MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 20, 2015) – A Top-15 finish Sunday afternoon at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway has now placed Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) back onto the Chase Grid. Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team finished 15th and is now the 16th-seeded driver in the Chase with seven races left before the grid is locked.
Almirola has gained 61 points the past two races and has built momentum heading into Indianapolis this weekend.
Sam Hornish and the No. 9 Shaw’s Ford team finished 29th in Sunday’s 301-lap race. The No. 9 Ford lost a cylinder early in the race and Hornish raced low on power for the majority of the day. Hornish now looks forward to Indianapolis where he has a legacy of being an Indianapolis 500 Champion.
A recap of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race follows:Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford Team
Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team scored their 10th Top-15 finish of the season at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday. After starting from the 29th spot, the team fought hard to achieve their goal of a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Sunday’s 15th-place finish moved Almirola back into the 15th spot in Championship Point Standings and back onto the Chase Grid. The team has seven races left to secure their spot in their second consecutive Chase.
Almirola started the 301-lap race from the 29th position and quickly raced three-wide battling for position. He jumped up three spots in the first five laps. On Lap 23, NASCAR Officials called a debris caution with the No. 43 Smithfield Ford in the 26th spot. With the Ford tight in the center of the corner and lacking side bite, Crew Chief Trent Owens called for a four-tire pit stop and a chassis adjustment.When the field went back to green, Almirola restarted 28th and quickly started working the No. 43 Smithfield Ford forward. Twenty laps later, he broke into the Top-20 and raced into the 19th position. After entering the Top-20, he radioed that the front-right tire was giving up. By Lap 83, the team made a green-flag pit stop with an air pressure and chassis adjustment to help the Smithfield Ford on the long run.The “Petty Blue” No. 43 Ford returned to the track one lap down and waited for pit stops to cycle through.
Unfortunately, a caution came out on Lap 98, and some cars still hadn’t pit. Almirola was in the 27th spot and one lap down. Therefore, Owens elected to take the wave around and the team restarted 24th, on the lead lap. Almirola drove into the 22nd spot before the yellow flag waved again for debris on Lap 118. He told the crew that the car was still struggling to turn in the center of the corner. Owens decided to make a bigger swing at the Ford Fusion’s handling. The Smithfield crew changed four tires and made a rubber and wedge adjustment.
On Lap 122, Almirola restarted 29th. Just five laps later, he radioed that something felt wrong with the No. 43 Ford, and he was driving in protection mode. Despite the issue, he continued to race his way forward and again broke the Top-20 by Lap 170. Green-flag pit stops began, and Owens called the No. 43 Smithfield Ford down pit road on Lap 179 for a four-tire stop and chassis adjustment. Once again, the caution came out before pit stops cycled and found Almirola a lap down. The team took another wave around and restarted 26th on Lap 193.
The No. 43 Smithfield Ford lost side bite during the next run, and the team elected to pit during the Lap 200 caution. The next run was the best for the No. 43 team, and Almirola maneuvered the Smithfield Ford into the Top-15 while posting lap times comparable with the leaders. Despite saving fuel, he still raced as high as 13th.
On Lap 251, the No. 43 Smithfield Ford snapped loose and hit the wall. Just one lap later, NASCAR Officials called a caution for fluid on the track. The team saw damage to the right, front fender, so Owens elected to pit for four tires and fix the damage. Almirola restarted 15th and raced hard in the final 44 laps to score a 15th place finish.
“It was a struggle all weekend,” said Almirola. “I felt like we certainly made the most of what we have. We just have to keep working on our cars and getting our cars better. We just don’t have the cars we need to go and run up front, but everybody at RPM is working really hard to get there. Trent Owens and the guys on this 43 team have been bringing me the best race cars they can, and we’ve been doing all we can. I’m proud of my guys and proud of our effort. We’re a Top-15 race team. We show that every week, and that’s something to be proud of, but we’ve got to continue to work and get better.”
Sam Hornish, No. 9 Shaw’s Ford
It was a hard fought 29th-place finish for Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Shaw’s team after the engine of the No. 9 Ford dropped a cylinder 50 laps into the race. Despite the handicap, Crew Chief Kevin Manion’s strategy kept Hornish racing for positions throughout the day. Running in the 22nd spot, with three laps to go, the team’s gamble on fuel strategy fell just shy of the checkered flag and Hornish was forced to pit, resulting in a 29th-place finish.
