The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season concluded Sunday evening at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. For Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM), it ends a season to remember.
RPM earned its fifth win during the July 4 weekend when Aric Almirola put the No. 43 back into Victory Lane. The win came 30 years after current co-owner, "The King" Richard Petty, won his 200th race during the same weekend. The win also came with the U.S. Air Force on the famed No. 43 during the patriotic holiday weekend.
That win propelled RPM into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for its second time. Almirola ran into bad luck early in the Chase, but when the checkered flag flew at Homestead, Almirola ended a season with the No. 43 team earning seven Top-10 and two Top-Five finishes. Almirola finished 16th in the championship point standings.
"It was a good year for us," commented Almirola after Homestead. "We won a race. We made the Chase. We did all the things we set out to do this year, but also have a lot of room to get even better for 2015.
"We are a dangerous team when our cars have consistent speed. I'm sure the next two months, when we move into our new shop and start working on our own bodies for our cars, we'll make ourselves even better than what we already are. We now have experience in the Chase and know what to expect. It's something to really build on for 2015.
"I have to thank all our loyal fans, the employees at RPM and all our partners who have been supporting us all season. It's been nothing but a pleasure to work here and to win here. It was a great year and there is more to come."
While the future of the No. 43 team continues down a road of success, Sunday night at Homestead ended a season of change for the No. 9 team. Veteran leader and two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner Marcos Ambrose took the checkered flag for the final time for RPM. He now returns back to his native homeland of Australia to continue his racing career.
Emotions ran high for the No. 9 team at Homestead and although they did not win the race, their season came with plenty of great moments. Ambrose again delighted RPM fans on the road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Ambrose finished eighth at Sonoma in June and in August finished second after leading the majority of the race at Watkins Glen. It was another classic Watkins Glen finish for Ambrose and the No. 9 team. Ambrose raced side-by-side with A.J. Allmendinger in the closing laps for the win.
The No. 9 team finished second at The Glen adding to their total of three Top-Five finishes in 2014. Earlier in the season, the team proved to be as strong as anyone on NASCAR's bullring tracks. They finished fifth at both Bristol and Martinsville. Ambrose also earned Top-10 finishes at Daytona, Talladega and Phoenix. The team finished 23rd in the championship point standings.
"I have to thank everyone at RPM for not only this past year, but for all our time together," said Ambrose. It was an honor to get to know the Petty family and to win races with 'The King'. We have had a great time together and it's tough to know this was our final race.
"This No. 9 team is great. We are all like family and it's tough to move on, but they are all winners. This team will continue to get better. Drew (Crew Chief Blickensderfer) is a leader, a winner and I know there are more good things to come.
"RPM is in a great place right now with a lot of momentum. I take a lot of pride in having helped it grow and be where it's at today. Although things are changing, it's a team with a lot of positive momentum."
With Ambrose moving on, Sam Hornish, Jr. will step in to take over the driving duties of the No. 9 team in 2015.