Aric Almirola and Trent Owens are determined and destined to win at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) this weekend; especially after it was announced that Richard Petty, team owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, will be returning to the racetrack for the first time since the tragic and unforeseen passing of his wife, Lynda Petty.
“It’s going to be great to have our leader back at the race track,” Almirola expressed on Wednesday. “He is the name and the face of our company, and all the guys on the race team and myself included look up to him and enjoy having him around at the race track and having him inside hauler and talking to us after practice and getting his perspective on what he sees with other race cars and with our race cars throughout practice.”
Almirola attended an appearance with Petty in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday and he found ‘The Kings’ attitude to be repaired and prepared for Richmond this weekend.
“I know (Petty is) itching to get back,” Almirola further explained. “You can’t take the racer out of that guy. He’s not going to sit at home and just sit around and do nothing.”
Owens, who is the nephew of Petty, also is confident that Petty returning will allow everyone at the organization to take a deep breath and refocus on the task at hand, winning.
“I think it will be good medicine,” Owens said Wednesday. “When something like that happens, you kind of want to hide for a little bit and just get your feelings straight. But he’s been by the shop and been in good spirits, and I think he’s doing very well considering.”
“We look forward to definitely getting him back to the race track and getting him back into race mode.”
Now, with the relief of having the boss back, Almirola and crew chief Owens turn their undivided attention to Richmond, where they’ll hope to deliver their first victory of the season, which would undoubtedly be an emotional one – for multiple reasons
“I always get excited about going to Richmond,” Almirola commented during a press conference held on Wednesday morning. “I like the racetrack a lot, and then besides the racetrack, it’s a big weekend for us with Smithfield Foods headquarters being right there nearby in Richmond, and we get a lot of people come out from Smithfield headquarters, and it’s just a big weekend, and it’s a lot of fun.”
“The racetrack is where I made my first (NASCAR) Nationwide (Series) start, and I just got a lot of good memories from there, and I’ve always run well it seems like, so I’m excited about going to Richmond this weekend.”
Almirola, 30, finished eighth last season at Richmond after starting a dismal 34th position- his first top-10 at the difficult speedway.
“I think I have a really good understanding of what it takes to run good at Richmond, and I’ve had good runs there,” Almirola expressed about his wisdom within Richmond. “You know, last spring we ran pretty good there. I think we finished in the top 5 or maybe top 10, I’m not sure, and then in the fall race I thought we had an even better car than we had in the spring race, and we had an incident on pit road on a green flag stop that ended up getting a couple laps down and hurt our day.”
He’s completed in five Nationwide Series races at Richmond finishing a track-best seventh during the 2011 season with JR Motorsports. This weekend, he’s hoping to utilize that running his previous experience at RIR to help drive him into victory lane.
“Richmond is a place that I actually have a lot of laps at,” Almirola further commented. “The very first time I ever got to drive a truck, it was a two-day test at Richmond back in 2004 and I’ve done a lot of testing there in trucks and Nationwide cars and even Cup cars back when we were allowed to go test, and I made my first Nationwide start there. I think I’ve run quite a few Nationwide races there, and I’ve made quite a few Cup starts there.”
Owens, who joined his Uncle Petty’s operation at the beginning of this season, is also expecting a good placing this weekend, despite the demands being a crew chief calls upon throughout the course of this weekend.
“Really looking forward to (the) race (at Richmond),” Owens commented during the press conference. “Our short track program seems to be in a decent direction this year. We’ve got some work to do on our mile-and-a-halfs, but really looking forward to getting in front of the Smithfield folks and putting on a good show.”
“Practice is so tough here, the tires wear out at Richmond but that does provide for good racing. You really want to be good off the hauler and just kind of work on a few things, maybe mock up some practice changes that duplicate your race stuff. But practicing during the day, racing at night at a place like Richmond is just so much different.”
Almirola and Owens are hoping for success in just their ninth race together, however, they also both understand the ultimate achievement isn’t to win, but it’s to help re-boost Petty’s confidence and moral, even in the toughest of moments.