Concord, N.C. - Richard Petty Motorsports' No. 43 car will have two old friends aboard with Aric Almirola this weekend - Goody's Powder and Petty's Garage. Goody's, a long-time partner of team owner Richard Petty, will be the primary sponsor of the No. 43 Ford for Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. And, making its debut on the No. 43 car as an associate sponsor will be Petty's Garage, the custom- and collector-car speed shop that builds and restores performance vehicles.
The Level Cross, N.C.-based Petty's Garage, located at the site where the Pettys first began racing, offers production-based vehicles such as the Richard Petty Signature Series, custom-made rides built from scratch, restoration of aged classics and even a parts store for do-it-yourselfers.
Along with these two "old" friends, the No. 43 team will also welcome a new one. U.S. Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue will take in Saturday's events as a guest of the team and a fan of Petty. The Lenoir City, Tenn., swimmer earned a gold medal in the 4x100-meter medley relay in the London Olympic Games after swimming the butterfly leg for the team in preliminaries.
Bristol Motor Speedway could be considered both a new and old friend on this week's visit. The .533-mile concrete oval underwent track reconfigurations since it last hosted a Cup race in March. Surface grinding to eliminate the top groove was completed to help return Bristol to its "old style" of one-groove racing - the bump-and-run passing that produced high-drama action before 2007 renovations widened the racing groove.
Almirola has one top-10 and one top-15 finish in six Cup starts at the concrete oval with a best finish of eighth (2008).
Comments from Goody's Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"It's going to be really interesting to see how the changes to the track affect the racing. We went from 'old Bristol' to 'new Bristol,' and now it seems like we're trying to go back to 'old Bristol' again. And that means a lot of tight racing, a lot of moving people with your bumper and possibly a lot of people losing patience. We'll see.
Most of the Cup drivers haven't been on the track yet. Only a few of them went up for a tire test. So, we have one day, Friday, to get two practice sessions and qualifying in to see what it's like.
"We'll have a new look for our No. 43 Ford that we haven't had this year. Goody's is going to return to our car. They've always been a Petty partner and have a long history with 'The King,' but it's been a few years since they've been on the 43 so it will be good to have them back.
We've also got Petty's Garage on the car, another member of the Petty family. We're hoping to get some attention for them as well. They do some cool stuff up in Level Cross restoring collector cars and custom-building cars and more people should know about it. Whatever your wildest 'cool car' dream is, they can probably do it for you.
"We're also going to have a pretty special guest at the race. We've got an Olympic gold medalist coming. Claire Donahue is from Tennessee and she won a gold medal with the U.S. swim team in London a few weeks ago.
I understand she's a big Richard Petty fan and wanted to come hang out with us for the Bristol race, so of course we said 'absolutely.' Obviously winning a gold medal is an unforgettable experience, but hopefully we can give her an experience to remember in Bristol, too, and thank her for representing our country so well."
Comments from Crew Chief Mike Ford on Bristol:
"Bristol will be an about-face from Michigan last week because Bristol isn't about aerodynamics and horsepower, it's just about grip and track position. You go into it knowing you're going to get knocked around and that's not something you really have to worry about as long as your car is enough in one piece to cross the finish line at the end of the night.
"Bristol is one of the tracks where Aric already has quite a few Cup races under his belt so the only thing he'll be learning is the new track surface, but so will everyone else. Track position is going to be more important than it has been the last few years because passing will presumably be more difficult with the narrower groove this time around. So, we'll want to work hard to get our car where we need it during practice on Friday so we can qualify well and get a good starting position."
Source: Richard Petty Motorsports