May 1, 2017
Richard Petty Motorsports
Richmond 400 Race Report
Richmond (Va.) International Raceway
Richmond 400 Results:
1: Joey Logano
9: Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford
Aric Almirola led Richard Petty Motorsports and the famed No. 43 Smithfield Ford to its second Top-10 finish of the 2017 season Sunday afternoon. A fast car all afternoon, the team overcame a debatable late-race penalty to charge from 22nd to ninth in the final 50 laps. The finish is the second Top-10 in the first nine races of the season.
Beginning the race in 25th, Almirola stormed to the front in the first Stage of the race. On new tires, Almirola had a great line coming off the turns that made his car one of the best on the track. Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer communicated the progress to Almirola who only struggled late in the run on old tires. Almirola first cracked into the Top 10 near the end of the first Stage but finished 12th after the first 100 laps.
Stage 2 presented more of a challenge for the No.43 Smithfield team. The stage raced without one caution and on older tires the car would not turn. Almirola fell back to 18th where he finished at the end of Stage 2.
The second half of the race, the team quickly bounced back on fresh tires. The Smithfield Ford was 13th at Lap 250 and stayed in the Top 15 through Lap 300. The final 100 laps were the best of the season for the team. After a pit stop, Almirola was called for a commitment line violation. The penalty was to pass through the pits during green. The team fell one lap down and back to 25th. But, with 70 laps left, a quick caution allowed the team to take the wave around to get their lap back and focus on getting back into the Top 15.
Almirola, racing his best of the day, drove the No. 43 Smithfield Ford from 25th to 12th in only 20 laps. The final 50 laps, multiple cautions waved, and each time the pit crew pulled off fast, perfect pit stops to give Almirola four fresh tires. On the new tires, Almirola was able to pick off positions and race to ninth at the end.
The finish keeps Almirola 19th in points and close to the playoffs.
“There are a lot of gains from last year to this year,” said Almirola. “We have two Top-10 finishes on two different styles of tracks. We just need to gain a little more, but we feel that we can just keep getting stronger. Drew and the guys did a great job with our car today and we just kept fighting. The track didn’t have a lot of grip, so we really needed those tires. It helped us out and made a difference. I’m proud of the team and to have this run for Smithfield at their home track.”