Richard Petty Motorsports Auto Club 400 Race Report
Auto Club Speedway
Auto Club 400 Results:
1: Kyle Larson
19: Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford
The No. 43 Smithfield Ford was good off the truck in California, but a mishap in qualifying gave Almirola the 31st starting spot for the Auto Club 400. When the green flag dropped, Almirola jumped up 10 spots to 21st. The car was tight in the middle of the corner in the first run. Almirola came in for a green-flag pit stop on Lap 32 and pit for four tires and a wedge adjustment. He finished Stage 1 in 21st and said the car was much better in the exit of the corner but still needed more overall grip. The team made another four-tire pit stop and wedge adjustment.
Stage 2 went green on Lap 67 with Almirola in the 21st spot, and by Lap 91, the team pit for four tires and an air pressure adjustment. The No. 43 Smithfield Ford cycled into the 20th spot and in the free pass position. Before the end of Stage 2, Almirola found a fast line in Turns One and Two but was still working to find a fast line in Turns Three and Four. When Stage 2 was completed, Almirola raced in 20th and looked for more overall grip. The Smithfield team changed four tires and made another air pressure adjustment.
Almirola started the final stage in the 21st spot. On Lap 152, he came in for a pit stop with a wedge adjustment to help a loose condition. In the 20th spot, he radioed that the car was very bouncy on the splitter and lost down force on the car. A caution on Lap 180 allowed the team to take the Wavearound to get back on the lead lap. The No. 43 Smithfield Ford restarted 22nd and on the lead lap. A quick yellow was just what the team needed, so Almirola came down pit road to assess the problem with the bouncy splitter and lost down force. The team made a four-tire pit stop and found some splitter damage. The team taped up the splitter to try to help the car’s handling in the final laps. A caution on Lap 192 allowed the team to make another stop for fresh tires, a benefit at Auto Club Speedway. Almirola restarted 20th and drove up to 17th. Unfortunately, the car got into the wall in Turn Four and finished 19th.
“We struggled,” said Almirola. “We just don’t have the overall grip and speed in our cars, but we’re working hard. Everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports has been working really hard. It’s a big improvement from Atlanta. We gained on it when we went to Vegas, and then, we’ve kind of gotten flat and stagnant. We haven’t been making as many gains and strides since Atlanta, so we still have some work to do. I’m proud of the effort; we just have to dig deep. We have to keep working hard and get speed and more grip in our car so we can go and compete.”
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.