Richard Petty Motorsports announced this morning that veteran road racer Billy Johnson Jr. will fill in for Aric Almirola in the No. 43 RPM Ford Fusion this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Darrell Wallace Jr., who has filled in for Almirola since Pocono and finished 19th at Michigan International Speedway, will return next weekend in the Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway.
Johnson will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend at Sonoma. He has five starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with a best finish of eighth at Montreal with Roush Fenway Racing back in 2012. His last start in NASCAR came in 2013 also with Roush Fenway Racing where he finished 15th at New Hampshire. Johnson competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans where he finished 28th overall with Chip Ganassi.
“It is going to be awesome. It will be my first NASCAR Cup race and to debut in the 43 car, one of the most iconic numbers to ever race in NASCAR, is a huge honor,” said Johnson in a team release. “Richard Petty Motorsports is a great organization. To have the chance to make my Cup debut for the King is surreal, and I appreciate them putting me in the car,” Johnson said.
“We are so excited about Billy Johnson making his Cup debut. He drove great for us in Le Mans this past weekend, has been a champion for us in the past in the GT350, and he’s been one of our development drivers for a while,” said Dave Pericak, global director of Ford Performance. “To be able to put him in a Cup car, at the highest level of NASCAR, in the iconic No. 43 Fusion, and to let him show his skills at Sonoma, well, we couldn’t be happier for him to have this chance.”
Johnson has the opportunity to add to a successful history that RPM has had at Sonoma. RPM has one victory with Kasey Kahne back in 2009 along with two poles, one with Kahne and another with Marcos Ambrose.
“It’s been important for us to put ourselves in the most competitive spot while Aric is recovering,” said Brian Moffitt, CEO of Richard Petty Motorsports. “We’ve worked with Ford and Smithfield to put the best driver available in the car each week. Both Regan (Smith) and Bubba (Wallace) have done a great job for us the last five weeks. We feel that Billy’s experience on a road course will help us be competitive this weekend.”