April 25, 2017
Richard Petty Motorsports
Food City 500 Race Report
Bristol Motor Speedway
Food City 500 Results:
1: Jimmie Johnson
22: Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford
Rain hindered much of the weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway and postponed the Food City 500 to Monday afternoon. The field was set by the rulebook due to the rain, and Aric Almirola started 18th in the No. 43 Smithfield Ford. Kyle Larson set a fast pace early in the race and began lapping the field early in the 500-lap race. Almirola fell a lap down before the first caution on Lap 55 and took the Wavearound to restart on the lead lap in the 27th spot. The No. 43 Smithfield Ford was tight early and struggled to find grip. The strategy to stay out and get the Wavearound had the team in 26th at the end of Stage 1.
A heat cycle on the tires caused by the Red Flag on Lap 68 made the No. 43 Smithfield Ford even harder to drive. Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer called for four tires and chassis and air pressure adjustments. Almirola restarted 27th, one lap down to the leaders. An incident on track with the No. 18 brought out the caution on Lap 211 with the No. 43 in the 26th spot, two laps down. Using the same strategy from the first Stage, the team stayed out and got a lap back to restart in the Lucky Dog spot, one lap down. The field restarted, and quickly, the No. 88 had an issue that brought out the caution and earned Almirola a spot on the lead lap. The team pit and made an air pressure adjustment to help the Ford Fusion turn better in the corner.
With over half the race remaining, they were back on the lead lap and in a good position to make a run for a good finish. Unfortunately, a lap-down car got into the No. 43 Smithfield Ford and caused a tire rub. Almirola was forced to pit under green and lost multiple laps, putting the team behind with just over half the race to go. The end of Stage 2 allowed the team to make another pit stop to continue to work on the sheet metal in the left, rear and make more adjustments to help the car’s handling. This uphill battle proved difficult for the team. They only had one option to take the Wavearound to get a lap back throughout the second half of the race. They continued to fight and work on the handling of the car to finish 22nd.
“We had a tough day today at Bristol, like a lot of teams,” said Almirola. “We struggled all weekend to get good turn in the corner, and the car rode really rough over the track. We got it better for the race and battled from two laps down early to get back on the lead lap. Unfortunately, another car got into us and caused us to pit under green for a tire rub. The rest of the race didn’t fall our way, and we couldn’t make up the laps we lost. We’ll keep fighting the good fight every week and look to get a good finish in Richmond next weekend.”