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NASCAR Cup Series

Richard Petty Motorsports Switches Manufactures

Richard Petty Motorsports is hoping a new driver, combined with a new manufacture, will be the secret to success in 2018.

The organization stated on Friday that they will be switching from Ford to Chevrolet next season, with Darrell Wallace Jr. set to drive the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.  RPM has previously fielded Chevrolets in the past, scoring 31 Cup wins with General Motors.

This isn’t Wallace’s first time in the Chevrolet family, as he won a Camping World Truck Series event last year for the manufacture.

“I’ve had some great memories with Chevrolet and I’m ready to make a lot more,” Wallace, Jr. said. “The entire RPM team is ready for 2018, and now we have a big piece of the puzzle put in place. We’re all eager to start preparing our No. 43 Camaro for 2018, working and creating new ideas with RCR. This is a new journey and we’re all ready to begin it.”

Along with a new manufacture, the team announced they have formed a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, with RCR supplying chassis and engineering support; RPM will also receive their motors from ECR Engines. To help make the move go smoothly, RPM will move its team headquarters next to the RCR campus in Welcome, N.C. The move will begin immediately and be completed by January.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of success through our team partnerships over the past several seasons”, said Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of RCR. “To bring a storied organization like Richard Petty Motorsports on-board as an alliance partner is a win for each of our organizations.”

The move marks a historical shift in NASCAR landscape as two of the most iconic teams unite together for the first time. 

“This is our next chapter of Petty racing,” said Richard Petty, co-owner, Richard Petty Motorsports. “We need to provide Bubba, Drew (Blickensderfer) and the rest of the team with the tools necessary to be successful on the track, and I feel strongly this is the best move for RPM, our partners and everyone involved with our team. Chevrolet has been a consistent winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for a long time and we’re proud to be a part of the GM family again. We feel we can immediately win with Chevrolet and our new alliance with RCR.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement

 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Richard Petty Miffed at Losing Smithfield, and Almirola Leaving, too

One of NASCAR’s dirty little secrets is that the competition in the board room is even tougher than a restart with two laps to go at Talladega Superspeedway. We got another example of that Tuesday.

The latest team to get blindsided by a competitor is Richard Petty Motorsports, which is losing longtime sponsor Smithfield Foods to Stewart-Haas Racing next year.

The move means driver Aric Almirola won’t be back after six full seasons with the team. It also imperils the short term for RPM, which must quickly figure out where to find new money.

Understand, SHR did nothing wrong. Sponsor dollars are the lifeblood of NASCAR teams and it’s not at all unusual for corporations to move from one driver or team to another. It happens all the time.

But in a strongly worded statement, Richard Petty said he was not pleased by the turn of events.

“We have had numerous discussions with Smithfield Foods regarding the extension of our relationship dating as far back as February,” Petty said in a statement released Tuesday. “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 set-back to Richard Petty Motorsports, but Andy (Murstein, team co-owner) 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.”

RPM, which scaled back from two teams to one this year, was looking for a new and smaller shop. Now it’s also looking for a new driver and new sponsors, not an enviable position to be in this late in the season.

For its part, Smithfield fired off its own scathing response Tuesday afternoon.

“We are extremely disappointed that Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) has chosen to disparage Smithfield – its lead sponsor – after five years and tens of millions of dollars of unwavering financial support, despite years of subpar performance on the track. RPM’s claims of a “handshake deal” to extend our sponsorship are unequivocally and patently false,” the company said in a statement attributable to Kenneth M. Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Smithfield Foods, Inc.

“Smithfield’s numerous discussions with RPM over the past several months focused exclusively around one issue: RPM’s inability to deliver on the track and the organization’s repeated failure to present a plan to address its lack of competitiveness. Smithfield is a performance driven company and we demand performance from the people we do business with. For that reason – and that reason alone – Smithfield decided not to renew its contract with RPM when it expires at the end of this year. It is very unfortunate and disheartening that RPM has chosen to disseminate false statements regarding our communications to NASCAR fans who we have supported wholeheartedly with more than a $100 million investment in the sport over the last several years.”

