MOORESVILLE, N.C. (September 21, 2015) – With the first race of The Chase for the Sprint Cup complete, Richard Petty Motorsports is the team playing spoiler. With Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Ford team collecting their second consecutive Top-10 finish Sunday at the Chicagoland Speedway, the team finished higher than six others competing for the championship. The No. 43 team has momentum going into New Hampshire and is focused on a win before the season ends.
Sam Hornish, Jr. and the No. 9 Ford team didn’t have the luck they were hoping for at Chicagoland Speedway, but the team did show fast speeds during the weekend. Hornish has two Top-10 finishes at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the next stop on the schedule.
Denny Hamlin grabbed the first win in The Chase. A recap of Sunday’s race follows:
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Eckrich Ford Team
Despite narrowly missing The Chase for the Sprint Cup, Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich team were determined to post a good finish this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Almirola started 20th but quickly began his trek through the field. He raced as high as second and crossed the finishline in the 10th spot. The finished marked the No. 43 team’s third Top-10 and 15th Top-15 finish of the season. In 16th, Almirola extended his lead to 30 points for the top points position outside of The Chase.
Almirola started the 400-mile race from the 20th spot. A quick caution allowed Almirola to describe the car’s handling. Loose on exit and the splitter riding off the track, Almirola hoped the car would come in later in the run. When he restarted 18th, the car did just that. He methodically worked his way through the field, and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford’s lap times improved as the run went on. By Lap 24, Almirola held the 11th spot.
By Lap 50, the field began their first round of green-flag pit stops. Almirola came to pit road on Lap 52, and the Eckrich team changed four tires and made a slight air pressure adjustment. Almirola continued to race in the Top-15, but the air pressure change caused the car to lose rear grip. As the run went on, Almirola again picked up speed. By Lap 87, Almirola cracked the Top-10. The team made another four-tire pit stop and an air pressure adjustment during a green-flag pit stop on Lap 104.
A caution for debris on Lap 124 ended a 118-lap green-flag run. Almirola said the No. 43 Eckrich Ford took off better but was on the splitter for the first few laps. Crew Chief Trent Owens elected to pit for four tires. As they say, cautions breed cautions, and the field slowed twice more before Almirola came down to pit for four tires under caution on Lap 139. Owens called for no changes during the stop, and the Eckrich Ford restarted eighth. Almirola drove up to sixth in the first few laps, but the car was too tight to start off so he settled into the eighth position.
Another long run saw green-flag pit stops, and the Eckrich team pitted on Lap 188 for four tires. As the field cycled through, NASCAR Officials called a debris caution on Lap 190, and Almirola and others who pit were stuck a lap down. The team took the Wavearound and restarted 11th on the lead lap. Once again, he drove into the Top-10 as the Eckrich Ford improved over the long run. Owens called for a green-flag pit stop for four tires and an air pressure adjustment on Lap 240.
With 10 laps to go, the field slowed for the final time for debris on the track. Owens called for a four-tire pit stop and slight air pressure adjustment to help the car take off better since there were limited laps. Almirola restarted 12th and picked up two spots on the restart. The air pressure adjustment helped the No. 43 Eckrich Ford’s handling at the beginning of the run, and Almirola held onto the 10th spot when the checkered flag dropped. The finish was the team’s third Top-10 and 15th Top-15 finish. Almirola is 16th in the Championship Point Standings and is ahead of 17th by 30 points.
“We’re really disappointed we didn’t make The Chase, but that’s not going to stop us from doing everything we can to get a win,” said Almirola. “Today, we did just that. We weren’t quite good enough to compete for the win, but we had a competitive car, especially on the long runs. We had a good car here last year before we lost an engine, so it’s refreshing to come back and get a good finish. Coming into the season, we wanted to be more consistent, 15 Top-15 finishes in 27 races shows the progress we made this year. Now, we will spend the last nine races working to get better and be able to compete for a win before the season is over.”
Sam Hornish, Jr, No. 9 SlimFast/Natrol Ford
Sam Hornish, Jr. and the No. 9 SlimFast/Natrol team showed speed throughout the weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. However, bad luck found the team once again and Hornish was relegated to a 30th-place finish. A tire rub early in the race forced the team to make an unexpected pit stop on Lap 21. The stop put the No. 9 team off sequence and several laps down. With very few opportunities to gain any laps back, Hornish finished the 267-lap race in the 30th position.
After Sprint Cup qualifying was rained out on Friday afternoon, the field was set by first practice speeds from earlier that day. Hornish rolled off in the 22nd position for Sunday’s race, but brushed the wall early causing a right-rear tire rub on the No. 9 Ford. He was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 21. Hornish returned to the track in the 43rd spot, two laps down.
The unscheduled stop forced the No. 9 team off pit sequence from the rest of the field, and the long, green-flag run brought Hornish to pit road from the 31st spot for a pit stop on Lap 72. Hornish had suffered more right-side damage prior to the stop after contact with another car, and the No. 9 crew worked to fix the damage during the four-tire pit stop. Hornish returned to the track in the 37th position, three laps down.
Over the next 52 laps, Hornish maintained the 37th position; He reported to Crew Chief Kevin Manion that the No. 9 Ford felt low on the racetrack and hitting the splitter. When debris on the backstretch brought out the caution on Lap 124, the No. 9 team went to work on the car. Hornish made a total of two stops before going back to green on Lap 129. He restarted 40th.
The field saw three cautions in the following 68 laps. Each time Hornish was unable to take the wavearound, so he brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for four-tire stops. When the field went back to green after the caution on Lap 196, Hornish restarted from the 34th spot. He quickly moved into the Top-30. Unable to get back on the same pit strategy as the rest of the field, Hornish gave up the 29th spot with 16 laps to go for a scheduled green-flag pit stop. Manion called for two right-side tires and fuel only. Hornish returned to the track in 32nd.
Debris brought out the final caution of the race with just eight laps to go and Hornish brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for four fresh tires to finish out the final five laps. He restarted 32nd. In the closing laps, Hornish gained two spots for a 30th-place finish. Hornish remains 27th in the Championship Point Standings.
“It was just one of those days,” said Hornish. “I felt good about our car for today, but we started off with bad luck early. We had to come to pit road on Lap 21 for a tire rub and that put us off sequence. The way the long, green-flag runs played out, we just couldn’t make up laps. We had a pretty good Ford Fusion for this weekend and it’s a shame that it doesn’t show in the results today.”
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.