August 29, 2016
Richard Petty Motorsports
Pure Michigan 400 Race Report
Michigan International Speedway
Pure Michigan 400 Race Results:
1: Kyle Larson
25: Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford
Teams headed to Michigan International Speedway for the second race in the Irish Hills. Both Richard Petty Motorsports teams struggled finding the right combination to get their Ford Fusions handling well on the two-mile race track. They worked hard throughout the weekend to get a better handle. Aric Almirola battled a loose No. 43 Smithfield Ford for most of the weekend. A pit road penalty late in the race relegated the team to a 25th-place finish.
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford
The No. 43 Smithfield Ford team unloaded in the Irish Hills of Michigan with the proposed 2017 aerodynamics rules package. The Ford Fusion was loose in all three practice sessions, and the team worked hard to tighten up the car to Aric Almirola’s liking for the Pure Michigan 400. At the drop of the green flag, Almirola took off tight and quickly turned loose. He was especially loose in the entry into Turn 3. Crew Chief Trent Owens took advantage of the Competition Caution on Lap 20 and brought Almirola down pit road for big changes. He called for four new tires with air pressure adjustments and a wedge adjustment.
Almirola continued to build loose throughout long green-flag runs. He consistently provided feedback on the car’s handling to help the team formulate a plan. Almirola was up the 22nd position and catching other cars on Lap 89 when he was passed by the leader and went a lap down.
The main focus for the remainder of the race was to tighten up the No. 43 Smithfield Ford and get back on the lead lap. Almirola’s feedback continued to be a loose condition around the majority of the track and that he was losing rear grip a few laps after the start of a new run. The team hit a bump in the charge for the Lucky Dog when they received a pass-through penalty for an uncontrolled tire during a green-flag stop on Lap 159, sending the Ford Fusion an additional lap down. Almirola battled with the cars on his lap at the end of the race to gain as many spots as possible and took the checkered in the 25th position.
“This 2017 rules package has been a tough one for us to wrap our arms around,” said Almirola. “We struggled with handling from the start of the weekend in race trim. We just always seemed to be too loose. But, we’ll continue working with the package and comparing notes with other races we’ve run with it and keep working to find a way it works for our team. Next week is going to be a completely different style of racing when we go to Darlington, a one-mile short track. So we’ll wipe the slate clean and head to a track where we’ve done well in the past.”