Richard Petty Motorsports O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Race Report
Texas Motor Speedway
O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Results:
1: Jimmie Johnson
18: Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams headed to Texas Motor Speedway to make their first laps on the newly paved and configured 1.5-mile track. Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield team were fast off the truck and showed speed in practice. Almirola started the race in 18th and anticipated a good finish. Unfortunately, another car ran into the back of the No. 43 on the first lap and caused left-rear damage. The car did not handle the same, so the team utilized a Lap 10 caution to fix the damage.
The stop helped but had Almirola in the 35th spot at the restart. He worked up to 30th by the Competition Caution and the team went to work on a tight-handling Ford Fusion. A quick stop gave the No. 43 the 27th spot on the restart. Almirola reported the car felt high on the track in the front, so at the end of Stage 1, the team adjusted the height of the splitter during a four-tire pit stop. This helped the car, and Almirola worked from the 25th position into the Top 20 by the Lap 121 caution.
This time, Almirola just looked for some lateral grip. Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer called for four tires and an air pressure adjustment. The Smithfield Ford restarted 21st, and Almirola methodically picked up spots. He drove into the 17th spot when the caution came out with just seven laps remaining in Stage 2. Blickensderfer called the No. 43 to pit road for service and elected to stay out at the end of Stage 2. This gave Almirola the eighth starting spot for the final stage. He ran in the Top 10 for the first 20 laps of the stage, but then radioed that he hit some debris in the right-front. He fell back to 18th while battling a inconsistent car.
The team pit to discover that the right-front crush panel was damaged from the debris and caused the car to be inconsistent. It took 70 laps before a caution came out to allow the team to fix the damage. With 35 laps remaining and anticipating more caution, the team elected to get the Wavearound and return to the lead lap for the restart. Unfortunately, the race went green until the end. Almirola battled his car up to an 18th-place finish.
“Today was extremely disappointing,” said Almirola. “We had such a good race car all weekend and should have had a much better finish. We got hit from behind on the first lap which really set us back. But this team fought hard, and we got back to where we needed to be. Drew (Blickensderfer) made a good call to pit near the end of Stage 2 to get us in the Top 10. I felt really good about our chances of staying up front and getting a Top 10, Top 15 finish. But bad luck struck again. We hit debris with the right, front and didn’t have a good chance to fix it. After that, the car was so inconsistent and hard to drive. I’m very optimistic about how well we ran most of the weekend; just really disappointed we didn’t have a finish to show for it.”
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.