Richard Petty Motorsports Kentucky Race Report
Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) had a high finish of 13th in Saturday night’s 400-mile race at the Kentucky Speedway. Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 Black and Decker Ford team moved from their 27th starting spot to finish in the Top-15 and move closer to a spot in the “Chase” based off points.
Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford team was running in the Top-1- before being collected in an accident. The team fixed damage to the car, returned to the track, but a cut tire ended their night.
Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Black and Decker Ford
Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 Black and Decker team had their best finish on an intermediate track this season on Saturday night. After starting 27th, the team used proper chassis adjustments and pit strategy to jump 14 positions and finish 13th Saturday night. The result moved Ambrose to 20th in Championship points.
Early in the race, Ambrose was able to pass cars, but said the car was tight in the center and loose into the turns. He didn’t feel the car was bad and only wanted slight adjustments early. He adjusted his brake fans in the car to help the handling, but need chassis adjustments to help. After the first caution, and the team making adjustments, Ambrose restarted 22nd on Lap 35.
After 40 laps, Ambrose was in the 20th position and moving in the right direction. The team still had to adjust the chassis as the sun set and the track cooled. After a second caution, and a pit stop to help Ambrose fight his “tight in the center” condition, he restarted 18th. Ambrose maintained that position past Lap 100.
During the third caution on Lap 126, the team made adjustments to help Ambrose gain more grip. The following stint, Ambrose had to make up from a restart that saw him move back to 23rd when cars stacked up in front of him. After 150 laps, Ambrose was still 23rd and again the team made another chassis adjustment and took four tires during a caution on Lap 153. Ambrose restarted in 23rd, but after another caution 17 laps later, the team only took two tires and jumped to 15th.
Ambrose was able to use the track position to help stay in the Top-20, but fell to 19th during the run. A last caution allowed him to get four tires and he restarted 13th. Ambrose dropped one spot but then made it up before the end. He finished 13th.
“It feels like a win,” said Ambrose after the race. “I am proud of the Black and Decker team tonight because that was a hard-fought finish for this team. We really made a lot of good adjustments to keep up with the track conditions and Drew did a great job. The car was pretty good at the end and we moved up all night. This is a step in the right direction on our mile-and-a-half program.”
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Eckrich Ford Race Recap
Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich team started from the 22nd position and worked on the car’s handling to move into the Top-10. Racing in the eighth spot, an on-track incident broke the right-front suspension and caused cosmetic damage. The team tried to fix the damage and quickly get back on track, but the damage to the suspension called for the team to go to the garage for repairs. After returning to the track, the damage struck again, and the right-front tire blew sending the No. 43 Eckrich Ford into the wall. The team finished 39th and dropped to the 22nd position in the Championship points.
The No. 43 Eckrich Ford took the green flag from the 22nd position. Almirola drove into the 16th spot when the first yellow flag flew for an accident in Turn Three on Lap 30. The car was loose in Turn Three and too tight in both corners, so Crew Chief Trent Owens called for a four tire pit stop with a wedge adjustment. Unfortunately, the change made the car really loose and fell to 18th.
An accident in Turn Two on Lap 78 allowed the team to try a different adjustment. A quick four-tire pit stop and major adjustments by the Eckrich team, and Almirola restarted 15th. He quickly worked up to the 12th spot as the car’s handling was really good at the beginning of the run. He held onto the 12th position but informed the crew the car got tighter as the run went on. The team made a small adjustment under caution on Lap 128.
Another quick stop put the No. 43 Eckrich Ford in the 10th spot on the restart. Almirola drove up into the seventh position and then settled into the eighth spot with 125 laps remaining, but a Top-10 was not in the cards for the team. A car spun in front of the No. 43 “Petty Blue” Ford. While trying to avoid contact, Almirola drove up around the spinning car but made contact with the No. 1. The contact caused major damage to the right-front. After trying to fix the damage on pit road, Almirola took the car to the garage to fix the right-front suspension. They spent 37 laps fixing the car, and Almirola headed back out on track. But, 20 laps later, the suspension broke sending the No. 43 into the wall and ending the team’s day. They finished 39th.
“The first wreck, one of those lapped cars spun in front of us, and when he spun, he lit up his rear tires and made a huge smoke cloud,” said Almirola. My spotter, Tyler, was telling me to go high, and I was kind of in the middle of the race track to see what he was going to do. And at the last minute, he was like, ‘Go high, go high,’ so I veered high and McMurray was out there. I honestly had no idea he was out there, and I ran into him, so I feel horrible because our Eckrich Ford Fusion was decent. We weren’t where we wanted to be, but we were a solid Top-10 car. We were running eighth there, so that’s frustrating to not execute. I did it at Michigan and did it again here, so it’s just really frustrating. I’m just mad at myself. I realize circumstances weren’t in our favor, but I should have done a better job of getting slowed down and not running into the No. 1 car.”