CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Richard Petty Motorsports has hired veteran crew chief Mike Ford to take over Aric Almirola's race team.

Ford replaces Greg Erwin as crew chief for the No. 43 team.

Ford had been out of work since December, when Joe Gibbs Racing replaced him as crew chief for Denny Hamlin. The move was made after a disappointing 2011 season, and because championship-winning crew chief Darian Grubb was available.

Ford led Hamlin to six consecutive appearances in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and 17 victories.

Almirola is currently 23rd in the standings, with only one top-10 finish this season. He was hired at the start of the year after AJ Allmendinger moved to Penske Racing.

Ford takes over with this weekend's race at Talladega.

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