MOORESVILLE, NC – Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) was recently notified that its current partner, Smithfield Foods, will not return to the team next season. Aric Almirola will also not return to the No. 43.

A statement from Richard Petty:

“We have had numerous discussions with Smithfield Foods regarding the extension of our relationship dating as far back as February. Over the past few months, Smithfield had continually told me they wanted to be with us, and I recently shook hands on a deal to extend our relationship. I come from a time when we did major deals with sponsors like STP on a handshake. I’m sad to see this is where we are now. This decision is very unexpected, and we are extremely disappointed in this late and abrupt change of direction.

“Losing a sponsor of this magnitude in September is a significant setback to Richard Petty Motorsports, but Andy (Murstein) and I are committed to moving forward with the No. 43 team. We have a lot of great partners who have expressed their continued support, and our fans will rally around the No. 43. We’ve been around since 1949, and we’ll be around a lot longer.”

Meanwhile, Smithfield Foods announced via social media that they are excited to be joining Stewart-Haas Racing as a primary sponsor in 2018, with the car number and driver tba. Smithfield later reacted to Petty’s statement with a defensive statement, spurring a wave of reaction on social media.

Later in the day Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 at Stewart-Haas Racing, announced she was leaving the team at end of this season with the following statement.

“It has been my honor to drive for Tony Stewart, Gene Haas and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for the past six seasons. Together we earned a Daytona 500 pole, seven top-10 finishes and we also had some exciting racing along the way. My time driving for them, however, has come to an end due to a new sponsorship arrangement in 2018. Sponsorship plays a vital role in our sport, and I have been very fortunate over the course of my career, but this year threw us for a curve. Our amazing partners, such as Aspen Dental and Code 3, stepped up in a big way on short notice this year and I am incredibly grateful.

I wish SHR the best of luck with their new sponsorship and driver. Thanks for the memories. Right now, my focus is on the remainder of the 2017 season and finishing the year strong. I have the utmost faith in myself and those around me, and feel confident about my future.”