April 15, 2013, Blog
Richard Petty Motorsports NRA 500 Race Report
Texas Motor Speedway, 1.5-mile oval
1. Kyle Busch
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Carl Edwards
4. Greg Biffle
5. Joey Logano
7. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Eckrich Ford
Aric Almirola No. 43 Eckrich Ford Race Summary
Aric Almirola scored the No. 43 Eckrich Ford team’s first top-10 finish of the season last night at Texas Motor Speedway. Starting from the inside of the second row, Almirola battled back from an early pit stop problem to finish seventh in the NRA 500. The finish propelled the No. 43 team to the 14th spot in championship points, just 20 points outside of the coveted 10th position.
In Eckrich’s first race of the 2013 season, Almirola scored the third-place starting spot after sitting in the top-spot for the majority of qualifying. He took the green flag on the inside of Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Marcos Ambrose. He fell back to the eighth position before the first caution on Lap 39 for debris. The Tampa, Fla., native radioed that the No. 43 Ford was really tight in the center of the corner and loose off the corner. Crew Chief Todd Parrott called for a four-tire pit stop and trackbar adjustment during the caution. As Almirola drove into his pit stall, he slid the tires, and the Eckrich team had to pit the car on an angle. The slower stop caused the team to lose 11 spots, and Almirola restarted 19th.
Just one lap later, a two-car incident on the backstretch brought the yellow flag back out. The team stayed out and restarted from the 19th spot. As the laps ticked off, Almirola drove up to the 15th position before falling back to 17th. He told Parrott that the No. 43 Eckrich Ford was loose into Turn Three and tight everywhere else. A lap-82 caution for oil on the track allowed the team to make another four-tire pit stop and chassis adjustment. The No. 43 Fusion restarted 20th.
Almirola worked up to the 16th position when he told the crew that the car was a little better but still too tight. He continued to post quick laps in the No. 43 Eckrich Ford and drove into the 14th position before the first round of green-flag pit stops. Parrott called Almirola down pit road on Lap 129 for four tires and a chassis adjustment. A quick stop by the team helped the No. 43 move up five spots on the track. Wheeling up another spot in the next 10 laps, Almirola held the seventh position when NASCAR Officials called another debris caution on Lap 151.
During the caution period, Almirola explained that he was still tight but somehow running fast laps with the rest of the field struggling with a loose condition. He made the call to make a pit stop with no adjustments. Another solid stop allowed the Eckrich Ford to restart in the seventh spot. Running as high as sixth, Almirola told the team that the handling was not as good this run. A long, green-flag run forced another round of green-flag pit stops. The team changed four tires and made a small chassis adjustment. The No. 43 Eckrich Ford returned to the track in the same position it left.
Holding onto the sixth spot, Almirola once again diagnosed the car’s handling. He explained that the car was still struggling with a tight condition in the center of the corner but was loose off the corner. A single-car incident on the backstretch brought out the yellow flag on Lap 224 with the No. 43 Eckrich Ford still in the sixth position. Parrott called for a four-tire stop and went back on the last adjustment to help with the loose off condition.
The field restarted on Lap 229 with the No. 43 Eckrich Ford in sixth. Twenty-three laps into the run, Almirola radioed that the Ford Fusion was still tight in the center of the corner. He told the team that the last adjustment made the car looser off the corner which helped on the restart but hurt during long runs. The Eckrich Ford fell to seventh and made another green-flag pit stop on lap 277 for four tires and chassis adjustment.
Pitting early in the cycle of green-flag stops, the No. 43 team got stuck a lap down when teammate Ambrose and the No. 31 spun and brought out the yellow flag on Lap 282. The Eckrich team stayed out during the caution and took the wave around to restart on the lead lap at the tail-end of the field. During the caution period, Parrott told his driver that they would be close on fuel and to save as much as he could.
Almirola restarted 12th on Lap 291 and right away moved into the 11th spot. He then began his methodical trek back through the field. He passed cars one-by-one and drove back into the top-10 with 35 laps to go. As he wheeled into the eighth position, posting some of the fastest laps in the field, NASCAR Officials called a final caution for debris with 19 laps to go.
Before he pulled down pit road for his final stop, Almirola told the Eckrich crew that the No. 43 Ford was much better. Parrott called for four tires and no adjustments. Clicking off another fast pit stop, the Eckrich crew returned the No. 43 back to the track in the eighth spot. Almirola restarted with 15 laps to go and Jimmie Johnson in his windshield. Problems with the No. 24 gave the No. 43 Eckrich Ford the seventh position. Racing hard for the sixth spot, Almirola kept Johnson in sight but did not have enough laps to make the pass. He crossed the finishline with his first top-10 of the 2013 season and moved up to the 14th position in the championship standings.
“I totally blew it on that first stop. I slid through my box and made a stupid mistake that cost ourselves a lot of track position. We had to battle back from that all night, and we got back up in the top-10. We had a great car. Todd Parrott and these guys gave me a great Eckrich Ford Fusion, and I felt really good about it. We kept making adjustments on the car all night, getting it better and better, and then right there at the end when that caution came out that really hurt us. I think we were running sixth, and we had to take the wave around. I think we restarted back in 14th or 15th, so it was good for us to drive back up through there. I felt really good about our car. I wish we could have kept our track position. I think our night would have turned out a lot differently. I felt like we were a solid top-five car at the end of the race, but we just didn’t make that happen. Still, it was a great day, a great points day for us, and I feel really good about it.”