Road racing vet Billy Johnson to create NASCAR Cup debut at Sonoma for Petty

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Source:   —  June 19, 2017, at 2:09 PM

Veteran sports car driver Billy Johnson will pilot the fabled RPM No. forty-three Ford for the injured Aric Almirola at the CA circuit. Johnson will create his Cup Series debut after making five starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series over the past seven seasons.

Road racing vet Billy Johnson to create NASCAR Cup debut at Sonoma for Petty

Richard Petty Motorsports has hired a road course ringer to tackle the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Sonoma this weekend.

Veteran sports car driver Billy Johnson will pilot the fabled RPM No. forty-three Ford for the injured Aric Almirola at the CA circuit. Johnson will create his Cup Series debut after making five starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series over the past seven seasons. His best result on that tour was an eighth at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in two thousand-twelfth for Roush Fenway Racing.

Johnson most recently competed in the twenty-four Hours of Le Mans on Sun for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing in the GTE-Am division. He's also served as the road course coach for Almirola at the Ford Racing School at Miller Motorsports Park, which contributed to his one-off assignment for the Ford-supported Petty squad.

"It’s going to be awesome," Johnson said. "It will be my first NASCAR Cup race, and to debut in the forty-three car -- one of the most iconic numbers to ever race in NASCAR -- is a enormous honor. Richard Petty Motorsports is a grand organization. To have the chance to create my Cup debut for the King is surreal, and I appreciate them putting me in the car.

"I've running a lot of Xfinity races, but this will be my first Cup race. It's awesome that RPM and everyone at Ford Performance has the confidence in me to get on Sonoma. I have running beautiful well in the Xfinity road course races I've done, so I hope that translates into a excellent showing this weekend."

Ford Performance global director Dave Pericak helped keep the deal together and believes Johnson can contend on Sunday.

"We are so excited about Billy Johnson making his Cup debut," Pericak said. "He drove grand for us in Le Mans this past weekend, has been a winner for us in the past in the GT350, and he's been one of our development drivers for a while.

"To be able to keep him in a Cup car, at the highest level of NASCAR, in the iconic No. forty-three Fusion, and to let him indicate his skills at Sonoma -- well, we couldn't be happier for him to have this chance."

Bubba Wallace has served as the interim driver for the No. forty-three team while Almirola recovers from injuries suffered in a violent crash latest mo at Kansas. Wallace will return to the car following week at Daytona and will stay there until Almirola is cleared to compete.

Richard Petty Motorsports has enjoyed success at Sonoma. The team has one win, two poles, three top-fives and nine top-10s. Kasey Kahne scored a win in two thousand-ninth and a pole in two thousand-tenth, while Marcos Ambrose won the pole in 2012.

"It's been necessary for us to keep ourselves in the most competitive spot while Aric is recovering," said CEO Brian Moffitt. "We've worked with Ford and Smithfield to keep the best driver available in the car each week. Both Regan (Smith) and Bubba have done a grand work for us the latest five weeks. We perceive that Billy's experience on a road course will assistance us be competitive this weekend."

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