- Associated Press - Thursday, February 28, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Richard Petty Motorsports and Smithfield Foods have teamed to bring back the traditional “Petty Blue” paint scheme for the majority of the NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season.

The historic color will be featured on Aric Almirola’s car in 24 races, and marks the first time in more than 40 years the Petty Blue color will be primarily featured on the No. 43 for nearly the entire race schedule.

The color was introduced by the Petty family and made famous by seven-time champion and first-ballot Hall of Famer Richard Petty.

The first Petty Blue scheme will adorn the No. 43 this weekend when Almirola will race the Famland Ford at Phoenix International Raceway.

“I’m really humbled by everyone at Smithfield and all their companies to decide to make this change,” Petty said. “They have been great partners for us as a company and this really proves that. Our fans will now be able to easily recognize the No. 43 Ford and Aric on the track throughout the season. It will also bring back a lot of good memories for me each time I see it.”

Larry Pope, chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods, said the idea was to connect the tradition and history of Richard Petty Motorsports fans to the Smithfield Foods family of brands.

“There is no better way to do that than to bring back the Petty Blue color scheme that all race fans recognize and relate to on the No. 43 Ford,” Pope said.

“We will now make sure that each time we race this season, our fans will be able to easily recognize Aric on the track and the strong heritage that the Petty and Smithfield Foods brands represent.”