Hornish started the 301-lap race from the 27th spot but lost some ground battling for positions at the start of the race. He was running in the 29th position when he reported the No. 9 Shaw’s Ford was free going into the corner and tight in the middle. On Lap 19, Hornish reported he had scraped the wall, but the No. 9 Ford suffered minimal damage. A caution for debris on Lap 23 allowed the team to assess the damage on the four-tire stop. The team completed the stop, but Hornish was blocked in his pit stall, costing valuable time on pit road. He restarted 36th on Lap 27.
Hornish patiently began to gain positions and was running in the 31st spot when he reported a possible engine issue on Lap 50. He worked with Manion and the team to assess the problem. With the issue remaining the same and not getting worse, Hornish stayed on the track but fell to the 35th position and a lap down to the leaders. As green-flag pit stops cycled through, the No. 9 Shaw’s Ford stayed on the track. The team caught a break when the yellow flag waved on Lap 98, putting them back on the lead lap in the 24th spot.
The Shaw’s crew used the caution to check under the hood of the No. 9 Ford. Hornish pitted a total of three times during the caution so the crew could try to fix the engine issue. The team found that they had lost one cylinder in the engine and were forced to race without full power the remainder of the event.
Hornish was running 32nd when debris brought out the caution just 10 laps later. He reported the handling of the No. 9 Ford had gotten better but it was still a bit tight in the center. Hornish came down pit road for four tires, a chassis adjustment and fuel and restarted 30th on Lap 122.
After the restart, Hornish maintained the 32nd spot for the next 55 laps, but fell a lap down to the leaders on Lap 150. As the lead lap cars began to make their green-flag pit stops, Hornish stayed on the track. The yellow flag waved on Lap 189, just shy of Hornish getting his lap back. Knowing the No. 9 Ford could still race for position on the lead lap, Manion made a strategy call, and the No. 9 Ford stayed out to take the wave around. Hornish restarted on the lead lap in 24th on Lap 194.
The team got the break they needed when a car stopped in Turn Four brought out the caution just six laps later. Hornish brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for four tires, a chassis adjustment and fuel. With one to go before the restart, Manion called Hornish to pit road to top off with fuel in an attempt to make it to the end of the race. The Shaw’s Ford restarted 25th on Lap 204.
Hornish raced into the Top-25, but couldn’t avoid falling a lap down to the leaders. He was in the 24th spot when fluid on the track brought out the caution on Lap 252. Once again, Manion gambled on fuel strategy and the Shaw’s Ford stayed on the track to take the wave around. Hornish restarted 24th on Lap 258.
Despite falling back a few positions on the restart, Hornish worked his way up to the 22nd spot with three laps to go when the Shaw’s Ford showed signs that it was running out of fuel. Hornish came to pit road for a splash-and-go and returned to the track 29th. Just as Hornish rejoined the field, an accident in Turn Two brought out the caution with one lap to go, ending the race. Hornish took the checkered flag in the 29th position. He drops one spot in the Championship Point Standings to 28th.
“I think our Shaw’s team did a great job making the most out of what we had today,” said Hornish. “It’s one thing to be down a cylinder with 50 laps to go and finish 29th, but we finished 29th and went down a cylinder 50 laps into the race. Kevin (Manion) and the crew did a good job on making the most out of our strategy, we just came up about three laps short there on fuel or we would’ve finished 22nd. I’m proud of the team and what we were able to accomplish today, even though it didn’t necessarily turn out like we would’ve liked.”
About Richard Petty Motorsports
A performance and marketing driven company, Richard Petty Motorsports, co-owned by
NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and successful business entrepreneur Andrew Murstein, is one of the most recognized brands in all of motorsports. With a history of over 200 wins and business partnerships with national and global leaders, today the race operation fields two teams in competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Aric Almirola pilots the famous No. 43 Ford Fusion with primary partners Smithfield Foods, U.S. Air Force, STP and Fresh From Florida, and Sam Hornish Jr. drives the No. 9 machine with primary partners Medallion Bank and Twisted Tea. In addition, Dakoda Armstrong wheels the No. 43 WinField Ford Mustang full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The team is headquartered in Mooresville, N.C.