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Petty makes crew chief change for Almirola's No. 43 team

Richard Petty Motorsports revealed on Monday that Mike Ford will replace Greg Erwin as crew chief for Aric Almirola's No. 43 team in the Sprint Cup Series.

Ford will begin his crew chief duties with the team in this weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway.

The 42-year-old Morristown, Tennessee native spent the past six seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing as Denny Hamlin's crew chief on the No. 11 team. He also served in the role for Bill Elliott at Evernham Motorsports and Dale Jarrett at Robert Yates Racing prior to his tenure at Gibbs.

"Richard Petty Motorsports has proven to be a winning organization with the potential to be a Chase contender," Ford said in a team statement. "Sammy Johns [RPM's director of operations] has built a solid foundation from a competition standpoint and I'm looking forward to working with Aric and the rest of the team."

Ford guided Hamlin to 17 wins and 108 top-10 finishes. The two qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship each year since Hamlin started competing in the series full-time in 2006.

"Mike Ford is an elite crew chief who knows what it takes to be a winner at this level," team owner Richard Petty said. "We're fortunate that he was available and that we could reach a deal to bring him over to our place. We've taken a lot of big steps at Richard Petty Motorsports in the past year, and I think this might be that one piece of the puzzle we were missing."

Hamlin recorded a series-season-high eight wins and finished second to champion Jimmie Johnson in points in 2010. But Hamlin struggled the following season, posting only one victory (Michigan spring race) and finishing ninth in points.

During the offseason, Gibbs replaced Ford with Darian Grubb, who had guided Tony Stewart to his third series championship last year. Hamlin and Grubb have since won two races (Phoenix and Kansas). They are currently third in the rankings, just nine points behind leader Greg Biffle.

Since joining Petty's organization at the start of this season, Almirola has scored only one top-10 finish in nine races. He is currently 24th in the point standings.

"I can't wait to start working with Mike," Almirola said. "Everyone in the garage respects him and knows what he's capable of. It's a goal of the No. 43 team to make the Chase this year, and I think Mike's experience and knowledge can help get us there. We've got some ground to make up, but I think we can do it."

Last year, Erwin served as Biffle's crew chief for the first 18 races before joining RPM to guide driver A.J. Allmendinger for the final 16 events.