April 29, 2013, Blog

Richmond 400 Race Report

Richard Petty Motorsports Richmond 400 Race Report
Richmond International Raceway, .75-mile oval

Race Results:
1.   Kevin Harvick
2.   Clint Bowyer
3.   Joey Logano
4.   Juan Pablo Montoya
5.   Jeff Burton
8.   Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford

Aric Almirola No. 43 Smithfield Ford Race Summary

Aric Almirola started the Richmond 400 from the 34th starting spot. After struggling in both practice and qualifying, the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team made changes to the car before taking the green flag Saturday night. The team worked on the cars setup throughout the race and by the last 100 laps found a setup that allowed Almirola to drive up through the field. Following a series of late-race cautions and good pit calls and stops, the Richard Petty Motorsports team posted their third consecutive top-10 finish, crossing the finish line in the eighth position. Almirola is now 11th in championship points, just 13 points outside of a chase position.

The No. 43 Smithfield Ford team took the green flag from the 34th position under the lights at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Almirola drove into the 28th position in the first 25 laps but told the crew that the Fusion needed to roll through the center of the corner better. When the first yellow flag waved on Lap 42, Crew Chief Todd Parrott called for a four-tire pit stop and adjustments. The No. 43 crew made a fast stop, and the Smithfield Ford restarted 24th.

Almirola raced up to the 21st position before falling to 22nd when the second yellow flag waved for debris on Lap 111. He told the crew that the car was very loose in the exit and off the corner. He continued by saying that the car was good the first 30 laps but really fell off after that. Parrott called for another four-tire stop with significant adjustments. Another quick pit stop gave the team the 18th position on the restart. In the next 25 laps, the No. 43 Smithfield Ford fell to the 25th position, and Almirola radioed that the loose condition was worse than before.

Fluid on the backstretch brought out the caution on Lap 147, and the No. 43 team made another four-tire stop with major adjustments. Almirola restarted 21st after the No. 43 pit crew gained four spots with their quick stop. The No. 43 Smithfield Ford once again fell to 25th before an accident in Turn One brought out the caution on Lap 159. The Tampa, Fla., native told the crew that the car was still tight in the center of the corner and loose off. The team made a four-tire stop with more adjustments to work on the car’s handling and restarted 24th.

For the next 66 laps, the No. 43 Smithfield Ford races in the top-25 and still struggled with a tight condition in the center of the corner and loose in and off the corner. The No. 16 Ford spun on the track and brought out the yellow flag on Lap 233. Still not giving up, the team made another four-tire stop with major adjustments. This change made the Smithfield Ford’s handling worse, and Almirola fell back to the 28th position when an accident in Turn Three brought out the sixth caution on Lap 293. Concerned, Almirola told the team they were in trouble if they could not make a change to help the car turn better in the corner.

Making even bigger adjustments this time around, the Smithfield crew made another four-tire stop under caution, going back to a setup they ran in practice, and restarted 26th. This change helped the handling of the Ford Fusion as Almirola methodically drove up through the field. Passing one car at a time, he moved into the 21st position by Lap 309 when fluid on the track brought out another caution. He told the crew the car was much better and the team utilized the caution to make a four-tire stop and a small adjustment.

The No. 43 Smithfield Ford restarted 25th and drove up to the 23rd position. As Almirola made his way back up the field, three cars spun at the front of the field, and he maneuvered his way through the wreckage and into the 15th spot when the yellow flag came out. Almirola praised the crew saying the changes were working and the car was much better.

Almirola restarted 19th with 77 laps to go and quickly raced into the top-15. A three-car accident on the backstretch brought out the yellow flag, and the No. 43 team stayed out. The Smithfield Ford restarted in the eighth position on Lap 344. Two laps later, a spin in Turn Three resulted in another caution, and Almirola stayed out to restart seventh.

He drove into the sixth position before eventual winner Kevin Harvick, on new tires, drove past the No. 43 Ford. Jeff Burton, also on new tires, passed the Smithfield Ford, and Almirola held the eighth spot with 17 laps to go. Holding steady in eighth, the team hoped the race would end caution-free. Unfortunately an incident on Lap 396 set up a green-white-checkered finish. Knowing most teams would pit for tires, Parrott called Almirola down pit road for four tires. The No. 43 Smithfield Ford restarted 12th, and Almirola maneuvered into the eighth spot by the checkered flag. The finished earned Almirola the 11th spot in the championship point standings, 13 points outside of the top-10.

“That was incredible and a lot of hard work. It was a great day by our guys, who never gave up. That is what it takes in this series. You cannot give up. At one point, we were almost a lap down. We were in big trouble, and Todd Parrott made so many adjustments and kept making it better and better and better. There at the end, we were a solid top-seven car, and I was really proud of that. That was a great run for us in the hometown of Smithfield, and I am really proud of that.”

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