 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Fueled by Bacon: Smithfield Foods Moving to Stewart-Haas Racing

It’s official: Next year, Stewart-Haas Racing will be fueled by bacon.

The team announced Tuesday morning that it has signed Smithfield Foods Inc., longtime sponsor of the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford, to instead support SHR next year.

No details yet on what car or what driver Smithfield will sponsor for SHR in 2018. Those announcement will come later. There are plenty of options: SHR driver Kurt Busch is a free agent as are playoff talents like Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne.

Danica Patrick said last month she won’t be back at SHR unless the team can find sponsorship for 2018. So the team has some decisions to make.

“We’re very proud to have Smithfield Foods join the Stewart-Haas Racing family,” said Brett Frood, president, SHR. “Smithfield has activated heavily and successfully within the sport, and we’re honored to be a part of the brand’s forward initiatives and strategy. Although we’re not ready to announce the full details of the program, we look forward to this new endeavor while remaining focused on the upcoming playoffs and putting forth the best effort possible to win more races and contend for another championship.”

The big loser in this announcement is Richard Petty Motorsports, which now must find some sponsor or sponsors to replace Smithfield. The team has already put its shop in Mooresville, N.C., up for lease as it looks for smaller shop space.

Categories
News

Wood Bros, GoFas Will Have 2017 Charters; NASCAR’s System Causing Odd Moves in Silly Season

On Thursday, GoFAS Racing announced Matt DiBenedetto would be its full-time driver in the No. 32 in 2017 and that Wood Brothers Racing is leasing its Charter for the No. 21 with Ryan Blaney.

However, GoFAS will not enter the upcoming season without a Charter; the single-car team is leasing one from Richard Petty Motorsports.

Since RPM’s Brian Scott announced his retirement from NASCAR racing, plans for the No. 44 have not been made.

It appears RPM will shrink to a single-car effort next year with Aric Almirola returning in the No. 43. If the organization wants to run a second car, that entry will have to qualify for points races based on speed.

The ongoing NASCAR Silly Season has been a busy one, and with the influence of the 10-month-old Charter system, business has taken a few strange twists.

HScott Motorsports is leaving NASCAR’s top division. The team had two Charters in 2016 — one of which was leased and returned to Premium Motorsports and then sold to Furniture Row Racing for its new No. 77, which rookie Erik Jones will drive. The other was purchased by Premium for 2017.

The two drivers that raced for HSM in 2016 are not without a ride for 2017, though. Clint Bowyer is taking over Tony Stewart‘s No. 14 at Stewart-Haas Racing and Michael Annett will pilot the No. 5 for JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series.

Roush Fenway Racing leased its No. 16 Charter to JTG Daugherty Racing for a second full-time entry. Greg Biffle announced he would not return to RFR for 2017 and Chris Buescher, who is under contract with RFR, will leave the Ford team Front Row Motorsports and pilot the No. 37 Chevrolet — a second JTG car.

Both Biffle and FRM’s No. 34, which Buescher drove to victory in a rain-shortened Pocono race and made the Chase, have an unknown status right now regarding 2017.

Leavine Family Racing leased Circle Sport Racing’s Charter for the No. 95 in 2016 and it has been since returned to CSR. Supposedly, CSR will run the No. 33 again full-time, but there has been nothing announced. There’s been speculation Casey Mears could take over the ride after Germain Racing announced he would not return despite him and sponsor Geico signing a contract extension through 2018. The No. 13 will be run by rookie Ty Dillon, and Geico will return next year.

LFR bought Tommy Baldwin Racing’s Charter before the Homestead-Miami Speedway race in November and the No. 95 will use it to guarantee a spot in every race next year. TBR will not run a full-time schedule in 2017 and Regan Smith, who drove the team’s No. 7 in 2016, has not announced plans for the upcoming season.

