'Vast improvement in all areas' for the team
Through the first 11 races of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) has shown vast improvement in all areas. With Aric Almirola, driving the No. 43 Farmland Ford (above), leaving Kansas with another Top-10, RPM has earned a total of five Top-10 finishes through the first 11 races. The results have come at both short tracks and now a mile-and-half oval. Only feature races at Daytona and Talladega, have Almirola and teammate Marcos Ambrose not been in the Top-10.
Almirola has already earned a career-best finish of third at Bristol and was in contention for the win late in the race in March. He then earned an eighth-place finish at Martinsville. Almirola has Top-15 finishes at Phoenix, Ft. Worth and Talladega. Accidents at Daytona and California severly handicapped Almirola in points, but has picked up 14 positions in the championship since the Daytona 500. The No. 43 team did not perform well at Las Vegas, Darlington or Richmond, but still finished in the Top-25 in all three of the races. He is 21st in points going into the break with a total of one Top-Five and three Top-10's.
Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 STANLEY Racing Ford led by Crew Chief Drew Blickensdefer, has also had a strong start to the season, scoring Top-Five results at Bristol and Richmond. Last season the team did not collect a Top-Five result. Ambrose does not have a DNF this season and is 19th in points. The team is working on its mile-and-a-half program, including testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the upcoming races to close this month. The team has shown plenty of speed in its cars, starting in the Top-10 in five of the first 11 races. Ambrose has only finished outside the Top-25 once this season, California, and if the team can improve on its mile-and-a-half program will be a weekly contender in the Top-10 and is a serious threat to be in The Chase.
A highlight of each team's race at Kansas follows:
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Farmland Ford
Almirola and the No. 43 Farmland team showed their strength at Kansas Speedway with Almirola earning his third Top-10 of the season and his third consecutive Top-10 finish at Kansas.
Almirola started the 267-lap race from the 12th position and never raced outside of the top-15 all night. He drove the No. 43 Farmland Ford to the Top-10 by Lap 34. As the race continued to go green, Almirola came down pit road on Lap 44 for a green-flag pit stop. With the No. 43 Ford getting faster later in the run, Crew Chief Trent Owens called for a four tire stop with fuel and no adjustments. Just as Almirola was leaving pit road a car spun on the back stretch bringing the caution out on Lap 48. He restarted in the 10th position on Lap 53.
Almirola reported the balance of the car was better, but the car was tight. Owens made a strategic call to bring the No. 43 Ford to pit road for fuel only. Almirola restarted in the eighth position on Lap 67. Again, the caution quickly came out after the restart. Almirola stayed out during the caution and restarted in the same position on Lap 75. As green-flag pit stop started around Lap 102, Almirola was running in the 10th position. During the next caution, Almirola brought the No. 43 Ford down pit road for four tires, air pressure and trackbar adjustments and fuel. He restarted in the ninth position on Lap 119.
Almirola had a loose car, but was running in the 12th position when the fifth caution on the night came on Lap 151. Through a series of cautions, Almirola was still 12th when the race resumed on Lap 185.
The field saw two more cautions in the next 22 laps and Almirola was in the eighth position for the final restart with 60 laps remaining. The majority of the field was unable to make it to the end of the race on fuel, including Almirola. He gave up the sixth position on Lap 238 to come down pit road for two, right-side tires and fuel. He returned to the track in the 17th position. As Almirola raced for position, more of the leaders began to come to pit road for their green-flag stops, and Almirola made his way back into the Top-10. The No. 43 Farmland Ford crossed the finish line in the eighth.
"Saturday was a good night for us," said Almirola. The Farmland Ford was fast all night. We got off a little bit in one part of the race and Trent did a good job getting the car back and making a good strategy call to get us track position. All in all it was a great night and another Top-10 in Kansas. This place is pretty good to us. We are getting there. Our 1.5 mile program has needed some work and we tested at Charlotte and came here with some ideas that paid off. I am looking forward to this weekend and a little bit of a relief to go race for no points in the All-Star Race."
Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 DEWALT Ford
Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 DEWALT Ford team started 25th and finished 24th in Saturday night's 400-mile event at the Kansas Speedway. Ambrose was caught two laps down early in the event and was never able to get the laps back to gain positions. Ambrose and the Drew Blickensderfer-led team showed they had a Top-15 car before some bad luck slowed the teams progress.
Early in the night Ambrose raced to 24th before stating the his car was not stable in traffic. Under the first green pit stop, Ambrose got two tires to keep track position, but once returning to the track did not see Clint Bowyer. Bowyer spun after getting loose next to the 9 Ford and quickly Amrose was one lap down by Lap 50. However, the team put Ambrose in position to get his lap back. He was close before another caution came out on Lap 61. On the restart Ambrose was loose and was shuffled back to 30th on the restart.
Fighting his way back to get back on the lead lap, Ambrose spun on Lap 111. He lost another lap, and it's very difficult to gain laps back especially when down two laps. The team never lost a a lap in the pits and the car was still pretty fast for Ambrose the rest of the night- even after some slight body repairs.
In fact, Ambrose finished just one spot behind Bowyer who also spun and lost the same amount of laps The team finished 24th after trying to do any strategy to gain laps back.
"We really didn't have a good night," said Ambrose. "If you get two laps down, it's very difficult to get them back and you just have to race against the guys on your lap. Finishing 24th is the best we could do, but we didn't give ourselves much of a chance. We had a bad start to the race, the car wasn't bad later, but it's too late then. We will be better than this at Charlotte."
Richard Petty Motorsports now heads to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the All-Star weekend.
Richard Petty Motorsports