Richard Petty Motorsports’ to lose Almirola and Sponsor to SHR (2nd Update)

Aric Almirola headed to SHR
Aric Almirola headed to SHR

UPDATE On the heels of primary sponsor Smithfield announcing they won’t return to the team, Richard Petty Motorsports has confirmed driver Aric Almirola also won’t be back in 2018.

Almirola joined Richard Petty Motorsports in 2012 alongside sponsor Smithfield. During his time with the team, Almirola has scored one victory, nine top-five and 27 top-10 finishes.

His lone victory with the team came at Daytona Int’l Speedway in 2014 and qualified him for the NASCAR Cup Series Chase for the Championship, now known as the Playoffs. He was eliminated in the first round.

Earlier this season Almirola was forced to miss eight races after suffering a back injury in a crash at Kansas Speedway on May 13. He returned on July 16 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

While Almirola’s home for 2018 has not been announced, it is expected that he’ll land alongside longtime sponsor Smithfield at Stewart-Haas Racing. Danica Patrick also announced Tuesday she would not return to Stewart-Haas Racing, opening a potential place for Almirola with the team.

Will this put Petty's team out of business?
Will this put Petty's team out of business?

09/12/17 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Smithfield Foods is leaving Richard Petty Motorsports to join Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Smithfield Foods made the announcement on their Facebook page Tuesday morning.

“We’re excited to announce today that Smithfield Foods will join Stewart-Haas Racing as a primary team sponsor beginning in 2018," the company said in their official statement on Facebook. “The decision to leave Richard Petty Motorsports and join Stewart-Haas Racing was difficult but we feel this move will improve our competitiveness on the track and strengthen our position as a leading consumer packaged goods company."

Details of the agreement, including the driver who will be added to SHR’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series lineup in 2018, will be provided at a later date.

“We’re very proud to have Smithfield Foods join the Stewart-Haas Racing family," said Brett Frood, president, SHR. “Smithfield has activated heavily and successfully within the sport, and we’re honored to be a part of the brand’s forward initiatives and strategy. Although we’re not ready to announce the full details of the program, we look forward to this new endeavor while remaining focused on the upcoming playoffs and putting forth the best effort possible to win more races and contend for another championship."

Smithfield Foods had been a primary sponsor of Richard Petty Motorsports and the No. 43 team since the 2012 season. It leaves the team without a primary sponsor ahead of the 2018 season.

#43 Aric Almirola was injured in this Kansas crash
Smithfield sponsored #43 Aric Almirola was injured in this Kansas crash

09/11/17 Richard Petty Motorsports’ renewal efforts with primary sponsor Smithfield Foods have hit a snag, according to sources, leaving the future of the one-car Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team in question writes Adam Stern of Sports Business Daily.

Ford-backed RPM has been working all season on a renewal with Virginia-based Smithfield, which is by far the team’s biggest financial backer, and the team was said to have a handshake deal with the company that it was working on finalizing.

However, sources late last week noted that the talks appeared to have broken down, not long after sources said the team proposed Bubba Wallace as the driver of the No. 43 next season. Smithfield had been linked early on in the season with a move to Stewart-Haas Racing, but talk of that possible deal had cooled over the summer until last week.

Cuban-American driver Aric Almirola, who currently drives the No. 43 and has been with Smithfield and RPM since ’12, could end up at SHR as part of the moves.

A move to SHR would have an on-track impact for Smithfield, as RPM has struggled in recent years. However, it also could open up possible B2B opportunities with SHR partners that use lots of pork like Jimmy John’s and Hunt Brothers Pizza.

Smithfield was said to be spending around $12M and looking at cutting that by as much as half next season, but such figures would still be welcome by teams like SHR that have scores of open inventory to sell and have come to accept that $15M, season-long deals are getting tougher to come by.

A source close to RPM said that the team could have an announcement on the future of its deal with Smithfield as soon as today. Smithfield's marketing agency in motorsports is Protential.

RPM’s smaller deal with the U.S. Air Force is also up for renewal after this season. Adam Stern/SBD

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