When the Charter system was created in February, it was awarded to 36 teams that attempted every race since the start of 2013. The Wood Brothers team didn’t qualify for a Charter as it ran a part-time schedule from 2009-2015 and it sparked a bit of outrage among fans since it is NASCAR’s oldest and one of the most winningest teams.

Now, the famed No. 21 will be guaranteed into all 36 points events with Blaney embarking on his sophomore season in the car. And DiBenedetto will have the same security as his new team leased RPM’s No. 44 Charter.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Scott Ready for Final Race Before Retiring

Brian Scott shocked the NASCAR garage last week when he announced the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway would be his last.

The 28-year-old will retire from NASCAR racing following Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400, citing family time as an important factor in his decision.

In a message he sent to his followers on social media last week, Scott said “Over the past couple of years I have begun a family of my own, and it has grown. I’m blessed to have an amazing wife and two incredible kids. The Sprint Cup schedule has taken its toll on me and caused me to reevaluate what I want in life for myself and my family. Through countless time in prayer with my family, the Lord has made it clear it’s time for me to focus on my family and put them first.”

2016 has been a frustrating year for the Idaho native. Following the race at Talladega Superspeedway last month where he posted a career-best runner-up finish, he said, “Just trying to get any bit of a bright spot this year has been difficult. I think that this is by far the brightest spot that we’ve had in a really challenging 2016 for Richard Petty Motorsports. I don’t know; I guess the results and what this does for us going forward is yet to be determined.”

Scott is completing his first full-time season of Sprint Cup racing for Richard Petty Motorsports after competing in the XFINITY Series full-time since 2010 for with stints at Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing. Before moving up to the XFINITY Series, he competed in the Camping World Truck Series, most notably for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

 As he moved up the racing ladder, he never seemed to lose place of where he came from or touch with himself, staying as the same low key guy. Take a moment from Iowa Speedway a couple years ago.

Before I began covering motorsports and was going to races purely as a fan, I had pit passes for an XFINITY Series race at Iowa Speedway a few years back. I had brought a few driver cards with me, in case I had the opportunity to get an autograph and say hello. Brian Scott walked by the entrance near pit road as he was on his way out to his car for qualifying. He saw I was holding two cards. He approached me and said hello and thanked me for coming out to the races. I asked him if he would sign one of my cards. “Absolutely,” he replied. Being polite, I thanked him and assumed he would go on his way. Then he offered to sign the second card I had brought. “I can sign that one too, man,” he said. It was cool to see a star just act like an average person. I know journalists are not supposed to have favorites, but that moment was one I’ll always remember. I would always look for his name in the rundown after the race was over.

In Scott’s 39th career Truck Series start in 2009 and at just 21 years old, he took the checkers for the first time in a race marred by tire issues and cautions. It came driving the No. 16 Albertson’s Toyota Tundra for Xpress Motorsports. After making the jump to compete in the XFINITY Series, he still dabbled with the trucks on occasion. In 2012, he again won at Phoenix International Raceway, wheeling the No. 18 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports, leading a race-high 48 laps en route to the win.

Scott had a solid tenure in the XFINITY Series, but never was able to find Victory Lane in 208 starts. He came painfully close in 2013 driving for Richard Childress Racing at Richmond International Raceway. He led the first 239 laps and looked like he was on his way to his first win before Brad Keselowski passed him on the high side with 11 laps remaining and went on to win. Scott was second. His team protested Keselowski restarted too early on the last restart of the race, but to no avail. Scott has 20 top-fives and four runner-up finishes on the XFINITY side. His best year came in 2014, where he finished fourth in the standings.

Brian has a strong fanbase on the racetrack because of his story away from the track. In January 2014, he married his wife, Whitney, and since their special day, their emotional wedding video went viral. Whitney was married previously, and had a daughter of her own, Brielle. Not only did Whitney and Brian wrote separate vows for each other, but Brian also wrote vows specifically for Brielle. He got down on one knee to read them to her. (Grab a tissue, y’all).

“Brielle, can I tell you something? I promise to always hold your hand and skip with you down the street, and bring comfort to your life. I vow to make you say your prayers before you eat. I promise to read you stories at night, to always tuck you in real tight. I vow to show you how a man should treat a woman in my relationship with your mother. And above all else, I vow to protect you, care for you and love you forever.”

