Richard Petty Motorspots Las Vegas Race Report
Richard Petty Motorsports Las Vegas 400 Race Report
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 1.5-mile oval
24. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 DEWALT Ford
25. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Farmland Ford
Marcos Ambrose No. 9 DEWALT Ford Race Summary
After an engine change after qualifying on Friday, Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 DEWALT Racing team made the best use of a new chassis to finish 24th in Sunday's 400-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Ambrose said the car was "wicked loose" at the start of the race, but he was still able to pick off cars one at a time. Being patient, yet aggressive, Ambrose was in the 36th position when the first caution came out. The team took four tires and made a chassis adjustment to help Ambrose continue his climb. The pit crew, who have been great all year, helped Ambrose advance to 31st on the restart.
The following run, Ambrose continued to move up a few more positions. The car wasn't handling well, but Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer communicated that Ambrose had faster lap times than most and his 'loose' condition was allowing him to compete against most of the field who were fighting the same condition.
The following green-flag pit stop, Ambrose came in to get more adjustments to help the car turn better. They were able to crack into the Top-20, this after starting 43rd, but were not able to move any further the rest of the day. The car wouldn't turn as Ambrose needed and he had to work the throttle through the turn. The car also handled badly in "dirty air", a complaint that Joey Logano was very verbal about when he was in race traffic. Ambrose raced in the Top-25 and fell a lap behind the leaders.
The team made more adjustments to the car during green-flag pit stops and cautions, but the "dirty air" really hurt Ambrose. Ambrose didn't lay down behind the wheel. Instead, he muscled the car and moved it around the track while racing for the free pass position. It wasn't for a lack of effort, but Ambrose wasn't able to get into that position. The strategy then turned to pit lane with Blickensderfer mapping out a plan for a Top-10 through fuel mileage.
With 55 laps to go in the race, Ambrose came down pit road to the service of the DEWALT race crew. The guys packed the car full of fuel and Blickensderfer told Ambrose that they would not plan to pit again. The strategy looked as if though it was going to work, but a caution with a little over 30 laps to go allowed most teams to follow suit.
The final restart, Ambrose moved from 27th to 23rd. The fuel tank ran dry on the last lap and Ambrose came across the link 24th- the fifth-best Ford Racing team member. The No. 9 RPM team is now 19th in the championship point standings.
"We have some work to do as a whole," said Ambrose. "The car wasn't great today, but I don't think it was just us. We saw a lot of guys that struggled with handling. We'll get together this weekend as a group and talk about how to get better. We tried some fuel mileage strategy at the end, a good call by Drew (Blickensderfer), and made the best result possible."
Aric Almirola No. 43 Farmland Ford Race Summary
Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Farmland Ford team had another strong showing in knockout qualifying, giving them the eighth starting spot for Sunday's race. Unfortunately, the Ford Fusion did not handle as well in Sunday's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Almirola and team worked diligently to make the car better all race and brought home a 25th-place finish. They are now 24th in the point standings.
After the green flag dropped, Almirola held the eighth position for the first 10 laps before communicating to the crew that the Ford Fusion was a little loose off the corner. He continued to hold his position and post good lap times until Lap 15. Telling the crew it was like a switch flipped in the car's handling, he dropped to 13th before the caution on Lap 18 for fluid on the track. During the caution, he told the team that the car got really loose the last few laps.
Crew Chief Trent Owens called for a four-tire stop and a chassis and air pressure adjustment to help the loose handing condition. Teams varied in strategy, giving the No. 43 team the 21st spot on the restart. Almirola dropped to 28th by the next yellow flag on Lap 46. Quiet on the radio and focused on handling the "Petty Blue" Ford, Almirola waited until the caution to download with the team. He told the crew the car was struggling with rear grip and side bite in addition to the loose condition. The team elected to make a big swing at the car. The extended stop put the team in the 32nd spot for the restart.
Almirola drove into the 28th spot quickly after the restart but the car remained loose. The Farmland team fell a lap down to the leader after returning to the track in 29th. Again, Almirola picked up a few spots to 27th and was racng for the free pass. Unfortunately, Almirola hit the wall on Lap 118 when the backend of the No. 43 Farmland Ford jumped out. By Lap 136, he had a tire going down, and the team was forced to pit out of sequence.
Debris on the backstretch brought out the caution on Lap 156. This time Owens elected for a two-tire pit stop and chassis adjustment. Almirola restarted 28th, one lap down, and drove into the 25th position by the next round of green-flag pit stops. Hoping for a caution, the team waited until the last minute to come down pit road. The No. 43 Farmland Ford raced as high as 19th before coming down pit road. The next caution allowed the No. 43 team to take the wave around and return to one lap down. The Farmland Ford restarted 26th. In the closing 41 laps, Almirola drove more consecutive lap times and brought the No. 43 Farmland Ford home in the 25th spot. The finish put Almirola in the 24th spot in the point standings.
"We're really disappointed today," said Almirola. "We showed we were a top team in qualifying and made the final round for the second week in a row, but then our car didn't handle well for the race. We were really loose at the beginning and then just kept chasing the handling. We felt like we had a good car this whole weekend until we got to the race on Sunday. That is not what we expect for this team. We'll regroup this week and figure out what we can do before California to get our mile-and-a-half program where it needs to be. Meanwhile, we look forward to Bristol. Hopefully, we left all of our bad luck back in Vegas."
Richard Petty Motorsports will now come back to their home on the East Coast and prepare for next Sunday's race at the Bristol Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live by FOX and broadcast live on SIRIUS/XM NASCAR and PRN Radio.
About Richard Petty Motorsports:
A performance and marketing driven company, Richard Petty Motorsports, co-owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and successful business entrepreneurs Andrew Murstein and Douglas Bergeron, is one of the most recognized brands in all of motorsports. With a history of over 200 wins and business partnerships with national and global leaders, today the race operation fields two teams in competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Aric Almirola pilots the famous No. 43 Ford Fusion with primary partners Smithfield Foods, U.S. Air Force, STP, Strike Ten Entertainment and Fresh From Florida, and Marcos Ambrose drives the No. 9 machine with primary partners STANLEY, DEWALT, Mac Tools and Twisted Tea. In addition, Dakoda Armstrong wheels the No. 43 WinField Ford Mustang full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The team is headquartered in Concord, N.C.