October 3, 2016
Richard Petty Motorsports
Citizen Soldier 400 Race Report
Dover International Speedway
Citizen Soldier 400 Race Results:
1: Martin Truex Jr.
16: Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford
Richard Petty Motorsports teams competed in the Citizen Soldier 400 at the “Monster Mile” of Dover International Speedway on Sunday afternoon. Both teams made it out of the one-mile track without being bitten by the notoriously rough racetrack.
The No. 43 Smithfield Ford team raced as high as 12th on Sunday afternoon with a car that was great on restarts. Continuing the journey to turn the season around, the team brought a strong racecar to the track. A loose wheel hurt the team’s chance at a Top-15 finish, but they battled back with a gutsy fuel strategy to finish in 16th place.
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford
After a rain-filled weekend cancelled qualifying, Aric Almirola started the Citizen Soldier 400 in 27th place. Almirola was happy with the No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion from the start. It was tight on landing, but exit and entry were good. When the first caution came on Lap 35, Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer made air pressure adjustments in the left side tires but didn’t want to make any major adjustments. Almirola restarted in the 25th position and quickly made track-position gains.
When the next caution came on Lap 106, Almirola was in 17th place. The team was happy with the Ford Fusion’s restarts and handling on the long runs. When Almirola hit pit road, the team made air pressure adjustments on the right side tires this time. The right-side adjustments weren’t as helpful as the left-side changes had been, and the No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion’s front end wasn’t turning as well this run. But, Almirola continued to run quick lap times and race in the Top 20.
The leaders caught Almirola in 16th-place on Lap 257, putting him a lap down. One of the fastest cars one lap down, Almirola fought with his competitors for the Lucky Dog position. But, it was on Lap 300 when the fateful call came across the radio that the car had a loose left, rear wheel. Almirola gave it a few laps to see if the sensation would fade, but, it did not. He came to pit road on Lap 304 to take four new tires and fuel. He returned to the track in 18th place and three laps down. No longer on the same pit strategy as everyone else, the team had an opportunity to try and gain positions by finishing the race without stopping again for fuel. Almirola gained a lap back by staying out during a cycle of green-flag stops, and he saved enough fuel to make it to the checkers. He finished the race in 16th place and two laps down.
“We had a great No. 43 Smithfield Ford today,” said Almirola. “It was especially great on restarts, and I was moving through the field pretty well. That loose wheel killed our chances there towards the end, but Drew’s decision to try and make it on fuel from that point on was definitely the best call. We weren’t going to get back on the lead lap, but we wanted to get back as many positions as we could. We’ve been working to turn our season around, and I think we’ve hit on something. We’ve had really strong cars two weeks in a row. I’m looking forward to heading to Charlotte next week and continuing to run well.”