Click here for the full video.

Now with a successful career and notable highlights to carry forward with him as he walks away, he hopes to add one more highlight with a solid run this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

“I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to drive for Richard Petty Motorsports this season, and I’m looking forward to ending the year on a high note at Homestead-Miami Speedway,” Scott said. “Homestead is so unique in that it’s a true oval and doesn’t have a dogleg, so you really have to make a good turn getting into all four of the corners. I’ve had a lot of success in the XFINITY and Truck Series at Homestead, so I know if we’ve got speed off the truck that we will have a good chance at getting our No. 44 Safeway Ford to the front of the field.”

Scott has good reason to be excited about racing at Homestead. In six XFINITY Series starts, he has four top-10 finishes, finishing as high as fourth in 2015. In the three starts he has made at Homestead in the Truck Series, he finished inside the top-15 each time, with a best finish of eighth coming in 2008. Last year, Scott was 28th in the Sprint Cup finale in his lone Sprint Cup Series start at Homestead.

The staff here at POPULAR SPEED would like to wish Brian Scott and his family all the best in beginning the next chapter of their lives.

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @ShaneCarlson4

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Scott to Retire from NASCAR After Homestead Race

PHOENIX — After only one full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series, Brian Scott will retire from NASCAR racing following the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Scott, driver of the No. 44 for Richard Petty Motorsports, made the announcement Thursday and said it was a personal decision to dedicate more time to his family and a new career.

“This was a difficult decision, but one that I made myself for my family,” Scott said. “Racing and specifically NASCAR has been and will always be in my heart, but right now, I want to turn all my attention to my family and to be able to spend more time with them.

“Racing has blessed me with great opportunities, and I’m very grateful for everything that it has allowed me to do, but for me, it’s time to move on. I can’t thank everyone enough who helped me in my career. I would not have made it to where I am at today without their trust and commitment.”

A Boise, Idaho native, Scott’s career started in the Camping World Truck Series in 2007, running seven races. Over the next five years, he won two truck races at Dover and Phoenix, the only victories of his tenure in NASCAR to date.

He completed six full-time seasons in the XFINITY Series from 2010 to 2015 with Braun Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Richard Childress Racing.

In 51 career Cup starts, Scott’s highlights include a pole at Talladega in 2014 and a second-place finish at the track last month. After 34 races this season, he sits 32nd in the standings.

Scott’s sponsor Albertsons Companies will also leave the sport at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign.

The No. 44 will continue to compete in 2017, but a replacement has not yet been determined.

On Thursday morning, Scott tweeted:

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Scott, RPM Earn Best Results of 2016 at ‘Dega

It’s no secret Richard Petty Motorsports has had a rough go of it in 2016.

Through the first 31 points races of the Sprint Cup Series season, they had no top 10s and a total of seven laps led.

The organization’s XFINITY Series program shut down after 11 races for financial reasons, and Jeb Burton lost his ride in the No. 43.

All together in Cup, the two RPM drivers Brian Scott and Aric Almirola had a combined 11 DNFs.

But Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway provided the team with much-needed results and Scott notched the best finish of his Cup career.

Scott brought his No. 44 home in second while Almirola finished eighth — his best finish since Dover in October 2015 where he finished fifth.

For Scott, his team’s pre-race strategy went as planned, which set him up for the runner-up finish.

“We had a team meeting before the race,” Scott said. “We knew that we were going to have to be perfect, we are going to have to have no mistakes on pit road. Keep good track position all day and try to make friends throughout the race so they would work with us at the end. Our game plan was executed really well.”

On the final restart, the rookie knew he would need some help to get around race winner Joey Logano. With help from Denny Hamlin, he was able to stay near the front and almost pull off what would have been a surprising victory.

“We had a really solid car, and Roush-Yates Engines were amazing today,” Scott said. “When it came down to the restart there at the end, we’re lucky enough to have Denny Hamlin and some guys work with us to get an opportunity at the win.”

