2017 Team Reviews: Richard Petty Motorsports

Aric Almirola waves to the crowd during driver introductions prior to a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

With the 2017 season firmly in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to reflect on what happened. What else are we going to talk about?

Previously: Front Row Motorsports

Points Position: 29th (competed in 29 of 36 races)
Stage Points: 0
Wins: 0
Top 5s: 3
Top 10s: 6
Average Starting Position: 22.4
Average Finish: 18.8

Highlight: Almirola and Richard Petty Motorsports hit their stride — relatively speaking — after it was clear he wouldn’t be returning in 2018. The team finished in the top 20 in each of the final six races of the season and had top-10 finishes in three of them. Yeah, one of those races was Talladega, but ninth-place finishes at Kansas and Phoenix were signs the team can be a reliable mid-pack competitor.

Lowlight: The lowlight of the season was the dispute between team owner Richard Petty and the team’s longtime sponsor Smithfield. Petty accused the team of reneging on a handshake deal to return in the 2018 season while Smithfield said Petty’s team wasn’t performing on the track like it should have been.

As you can imagine, Smithfield is not returning in 2018. The company is moving to Stewart-Haas Racing and taking Almirola with it. Almirola will drive the No. 10 car in place of Danica Patrick, who will be done with NASCAR following the 2018 Daytona 500.

Almirola also missed seven races in 2017 because of a fractured vertebra suffered in a violent collision at Kansas in May. Coincidentally, his car smashed into Patrick’s during that wreck.

He was replaced by Regan Smith and Darrell Wallace, the driver who will pilot the No. 43 car in 2018. With Smithfield gone, RPM will have to piecemeal sponsorship together for the entire season.

RPM also found itself way behind over the summer. When Almirola came back at New Hampshire in July, he posted eight finishes outside the top 20 in the 12 races before he finished fifth at Talladega. We’ll see what progress RPM can make over the winter before Wallace’s Cup Series rookie campaign begins in earnest.

– – – – – – –

Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

More from Yahoo Sports:
High school girls basketball team wins 102-0
Arrest made in cold-case killing of NBA star
Beyonce makes surprise appearance, presents Kaepernick with SI award
Transgender weightlifter medals after social media abuse