Team Preview: Richard Petty Motorsports
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on February 4, 2016 | 4:45 P.M. EST
Brian Scott joins Richard Petty Motorsports in 2016 and the team is bringing back the No. 44. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
Richard Petty Motorsports is looking to build off its consistency from last year, all the while bringing back a legacy number with a new driver for the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season.
Aric Almirola returns to drive the iconic No. 43 Ford in what will be his fifth consecutive full-time season in the series. He'll be joined by Brian Scott, who will drive the No. 44 - a number the Petty team last fielded in 2009.
Along with a number of personnel changes that include the addition of Chris Heroy from Chip Ganassi Racing as crew chief for Scott, RPM will build its own chassis led by Sammy Johns, director of operations.
"I've never been more excited about starting a year," Almirola said, "with the additions Sammy has made in the shop and the aero department, building our own chassis and having Chris on board working with Trent (Owens).
"Sammy has done a phenomenal job of building a chassis program, which he did back when he was with (Ray) Evernham. So he knows how to do this."
Although he didn't visit Victory Lane in 2015, Almirola did put together his best season-long average finish (17.9) and missed making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by 17 points.
"Our goal was to make the Chase on points regardless if we won a race or not," Almirola said. "We came close."
Scott, who joins RPM after competing full-time in the XFINITY Series the past six seasons, will be chasing Rookie of the Year honors and looks forward to his pairing with crew chief Heroy.
"We have a lot of similarities in our racing backgrounds," Scott said, "and our personalities are similar. He's got experience with Kyle Larson winning the Rookie of the Year title in 2014, understanding what it takes to be successful with a young driver. That'll be huge for me."
Last season, Scott drove a limited schedule in 10 Cup races - many of them with the new digital dash in the car.
"I’m one of the most experienced drivers with the digital dash," Scott said. "I got to experience some of the frustrations with it but also saw all of the neat opportunities it has, the customization and ability to fine-tune it."
A new Ford Fusion body and the undertaking of building chassis in-house has kept Trent Owens, who enters his third season as Almirola's crew chief, and Heroy busy overseeing car construction.
"When Talladega is over in October, we start on the Daytona 500 car," Owens said. "We got a little behind because we had to wait on some things in development. We had to build a brand new fleet. The biggest thing is trying to get our ideas put down to make sure we keep production flowing and nothing gets behind. With the western swing at the start of the season, you have to be prepared."
RPM has a solid lineup of sponsors for 2016 that includes Smithfield Foods expanding its partnership from 29 to 31 races as primary sponsor of the No. 43 - which will also have support from the United States Air Force, STP and Florida Department of Agriculture. Primary sponsorship on the No. 44 will be led by Albertsons and Shore Lodge; and will include Twisted Tea, GoBowling.com and Goody’s.
"This whole platform gives us an opportunity to lay a solid foundation and compete at the highest level," said Brian Moffitt, RPM's chief executive officer."
Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of the 58th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 21, starting at 12 p.m. (ET) – with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.
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