Despite RPM’s struggles in 2016, both drivers have had decent records at the restrictor plate tracks.

Scott won his first career Cup pole at ‘Dega driving for Richard Childress Racing in the No. 33 in May 2014. Two months later, Almirola won his first Cup race at the rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July.

Earlier this season, Almirola won again at Daytona in July — this time in the XFINITY race with Biagi-DenBeste Racing’s No. 98.

Scott said Sunday’s race helps boost his team’s spirits in what’s been a grueling first, full-time season in NASCAR’s premier series.

“A good finish always helps,” Scott said. “It helps with the team. It helps with the guys at the shop — the morale. Just trying to get any bright spot out of this year has been difficult and I think this has been by far, the brightest spot that we’ve had in a really challenging 2016 for Richard Petty Motorsports.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Brian Scott Heading to Richard Petty Motorsports for 2016

Friday afternoon, Richard Petty Motorsports announced that XFINITY Series driver @bscottracing will drive the No. 9 Ford Fusion in 2016. He will be replacing @SamHornish, who drove the entry in 2015. In preparation for the season-opening Daytona 500, he will participate in the Goodyear Tire test scheduled December 14th at Homestead-Miami Speedway, gaining valuable track time with his new team.

This will be the Scott’s first full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The 27-year-old will also be vying for Rookie of the Year honors, competing against drivers which include @chaseelliott and @Chris_Buescher.

“I am thrilled to go Sprint Cup Series racing full-time next year and to do it with such an iconic team,” said Scott. “When you think NASCAR racing, you think Petty. I’m glad to now be a part of that legacy. I had a lot of fun competing in the XFINITY Series for the last seven years, and I’m excited to take the next step.

“I ran some races in the Sprint Cup Series the last few years and learned a lot. I feel like we are in a good position to compete for the Rookie of the Year next year and continue the consistency that RPM built over the last few years.”

The Boise, ID native has nine years of experience in NASCAR’s three national touring series. After a few years in the Camping World Truck Series, he moved up to the XFINITY Series full-time in 2010, piloting the No. 2 Chevy for Richard Childress Racing. While he has never captured a win in the series, he has collected 77 top-10s and 20 top-fives in six seasons. In 2014 he contended for the championship, ultimately finishing a career-best fourth.

In 2015, Scott competed in select Cup Series events. His best finish was at Kansas Motor Speedway, where he placed 12th.

“We’re happy to welcome Brian to the team,” said co-owner Richard Petty. “Our team has worked very hard to continue our winning tradition and building consistency. We feel Brian is a great addition to that. He’s made a steady progression through the ranks, and now, we feel he’s ready to compete in the Sprint Cup Series.”

Sponsorship for the entry has not been announced but is expected to be revealed in the following weeks.

EMAIL STEPHANIE AT stephanie.adair@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Aric Almirola Quietly Races His Way to a Top-Five Finish at Dover

@Aric_Almirola was the highest finishing non-Chase driver in Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, racing his way to a fifth-place finish and staying under the radar in the process.

The fifth place finish was the third top-five of the 2015 season for 31-year-old from Tampa, Florida. His finish was overshadowed by the drama in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship, which Almirola was a participant in in 2014 after winning a rain-shortened race at Daytona International Speedway.

Almirola has not had the success this season he had hoped for, despite nearly racing his way into the Chase at Richmond International Raceway, a race he finished third in. His finish on Sunday was his second top-five finish this season at Dover International Speedway and his third top-10 finish at the concrete mile.

“That was a good run for us,” Almirola said after the race. “I’m really proud of the guys. That’s two top-fives in a row here at Dover. It was a really good job.”

Much like in the spring race where he started 23rd and raced his way to a fifth-place finish, the veteran racer had to do the same thing again on Sunday. He started Sunday’s race in 18th and methodically worked his way up through the field throughout the duration of the 400-mile race.

