Team Preview: Richard Petty Motorsports
By: John Singler - @JohnSingler2 on February 6, 2014 | 10:45 A.M. EST
Richard Petty: “We’re probably in the best shape we’ve been in the last three or four years." (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
Richard Petty Motorsports heads into the 2014 Sprint Cup Series with hopes of building early-season momentum after slumping down the stretch last year. Drivers Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose combined for just two top-10 finishes over the final two months of the season.
With the post-season Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup expanding to 16 drivers this season, a fast start would go a long way toward positioning both Almirola and Ambrose for their first appearance in the 10-race title series.
The Ford Fusions they’ll drive got a NASCAR-approved “nose job” in the off-season. To address concerns about debris collecting on the lower radiator inlet, the screen has been bumped out and is now flush with the front bumper.
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
Drivers: Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford), Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 Ford)
Crew Chiefs: Trent Owens (Almirola), Drew Blickensderfer (Ambrose)
3 – Almirola is embarking on his third full season with RPM and Ambrose is looking for his third career Sprint Cup Series victory after winning back-to-back races at Watkins Glen International in 2011 and 2012.
18 – Where Almirola finished in the final 2013 Sprint Cup Series standings, an improvement of two positions over where he wound up in his debut season with RPM in 2012. Last year, Almirola missed a spot in the post-season Chase by 87 points.
200 – Ambrose, who finished 22nd in the final 2013 standings, is on track to make his 200th career Sprint Cup Series start on April 26 in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
What’s New: Almirola has signed a contract extension, as has sponsor Smithfield Foods to continue as a partner on his No. 43 Ford. Almirola also has a new crew chief. Trent Owens moves over to RPM after leading Kyle Larson’s Nationwide Series program at Turner Scott Motorsports.
What They’re Saying
Richard Petty: “We’re probably in the best shape we’ve been in the last three or four years. Last season was a lot more stable and that’s what we’re trying to do now with our new sponsorships. We feel like we’re doing the right thing.”
Almirola: “It’s great to have the U.S. Air Force back and Smithfield Foods has stepped up in a huge way for us. The commitment they’ve made to Richard Petty Motorsports allows us to go out and hire more people. We’ve got a lot of momentum on our side.”
Ambrose: “The growth of RPM has really invigorated this race team. We’ve created an R&D program and that’s the first time that’s happened since I’ve been here. At the end of the day, we’re all racing to put Richard Petty back in Victory Lane.”
Keys to Season
According to CEO Brian Moffitt, Richard Petty Motorsports hopes the addition of new sponsors and contract extensions for existing partners will translate into a robust research and development program that’ll produce improved results on the track.
“The winning tradition of the Petty name is to be up front, win races and compete for championships. That’s what we’re in this for,” said Moffitt – noting the presence of development drivers Dakoda Armstrong, Corey LaJoie and Ryan Truex as key components in the team’s growth plan. “We’re looking forward, poised for the future.”
With back-to-back wins at Watkins Glen International in recent seasons and strong runs in Sonoma, Calif., Ambrose has proven his mettle in Sprint Cup Series road-course events. He must now translate that expertise to sustained success on NASCAR ovals, where he’s been fast but not always able to finish.
The 2012 season was Almirola’s first as a full-time Cup competitor and he placed 20th in points. He improved two spots in 2013 and a similar advance this year could put him in position to challenge for a post-season berth. Best chance for a victory could come on the flat one-mile ovals such as Phoenix and New Hampshire, where Almirola posted a season-best fifth-place finish last summer.