Wednesday November 7, 2012
Texas Motor Speedway, 1.5-mile oval, Fort Worth, Texas
Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Mac Tools Ford
Starting Position: 15
Finishing Position: 32
With new crew chief Drew Blickensderfer atop the pit box and lighting quick stops by the No. 9 Mac Tools pit crew, Ambrose appeared to be in position to bring home a top-10 finish in Sunday's AAA Texas 500. That was until bad luck struck in the form of a flat tire with just 25 laps remaining. The blown tire sent the No. 9 machine careening into the wall and ended Ambrose's day early after the hit caused severe damage to the right side of the car.
After starting the 500-mile event at Texas Motor Speedway from the 15thposition, Ambrose had slipped back to 20th when he keyed the mic to let Blickensderfer know his Mac Tools Ford was loose on entry and exit of the corners. A routine green-flag pit stop on Lap 41 allowed Ambrose to come into the pits for four fresh tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment in an attempt to help the loose condition. Ambrose's pit crew preformed the first of several flawless pit stops of the day and gained their driver seven positions, placing him in 13th by Lap 50.
When the second round of routine green-flag pit stops came at Lap 89, Ambrose was scored in 19th, before coming in for fresh tires, fuel and chassis adjustments. Shortly after pitting under green, the caution flag flew at Lap 101 for debris. Ambrose again brought his Mac Tools Ford down pit road for four fresh tires fuel and additional adjustments. Another quick stop by the crew gained him three positions in the pits to restart in 16th.
A caution on Lap 110, for an incident involving AJ Allmendinger, allowed Ambrose to come to the pits a fourth time for service. The Mac Tools crew again gained their driver positions in the pits and he took the green flag for the restart in 14th. Cautions tend to breed cautions, and Sunday's race in the Lone Star state proved the saying to be true. The yellow flag flew again at Lap 120.
Having pitted just nine laps prior, Blickensderfer elected not to bring Ambrose down pit road and by virtue of staying out The No. 9 gained another two positions. This placed Ambrose in 12th at the drop of the green flag on Lap 129.
At Lap 134 Ambrose relayed to his crew that he was happy with his car and it was the best it had been all day. Shortly after, the Australian-native passed the No.39 machine of Ryan Newman to break into the top 10 for the first time on Lap 138.
Following another round of green flag pit stops at Lap 163, Ambrose was scored in ninth and maintained his position inside the top 10 through two ensuing stops on Laps 187 and 224.
After stopping on Lap 224, Ambrose had made his way up to the sixth position when the handling of the car began to fade as the track conditions cooled. Dropping back to 15th, a caution just before the final fuel window on Lap 276 allowed Ambrose to return to pit lane, for a final round of chassis adjustments. The RPM crew once again improved positions in the pits and Ambrose restarted in 10th.
Slight contact on the restart with Kasey Kahne caused Ambrose to drop several positions late in the race. Fighting to work his way back toward the front of the field in the closing laps, a flat tire on Lap 310 sent the Mac Tools Ford into the wall. The hard contact resulted in right side damage, forcing the No. 9 machine to retire from the race 24 laps early. At the conclusion of the 334-lap event Ambrose was scored in the 32nd position.
Ambrose's Comments after Texas:
"Working with Drew (Blickensderfer) this weekend was very encouraging. It's a shame that we didn't get the end result we deserved. I felt like Drew and I had good chemistry and communicated well today, which allowed us to improve our Mac Tools Ford throughout the race.
"My pit crew was awesome and we had killer stops all day, allowing us to make up a lot of ground in the pits. It's a shame we had that tire issue at the end, because I really think we were poised to pull off a top-10 finish. We head to Phoenix this weekend and that's a track I typically run well at, so I'm really looking forward to it. I feel like Phoenix is going to be our race to shine."
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Farmland Ford
Starting Position: 14
Finishing Position: 15
Aric Almirola fought for a top-15 finish at Texas Motor Speedway against a host of adversaries that included a free-handling car, the sun and the track itself.
Almirola started Sunday's race from the 14th position and learned quickly that "loose" would be the word for the day when talking about the handling of his No. 43 Farmland Ford. With the first 100 laps of the race running caution-free, the team used two green-flag pit stops to make air pressure and chassis adjustments to help tighten up the car. Despite continuing to report a loose condition on entry and exit, Almirola had a fast Ford Fusion and ran as high as 11th, able to close some gaps, one by one, that strung out the field over the long green-flag runs.
The lack of caution flags ended on Lap 100, when the yellow came out for debris on the track. At this time, Almirola told crew chief Todd Parrott that he didn't like the adjustments made on his second green-flag stop and wanted to reverse them. A pit stop on Lap 100 allowed the crew to undo some of the previous changes, but by this time the team was chasing a moving target as track conditions were changing.
Through the middle portion of the race, Almirola continued to report an extremely loose condition as the cooling track freed up. He was also forced to battle a blinding glare off his windshield in Turns 3 and 4 as the late-afternoon sun sat right in the drivers' line of sight. Despite the worsening conditions, Almirola held steady within or just outside the top 15.
With just over 100 laps to go, Parrott called his driver to pit road under the fifth caution of the day. The 43 crew reversed a previous track bar adjustment and inserted a spring rubber to help the free-handling Fusion. Almirola then took a Lap 227 restart in 21st. The adjustments helped, as the driver proceeded to pass four cars in the ensuing 12 laps.
The final 100 laps weren't anywhere near as clean as the first 100, with the yellow flag flying four more times. But by the later stages of the event, the team's persistent work on their Farmland Ford was paying off. In a run that began with a Lap 280 restart in the 20th position, Almirola took off and once again started picking cars off one by one. He was up to 16th by Lap 310 when the seventh caution came out, and up to 10th on Lap 320 for the eighth.
The team's final trip to pit road came on Lap 324 under the ninth caution, giving Almirola four fresh tires with an air pressure adjustment. He returned to the track for a Lap 326 restart in 16th, ready to make a final push in the race's eight remaining laps. But a spinning Mark Martin brought out the caution flag for the final time on Lap 330, setting up a green-white-checkered flag finish. Almirola reported his Farmland Fusion was now tight in the turns, but he stayed on track, now in 18th, to get whatever he could out of the car. The green flag dropped and Almirola pushed ahead to gain three positions in the final two laps to cross the line in 15th. The result is his seventh top-15 finish of the 2012 season.
Comments from Almirola after Texas:
"Our Farmland Ford was pretty good early in the race and at the end, but we had a stretch in the middle where we were just way too loose. We were chasing the changing track conditions a little bit, which made it difficult. But all the guys on this No. 43 team worked hard all day, throwing everything they could at it to make it better. And they did. And we clawed for every spot we could get and came away with a top-15."
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 entrepreneurs Andrew Murstein and Douglas Bergeron, 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 and STP and Marcos Ambrose drives the No. 9 machine with primary partners Stanley and DEWALT. In addition, Michael Annett wheels the No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford Mustang full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The team is headquartered in Concord, N.C.
This report was provided by an outside PR source and posted by Beth Lunkenheimer.
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