“It was a really good job,” Almirola explained. “We just struggled with getting the car in the race track most of the day and right there at the end four tires paid off for us. That was some really good adjustments by Trent and the guys and the pit crew did a good job getting me off pit road and just a really solid day for us.”

Almirola and the Richard Petty Motorsports team now look ahead to Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Almirola’s best career Charlotte Motor Speedway finish was an 11th place in the 2014 Coca-Cola 600. Earlier this season in the 600-mile marathon race, Almirola finished 17th.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Aric Almirola Making His Own Brand of RPM History

The driver of the iconic No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports, Aric Almirola, is on track to make his own brand of history for The King and Company.

With his fifth place run at Dover International Speedway this past weekend, @aric_almirola currently sits tenth in the point standings. And if that trend continues, it would be a points position that has not been seen by an @RPMotorsports driver and team since 2009.

“It does show that we are moving in the right direction,” Sammy Johns, Director of Competition for Richard Petty Motorsports, said. “But at the same time, we have a lot of work ahead of us to maintain and improve on this progress.

All of our guys are working hard both on the Cup and XFINITY sides of our new shop. We have areas we’re looking to improve, but it’s encouraging to see all the work and changes we have put in since our move in January.”

While the team at the shop has been working hard, Almirola felt like he was in a battle zone at Dover, fighting for track position, fighting with his tires, and fighting with the heat to secure his fifth place position at the end of the race.

The first battle that Almirola and his team faced was a poor qualifying run, starting the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks in the 23rd spot. Almirola acknowledged that has been one of the team’s weaknesses and something that has prohibited even better finishes for Team 43.

“We have to get better qualifying,” Almirola said. “That is our Achilles heel right now. We start too deep in the field every week.”

In addition to the poor qualifying effort, Almirola had to fight an ill-handling car throughout much of the race, working diligently with his crew chief and team to adjust on the tires and the race car.

In fact, at the start of the race Almirola fell back to the 25th position when the car got really tight after the green flag was displayed. He actually fell back even further, going down a lap to the leader, before driving to the 21st spot and securing his ‘Lucky Dog’ of the day.

Because there were limited cautions, Almirola and his team fell back again after green-flag pit stops, battling back to secure the second ‘Lucky Dog’ of the race. After adjusting and tuning, Almirola finally was able to break the top-15 in the running order, driving into the 13th position by Lap 324.

The Smithfield team then decided to change four tires late in the race for the green-white-checkered finish. And with his team cheering him on from pit road, Almirola restarted 10th and moved four spots forward on the first lap of the G-W-C.

He was able to pass one more car on the final lap, taking the checkered flag at the Monster Mile for his first top-five finish of the season.

“Yeah it was a good day for us,” Almirola said from the grid after the race. “We got tires there late and that was really the difference.

We had honestly a tenth place car most of the day. We qualified poorly and it got us back in the pack and we just could not recover with the limited amount of cautions.

I’m proud of Trent Owens and all these guys on the Smithfield Ford. My car was fast; it just wasn’t fast enough.  The second-to-the-last tires must have been a bad set or something because I just could not take off and get going.

The last set of tires drove like the rest of them and we ended up with a fifth place finish.”

“It was just a battle; just a battle all day,” Almirola continued. “We fought for every single position. We fought to stay on the lead lap. We fought to be the ‘Lucky Dog’. We just fought really hard all day. We dug down deep; everybody did. And we got a good result to show for it.

It was extremely hot. I’m not going to lie. It was probably one of the hotter races I remember. And with the limited amount of cautions and not really being able to catch your breath and take a breather, it made it difficult. But that’s what we get paid to do.”

With his top-five run, Almirola jumped up two positions in the point standings to tenth. The team is also 14th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings with thirteen races left to go before the Chase begins.

“It was a great day for us, a really good points day for us,” Almirola said. “Proud of everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports. We’ve been working really hard to bring better cars to the track every week.

It was good to get some results like that. All in all, it was a good day for us, and I am ready to go to Pocono.”

 

EMAIL MARY JO AT mj.buchanan@popularspeed.com

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