Richard Petty Motorsports Hollywood Casino 400 Race Report
Hollywood Casino 400 Race Results:
1: Martin Truex, Jr.
9: Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford
Returning to the track that sidelined him earlier this year, Aric Almirola hoped for redemption at Kansas Speedway during Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. He didn’t disappoint.
The Richard Petty Motorsports, No. 43 Smithfield team started 25th, and Almirola quickly moved forward. He raced as high as 23rd before the Competition Caution on Lap 30. The car was tight in the center and exit of the corner and lost side bite as the run went on. The team made a four-tire pit stop, air pressure adjustment and restarted 25th. The adjustments helped early in the run, and he was able to jump up to the 19th spot in the first four laps. He drove up to the 17th spot when the caution came on Lap 46. The team elected to pit again and restarted 19th. The car got looser as the run went on but raced into the 17th spot before a caution on Lap 75 ended the first stage. Wanting to run the top line, the team made a chassis adjustment to the No. 43 Ford during a four tire pit stop.
A quick pit stop gave Almirola the 15th spot on the restart. He drove up to 12th on the next run. The team made a pit stop under green on Lap 124 and made adjustments to help the car run better on the long run. As the field completed green-flag stops, Almirola held the 20th spot. Struggling later in the run, he fell a lap down to the leader on Lap 148. A caution on Lap 156 gave the team the free pass. The field went green for a one-lap shootout to the end of Stage Two. The Smithfield Ford completed the stage in 20th.
The team made a pit stop before the final stage began and continued to work on the car. Almirola restarted 20th and showed speed early. He drove to the 15th spot before an incident in Turn Three brought out the caution on Lap 174. The team made a pit stop and continued to work on the car. The team stayed on the track during a series of yellow flags in the next 20 laps and raced into the 10th spot. Unfortunately, the No. 77 wrecked in front of the field and collected 14 cars. The No. 43 Smithfield Ford received damage to the left rear. Almirola limped the car to pit road just before the red flag. The team utilized the 10 minute red flag to assess the damage and get a plan together to fix the car. They pit twice to fix the damage, change four tires and get fuel but stayed on the Lead Lap.
Almirola restarted 16th and began working his way forward. He raced into the ninth spot but was a few laps short on fuel. With only a few cars close on fuel, the team hoped for the race to run green for the duration. But, that was not in the cards. The No. 47 wrecked on Lap 235 and caused the final caution of the race. With everyone in the same spot on fuel, the team pit for four fresh tires and a small air pressure adjustment. Almirola restarted ninth and raced hard to hold onto the position when the checkered flag dropped. The team finished ninth, their second consecutive Top-10 finish.
“Well, we definitely did better than our last visit to Kansas,” said Almirola. “We started the race just a little off. Drew (Blickensderfer) and the guys did a great job working on the car. We were really fast on the short runs but fell off as the run went on. We got caught up in the big wreck, but thankfully, didn’t have too much damage. The guys were able to fix it and keep us on the Lead Lap. We were actually better after the accident and putting up good lap times. We almost made it on fuel strategy, but that last caution got us. I’m happy with a ninth-place finish and our second Top-10 in a row. This is how we want to finish out the year.”