May 6, 2013, Blog
Richard Petty Motorsports Aaron’s 499 Race Report
Talladega Superspeedway, 2.66-mile oval
1. David Ragan
2. David Gilliland
3. Carl Edwards
4. Michael Waltrip
5. Jimmie Johnson
10. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Gwaltney Ford
Aric Almirola No. 43 Gwaltney Ford Race Summary
After running in the top-10 for the majority of the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, it looked like Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Gwaltney Ford team would end their top-10 streak when the ductwork on the front nose smashed in and the car began to overheat. A timely caution allowed the team to work on the front of the car to get air to the engine, and Almirola worked the draft to take the checkers in the 10th position for the team’s fourth consecutive top-10. Almirola is now seventh in the championship point standings.
Rain cancelled qualifying on Saturday, so the field was set by first practice speeds giving Almirola the 18th starting spot for the 188-lap race. Racing got dicey early, and the No. 43 Gwaltney Ford was in the middle of three-wide racing and running in the 13th spot on the first lap. Almirola quickly teamed up with the No. 13 Ford and drove into the fourth position by Lap 8. The front of the field ran single-file with the Petty Blue Ford in the fifth spot until Lap 19 when a second line gained momentum and the Gwaltney Ford fell back to the 23rd spot.
On Lap 24, NASCAR Officials waved the yellow flag for fluid on the track. Almirola radioed that the Richard Petty Motorsports Ford was a little free driving in the corner and through the tri-oval. Crew Chief Todd Parrott called for a four-tire pit stop and wedge adjustment. The No. 43 Gwaltney Ford restarted 17th on Lap 29. Without drafting help, Almirola raced in the top-25 the next 15 laps and sat in a perfect position to miss the first ‘big one’ that collected 16 cars in Turn One, including teammate Marcos Ambrose.
Parrott called for a four-tire pit stop under caution to make sure the No. 43 Gwaltney Ford did not run over any debris from the incident. On Lap 52, Almirola restarted in the fourth position and raced two-wide in the top-seven for the next 20 laps until the field settled in single-file with the No. 43 in the fourth spot. As green-flag laps ticked by, teams began discussing pit strategy. The No. 43 team planned to pit with the No. 78, who was running in front of them, and the No. 27, who was running behind them. All three teams came down pit road on Lap 90, and the Gwaltney pit crew changed four tires.
As green-flag pit stops cycled through, Almirola ran ninth. Running the inside line, Almirola held strong in the top-10, racing two and three-wide. The No. 43 Gwaltney Ford fell back to 11th when NASCAR Officials displayed the red flag for rain on Lap 124. After two rain storms, NASCAR worked hard to dry the track, and drivers returned to their cars three hours and 36 minutes later. Near the end of a fuel run, teams headed down pit road when NASCAR lifted the red flag. The No. 43 Gwaltney Ford team made a two-tire stop and restarted 13th on Lap 131. In the next five laps, Almirola raced up to the fifth spot before getting pushed out of the draft and falling to 17th on Lap 137.
The No. 43 Gwaltney Ford continued to fall backward to the 24th spot when Almirola radioed that the car was beginning to run hot. Racing in the top-25, he told the crew that the water was reaching temperatures of 270 degrees, and the car started to push water. As the team prepared for the No. 43 to pit, the Tampa, Fla., native found that by running the bottom line he could avoid pushing water. He teamed up with fellow Ford driver Greg Biffle to make sure they did not lose the draft and ran in 24th.
On Lap 166, green-flag pit stops began, and Parrott waited to call his driver down pit road until the team took the lead on Lap 170 to gain a bonus point. Almirola drove down pit road for a gas-only pit stop and returned to the track in 18th. On Lap 175, the No. 98 had an accident in Turn Two and brought out a much needed caution for the No. 43 Gwaltney Ford team. When Almirola came to pit, the team changed four tires, added water and fixed the front ductwork. Knowing they would start in the back of the field due to the long repair, the team made a second pit stop for fuel with one lap to go green.
Almirola restarted 22nd on Lap 179 and reported that his temperatures reached 180 degrees, a normal temperature, and the team was good to go to the finish. With overheating issues out of the way, the No. 43 Gwaltney Ford quickly moved back into the top-10. Running on the outside line, Almirola just barely missed the second ‘big one,’ which collected 12 cars on the backstretch.
With darkness looming, NASCAR Officials told competitors they would have one shot at a green-white-checkered finish. The No. 43 Gwaltney Ford restarted in the sixth position. Cars jockeyed for the lead as they took the green flag. Headed into Turn One for the final time, Almirola saw a chance to make a run for the lead on the outside. Without help, he fell back to 12th but rallied in the final turn to cross the finishline in the 10th position. The finish marked the team’s fourth consecutive top-10 and moved Almirola to the seventh spot in the championship standings.
“Man what a race,” commented Almirola. “I saw a chance at the win, and I had to take it. Before the rain delay, we ran good most of the race. We were sitting 11th when the red flag came out. That was hard to swallow. If the race finished there, it would have been a good points day for us, but we were so close to another top-10 that it was hard not to want to go back racing. When we had the overheating issue, it looked like we weren’t going to make it a fourth top-10. But, Todd (Parrott) and all the guys worked hard during the caution and fixed the problem.”
“We were in a great spot for the green-white-checker,” Almirola continued. “As we drove into Turn One on the last lap, I saw an opportunity to go after the win and had to take it. We didn’t have help on the outside line and fell back a few spots, but we worked back into the top-10. I’m so proud of our team for getting our fourth consecutive top-10 and holding the seventh spot in points. It just shows that we are a chase contending team and expect good finishes each week.”