When the news was announced on Thursday that Go FAS Racing would lease a Charter from Richard Petty Motorsports for the 2017 NASCAR season, my first thoughts were that RPM would likely scale back to a one-car entry for next year. Brian Scott announced that he would retire upon the completion of the 2016 season, and with his sponsorship money being gone, and only a few months to find a replacement, it seemed that the organization may have thought it would be in their best interests to scale back for at least a year.
On Friday, they decided to do just that.
“At the conclusion of the 2016 season, we evaluated how to best improve our on-track product. We feel that it’s in the best interest of our partners and for Richard Petty Motorsports to focus our resources on the No. 43 Ford Fusion and Aric (Almirola) in 2017,” RPM CEO Brian Moffitt said via a release on Friday.
Almirola, 32, will be the primary and only driver for the team next year, as 2017 will be his sixth full-time year at RPM. His best year came in 2014 when he won the Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway, his lone victory in his five year tenure so far, and made the Chase for the Sprint Cup by virtue of that. He’d finish 16th in the final standings that year.
He finished 18th in the final standings in 2013, 17th last year and 26th a year ago.
Last year, was the most difficult year for not just Almirola at RPM, but the entire two-car organization. Almirola, had just one top 10, an eighth place finish at Talladega in October while Brian Scott had only one himself, a second place finish in that very same race. Outside of that, they struggled with Almirola 26th in the standings and Scott 31st.
The year before that, Almirola had three top fives and six top 10’s in the 36 races while Sam Hornish Jr. driving the No. 9 Ford had zero top fives and only three top 10’s in leading a 26th place finish in the final Cup standings for 2015.
With only three combined top fives and 11 top 10’s between the two cars in the 72 Cup races the last two years, the team thought it was best to scale back a year. But, with that being said, they’re leaving the door open to expand back to a two-car team for 2018.
“A concentrated effort on one team will position us for improvement while giving us adequate time to reestablish our two-car team in 2018. For the interim, we will lease one of our two charters,” Moffitt continued.
RPM was virtually a two-car team for most of their storied history. The team was formed in 1949 as a family business with Lee Petty as the original driver. Virtually from when NASCAR was formed for 1959, through 1964, it was Lee Petty in the No. 42 and Richard Petty in the No. 43.
Bobby Johns ran the No. 46 in 1960 for a three-car effort that year. Four different drivers would split the No. 41 in 1964 for a second year with three teams. “King Richard” would drive the famed No. 43 every year until he retired in 1992. In 1984 and 1985 though, Petty drove for Mike Curb after a family altercation saw him leave. But, he returned in 1986 and never left.
The No. 42 would stay around full-time through 1967 before RPM scaled back to just a single-car team with some select races with only cars here and there after. In 1970, they’d go back with two-cars with Pete Hamilton driving the No. 40. That would last one-year as Buddy Baker drove the No. 11 entry in 1971-1972. They’d go 1973-1978 with a single entry before expanding to two-full time cars with third-generation driver Kyle Petty in 1979. Petty would drive the No. 42 from 1979-1982 before changing that number to No. 7 from 1983-1984. Dick Brooks and Morgan Shepherd would drive the No. 1 Petty entry in 1985 before going back to a single car for Richard Petty from 1986-1992.
In 1993, the team would change the No. 43 to the No. 44 and have Rick Wilson driving, but after a sluggish year, they’d make a move back to the No. 43 and have Wally Dallenback Jr. and John Andretti in the No. 43 entry for 1994. That ride would stay with the team all the way up until present day.
The team would expand back to two-cars from 1997-2000 with Kyle Petty and even wanted to expand to three-car with Adam Petty in the No. 45. But, unfortunately the fourth generation Petty was killed in a tragic practice crash at New Hampshire in July of 2000 leaving the organization to stick with two-cars. Kyle would move from the No. 44 to the No. 45 and honor his late son for the rest of the 2000 season through 2008.
The team closed shop in 2008 and merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports for the 2009 season changing the name from Petty Enterprises to “Richard Petty Motorsports.” They originally started as a four-car team but would eventually scale back to just two cars.
2012-2013 they went back to a one-car operation before adding a second car for the last two years. Now, they’ll go back to just one car again before hoping to expand again in 2018.