MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 30, 2015) – After six races to start the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) will take a weekend off to enjoy the Easter holiday.
They will do so knowing that the No. 43 team and driver Aric Almirola is off to its best start together. Almirola is currently 10th in the championship standings and have finished outside the Top-15 only twice this year. It’s a mark only bettered by Kasey Kahne to start the 2009 season.
Their consistency is what builds championship runs, but so does preparation and dedication. The team will take a few days off later in the week before planning to test at Kentucky Speedway and preparing for the next race at Texas.
For Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Ford team, focusing on improvement is their main objective as they approach the break. Bad luck and circumstances have defined their season to date and look to take the weekend off to prepare a plan to start a streak of their own.
A recap of Sunday’s event at Martinsville follows:
Aric Almirola, No. 43 STP Ford Team
Aric Almirola and the No. 43 STP team headed to Martinsville Speedway for the sixth stop of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The team started 18th in Sunday’s STP 500. They showed good speed during long runs, but the field saw short runs in the 500-lap race that saw 16 cautions. The STP team worked on small adjustments to improve the car’s handling on the short runs and raced to 12th at the end of the day.
Almirola started the STP 500 from the 18th spot and felt confident in the No. 43 STP Ford’s race trim. A little too tight to start, Almirola adjusted the trackbar in the car to loosen it up. The adjustment helped and Almirola drove into the 12th spot by Lap 43. Pushed to the outside line, he dropped to 23rd before the third caution of the day on Lap 55. Almirola said the STP Ford struggled with left and rear grip.
The “Petty Blue” Ford restarted 37th, and again, Almirola started a drive up through the field. A caution 14 laps later found the No. 43 in the 30th spot with the team pitting. The fresh rubber helped Almirola pick up seven spots in 14 laps. During a caution for a spin on Lap 95, Almirola told the crew that new tires really made a difference in the car’s handling.
The No. 43 STP Ford team restarted 27th on Lap 100. Better on the long run, Almirola worked his way up to the 13th spot during the following 65-lap run. The STP team changed four tires under caution and restarted 10th on Lap 171. Almirola drove up to ninth before settling into 13th. He drove in the Top-15 until the next caution on Lap 207 which allowed the STP crew to change four tires under caution.
A caution on Lap 270 allowed the team to get four fresh tires and Almirola restarted 11th. He raced up to ninth before falling back to 17th and radioing that the car was getting loose in and really loose off the corner.
An accident on Lap 357 brought out the caution, and Almirola restarted 15th. An incident in front of the No. 43 STP Ford slowed the field, and the Ford Fusion received damage to the front nose and right side. Owens called Almirola down pit road to fix the nose and side and ensure that there wasn’t a tire rub. Almirola restarted 21st and quickly raced into the Top-20.
On Lap 434, a spin brought out the caution with the No. 43 STP Ford in 16th. Owens called for a four-tire pit stop and air pressure adjustment to help the car with a slight tight condition. The stop took longer because of the damage on the right side of the car, and the team restarted 18th.
In the closing laps Almirola restarted 16th with 34 laps to go in the STP 500. He made a steady trek forward and raced into the 12th spot when the checkered flag dropped.
“We fought hard in the Top-15 for most of the day,” said Almirola. “That’s what we need to keep doing. We had a good car in the middle of the race, but our handling was better for the long runs and the cautions didn’t help. If we stay consistently in the Top-15, we can make those Top-15 runs into Top-12 runs like we did today. Eventually, that will lead to consistent Top-10 finishes. We’ve done a good job making the most of our cars each week, and that’s kept us in the Top-10 in points. We’ll keep working in the shop to get our cars better and consistently in the Top-10.”
Sam Hornish Jr., No. 9 Medallion Bank Ford Team
Once again bad luck fell onto Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Medallion Bank Ford team at Martinsville Speedway. After qualifying 38th, the No. 9 team made great progress throughout the weekend to get the Medallion Bank Ford race ready. After racing into the Top-20 on more than one occasion during the 500-lpa race, Hornish was relegated to a 32nd-place finish after the crew was forced to fix an oil leak just over halfway through the race.
Hornish started the STP 500 race from the 38th position and immediately began to make his way through the field. He moved up eight spots in 12 laps to the 30th position when the first caution fell. Hornish reported the No. 9 Ford was good on the brake but a tick free off the corner. To save tires for the end of the race, Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer made the call to stay on the track. Hornish restarted in the same position on Lap 17.
Just six laps later, a spin in Turn Four brought out the caution. The No. 9 Ford received minimal damage on the right front fender. After getting the “all good” from the No. 9 spotter, Hornish stayed on the track and restarted in the 21st position.
Hornish raced up to the 18th position before the cars with four fresh tires caught up to the No. 9 Ford. Hornish reported his biggest issue was lack of forward drive. He brought the Medallion Bank Ford to pit road for four tires, a wedge adjustment and fuel and restarted in the 40th position on Lap 61.
Hornish was awarded the Lucky Dog when debris in Turn Three brought out the caution on Lap 74. He reported the handling of the No. 9 Ford was better during that run with good drive in but just a tick free off. Blickensderfer called for four tires, a wedge adjustment and fuel and Hornish restarted 38th on Lap 82.
With the No. 9 Ford starting out tighter over the last run, Hornish felt the car would be better during a long run. It was a four-tire stop for the No. 9 Ford before restarting in the 31st spot on Lap 101.
Hornish began to maneuver the Medallion Bank Ford through the field, getting up to the 23rd position. However, the No. 9 Ford became free on entry and Hornish slipped a few spots to 27th. The crew received another opportunity to work on the car when a spin in Turn Four brought out the caution on Lap 165. To help with the drive off, Blickensderfer called for a wedge adjustment, four tires and fuel. Hornish restarted 29th on Lap 171.
Debris brought out the caution on Lap 184, but as the field checked up the No. 9 Ford received damage to the front end of the car. Hornish came to pit road for a four-tire stop and to check the damage on the nose of the car. No repairs were needed and the team restarted in the 34th position on Lap 189.
The front of the No. 9 Ford suffered more damage as Hornish just barely scathed by a multi-car accident on Lap 229. After Hornish returned to the track from a four-tire stop, the Medallion Bank crew noticed a few drops of oil in the pit stall. Hornish watched the oil pressure as the field went back to green. He restarted in the 31st position on Lap 239.
Over the next 30 laps, Hornish checked his temps and oil pressure inside the car while Blickensderfer and the crew came up with a plan to fix the oil leak. They received the opportunity on Lap 270 when a spin in Turn Four brought out the caution. The Medallion Bank crew changed out the oil hoses in the No. 9 Ford on the four-tire spot, but unfortunately, lost five laps in the process. Hornish restarted in the 36th position on Lap 285.
Despite being several laps down, Hornish and the No. 9 Medallion Bank team did everything they could to gain back positions over the final 215 laps. They also used the remaining laps as a learning opportunity to make adjustments and get an understanding of how the adjustments affected the car. In the end the team crossed the finish line in the 32nd position.
“We just can’t seem to get this monkey off our back,” said Hornish. “It’s frustrating for sure, but this team stepped up this weekend. The guys worked hard all weekend to make adjustments and improve the No. 9 Medallion Bank Ford. I felt like we really had something to work with today. We’ll regroup on this off weekend.”
|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 entrepreneur Andrew Murstein, 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 and Fresh From Florida, and Sam Hornish Jr. drives the No. 9 machine with primary partners Medallion Bank and Twisted Tea. In addition, Dakoda Armstrong wheels the No. 43 WinField Ford Mustang full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The team is headquartered in Mooresville, N.C.