CONCORD, N.C. (July 28, 2014) – In an effort to secure both its NASCAR Sprint Cup teams into The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and flew directly to the road course in Watkins Glen, New York for a two-day test session for Aric Almirola beginning today.
The goal of the test will be to collect information to help give Almirola the best setup possible before returning in two weeks for the race. If Ambrose can win the event, it will help secure Almirola into the champiomnship run at the end of the season.
Both teams competed in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 and Almirola had to start from the back of the field after different circumstances on Saturday. Although Almirola team used good pit strategy and had better cars on Sunday, they didn’t gain positions in points. However, they never lost a position after overcoming the adversity earlier in the weekend.
RPM heads to this test this week with Almirola nearly locked into The Chase.
A recap of the action at Indianapolis follows:
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Eckrich Ford Fusion
Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford team headed into the 20th annual Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with high hopes. Testing a new car, the team struggled with a tight condition. It came to a head in qualifying when Almirola brushed the wall. The team was forced to go to a backup car and started at the rear. They worked on the backup car throughout the race and Almirola finished 21st. He was highlighted by ESPN as a ‘hard charger’ in the race.
Almirola began his trek through the field early as he fought a loose condition early in the race. Du to an overnight rain, NASCAR Officials called a competition caution on Lap 20. Crew Chief Trent Owens called for a four-tire pit stop with big adjustments during the caution period. A quick stop gave the No. 43 team the 27th spot on the restart.
The adjustments improved the car and Almirola continued to work his way forward and held the 19th spot before green-flag pit stops began. Owens waited until the end of the fuel window to call the No. 43 down pit road. On Lap 51, Almirola gave up the third spot and came down pit road. The Eckrich crew changed four tires and made an air pressure adjustment while packing the car full of fuel. When pit stops cycled through, the No. 43 Eckrich Ford was in the 25th spot.
Climbing up to 18th, Almirola said the car was too tight. Just a few laps after green-flag pit stops started, a stopped car brought out the yellow flag with the No. 43 in the eighth spot. The No. 43 pit crew made another four-tire stop and adjustments. Almirola restarted 25th on Lap 73. Again, he drove toward the front. When the yellow flag flew on Lap 98, he said the car needed to roll the center better as he raced in the 20th position. Owens chose to change four tires and make more adjustments to the No. 43 Eckrich Ford.
This last adjustment helped the car and Almirola raced into the 16th position. By Lap 125, the No. 43 Eckrich Ford was one of the fastest cars on track. At the end of a fuel run, the team made another green-flag pit stop. This time, the team didn’t make any adjustments and focused on getting the car full of fuel. Unfortunately, this set of tires made the car handle differently and the No. 43 was really loose. Almirola worked back up to 18th despite the loose condition.
When NASCAR Officials called another caution on Lap 140, Owens elected to have Almirola come down pit road for a two-tire stop. Almirola restarted 18th and finished 21st with the car being too loose to gain any more positions in the final laps. Almirola is still 10th in the Chase standings.
“That’s a decent finish, but I’m frustrated because we’ve got to figure out how to get more speed,” said Almirola. “We’ve got six more weeks to get our cars better before the Chase, so we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to try to figure it out and try to be more competitive. But it is what it is. We dug ourselves a hole this weekend and finished 21st. We had one run where we drove up to like 15th, and I thought we were going to be pretty good, and I don’t know if we got a bad set of tires or what, but we could never recover after that.”