Richard Petty Motorsports GEICO 500 Race Report
GEICO 500 Results:
1: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
4: Aric Almirola, No. 43 Fresh From Florida Ford
Hot off his XFINITY Series win, Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Fresh From Florida team were confident heading into the Monster Energy Cup Series GEICO 500. Almirola started 21st and quickly showed speed on the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. He raced into the Top 10 by Lap 7 and radioed that the Ford Fusion was really fast but uncontrollably loose. A caution on Lap 18 for the No. 42 found Almirola in ninth. Looking to help the loose condition, Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer called for two tires, an air pressure adjustment and a chassis adjustment.
The No. 43 Ford restarted 17th, but unfortunately, the changes made the car too tight in the center and exit of the corner. Almirola stayed out of trouble and used the caution at the end of Stage 1 to go back on the change and pit four tires on the Fresh From Florida Ford. Restarting 22nd, he worked up to 16th when an incident on the track brought out the caution on Lap 83. Blickensderfer made a strategy call for fuel only and pulled tape off the nose. The team restarted 12th, and in 14 laps, Almirola broke the Top 10 and raced in ninth. He continued to race in the Top 15 before the conclusion of Stage 2.
More comfortable with the No. 43 Fresh From Florida Ford’s handling, the team made a four tire pit stop with no changes. Almirola restarted 16th on Lap 117 and drove through the field. He showed the speed of the car and battled for the lead on Lap 134 as he raced in second for six laps. He continued to jockey for position before the field made green-flag pit stops. The No. 43 team pit for two tires on Lap 150. Again tight on two tires, Almirola fell back and held the 19th spot when the caution came out on Lap 162.
Almirola said he found something in Turns 3 and 4 and felt they were better on four tires. So, Blickensderfer called for a four tire stop and put tape on the grille. Four tires were key, and Almirola started his way back through the field. It took 170 laps to get the ‘Big One’, and big it was. Seventeen cars were involved in the incident that started in front of the No. 43 Ford. Almirola maneuvered around the wreckage and came through unscathed. After a red flag, the team elected to pit for four tires and a small chassis adjustment to set the car up for a final shootout.
The field took the green on Lap 173 with Almirola in 13th and eyeing the middle lane. He drove into the ninth spot when the field slowed twice for incidents on the track that set the field up for a green-white-checkered finish. During the caution, Almirola and Spotter Joel Edmonds strategized the best situation and felt their best bet was to run in the middle line. Almirola succeeded and drove to a fourth-place finish. The finish was the team’s second Top Five with the other a fourth-place finish in the Daytona 500.
“I thought I was right where I wanted to be,” said Almirola. “My car was really good through the middle of the pack, and I didn’t want to get shuffled to the bottom. I was adamant about that, but I thought we had some pretty good runs toward the end. I thought we were going to have a shot at it, but just getting side drafted and stuff, we got stalled out. All in all, it was a great day for our Fresh from Florida Ford Fusion and another Blue Oval two days in a row goes to Victory Lane.”
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 one team in competition in the NASCAR premier series with driver Aric Almirola. Almirola will return to the iconic No. 43 Ford with partners Smithfield Foods, STP, United States Air Force and Fresh From Florida. The team is headquartered in Mooresville, N.C.