petty Motorsports driver said he was told “many weeks ago” that he wasn’t going to be picked up by the team for 2018. RPM sponsor Smithfield announced Tuesday that it would head to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018, but SHR wouldn’t say who would be added to its driver lineup. Danica Patrick has said she won’t return to SHR, and Almirola is considered the top candidate to replace her in that ride.
“I can’t talk about next year,” Almirola said after practice Friday at Chicagoland Speedway. “You know I can’t. … I am not going to comment on 2018.”
Almirola said he expects to finish the season in the RPM No. 43 car, and his potential replacement, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., said he had heard of no talk of a driver change prior to the end of the year.
RPM wants Wallace to drive the iconic Petty car in 2018, but needs sponsorship for him amid Smithfield’s departure. Petty, whose team hasn’t renewed the lease of its Charlotte-area shop and expects to change shops for 2018, declined comment Friday.
“Things with the 43 are still shaking out,” said Wallace, who is driving an Xfinity Series car sponsored by Nickelodeon this weekend. “That is in RPM’s hands right now. Obviously, the news that came out the other day, they are pushing hard to fight through some things and I am supporting them.
“Nothing is set in stone. We are still trying to figure out what we need to do.”
Smithfield and Richard Petty have traded harshly worded statements about Smithfield’s…