Richard Petty Motorsports New Hampshire 301 Race Report
CONCORD, N.C. (July 14, 2014) - Coming off a winning weekend, Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) did not have the success they hoped for at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday. Both Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola fought handling issues and track position all afternoon. Almirola finished 23rd while Ambrose crossed the line in 27th.
A recap of the day follows:
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Charter Ford Fusion
Despite qualifying 19th, Almirola started 41st after a practice accident forced the team to compete with the backup No. 43 Charter Ford. Battling a loose car, he slowly worked his way up through the field. The No. 43 team tried different adjustments to fix the car but it didn't help the loose condition in the entry of the corners. His 23rd finishing position keeps the team in the10th spot in The Chase standings.
Almirola took the green flag from the 41st spot and quickly made his way forward. He gained five spots on the first lap and followed it up with three more on the second lap. Running in the 33rd position, he told his crew that the No. 43 Charter Ford had good drive off the corner. By the first caution for an accident in Turn One on Lap 15, the "Petty Blue" Ford was in the 30th spot, and Almirola said it was struggling with a loose condition.
Crew Chief Trent Owens called for a two-tire pit stop and small adjustments. Almirola restarted 31st and started his trek back through the field. Still loose, Almirola drove into the 24th spot after 10 green flag laps. Having pit during the first caution, the team didn't have to pit as green-flag pit stops began. Almirola drove into the fifth spot but was losing time to the leaders, so Owens called him down pit road on Lap 80. The Charter crew changed four tires and made a big adjustment to help with the loose condition.
Almirola returned to the track in 25th and drove into the 21st spot by Lap 85. He fell one lap down on Lap 110, but thankfully, debris forced NASCAR Officials to display the yellow flag just three laps later. Almirola was still the first car a lap down and earned the "Lucky Dog." Owens called for a four-tire stop and major adjustments to help the entry of the corners. The No. 43 restarted 21st and raced in the position until debris brought out the caution on Lap 154.
This time around the adjustments made the car even looser as Almirola raced into the Top-20. A Lap 178, debris caution allowed Owens to try another adjustment. The Charter Ford restarted 24th, but this time Almirola couldn't break the Top-20. Owens took another attempt to adjust the car during a two-tire pit stop. The team restarted 16th, but the No. 43 Ford fell back to 24th before Almirola radioed that the car was the loosest it had been all race.
A late-race caution allowed Owens to make another adjustment during a two-tire pit stop. Almirola restarted 22nd for the green-white-checkered finish but fell to 23rd when the checkered flag dropped.
"That was surely not the weekend we hoped for," said Almirola. "Coming off a win, we hoped to use momentum to score a good finish. We struggled a bit in practice and then wrecked the car on Saturday. We went to a backup but felt pretty good about what we could accomplish on Sunday. It just didn't work out for us. We were really loose, and it felt like the rear-end wasn't getting any drive through the corner. We tried different adjustments to help fix the problem, but it didn't work. We'll have to regroup for this race in September. For now, we'll take this off-week to get some much needed relaxation and hope to hit the ground running in Indy."
Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 DEWALT Ford Fusion
Ambrose and the No. 9 DEWALT Ford Fusion team also fought handling issues throughout the race. Much like Almirola, Ambrose was loose in, tight in the center and the car pushed bad off the turns. After many adjustments, like the No. 43, the No. 9 Ford never found the grip needed to have a better finish. The 27th-place finish dropped Ambrose to 20th in points.
Ambrose started from the 21st spot and after 10 laps was still in the same position. It was early in the race when Ambrose said his car was loose, but he was still running competitive lap times. Under the first caution on Lap 14, Ambrose was called down pit road for two right-side tires only, fuel and a chassis adjustment.
Restarting 25th, Ambrose was running better in what turned out to be a long stint under green. As those who didn't pit early had to now get fuel, Ambrose moved into the Top-10 before coming onto pit road on Lap 80. The team gave Ambrose four tires, fuel and another chassis adjustment. After the pit stops cyceld through, the team was in 24th. Laps later, Ambrose fell off the lead lap thus changing the strategy to focus on getting the "free pass" position.
Having been put in position to get the "free pass" later in the race, Ambrose had a car that was not handling well in the turns. It was really tight. Running in 24th, the team used the next caution to get four tires and more chassis adjustments. Throughout the race, the car never reacted positive to the changes made. The track temperatures were constantly changing and the car never found the grip needed.
Ambrose was 26th at halfway and still trying to get his lap back. The team made more chassis adjustments and just before Lap 200 they were in the free spot. As luck would have it, the caution never waved and Ambrose lost the spot before the caution finally came out.
The team slid back to 30th after making stops under caution to get four tires and more chassis adjustments. Ambrose raced hard in the final 100 laps, but never was able to get back on the lead lap. He climbed three positions at the end of the race and finished 27th.
"You are going to have races like this," said Ambrose. "We are all in this together and today was tough for everyone. The car didn't handle well and we could never get our lap back. When you can't get back on the lead lap it really kills any strategy for track position. It just wasn't our day, but we'll take a week off and be back at Indianapolis."
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.