Road racer Billy Johnson will drive the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, the team announced Monday.
Darrell Wallace Jr., who has driven the past two races for the team for the injured Aric Almirola, will return to the car next weekend at Daytona. Wallace will continue in the car until Almirola returns. Almirola says he hopes to be back at either New Hampshire or Indianapolis in July.
Johnson, who competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will make his first Cup start. He has five Xfinity starts, scoring a career-best finish of eighth at Montreal in 2012.
Johnson has worked with Almirola on his road racing at the Ford Performance racing school at Miller Motorsports Park. Johnson has worked with more than 20 Ford drivers on their road racing skills the past six years.
“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 statement from the team. “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.’’
Said Brian Moffitt, CEO of Richard Petty Motorsports: “It’s been important for us to put ourselves in the most competitive spot while Aric is recovering. 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.”