Thursday, Dec 08

Top-5 Finish for Almirola and Richard Petty Motorsports at Daytona

After a successful Speedweeks, Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team were prepared and ready for the 59th Annual Daytona 500. Starting from the 13th spot and an XFINITY race under his belt, Almirola raced in the Top 20 knowing the stages caused urgency right at the start. By the first caution on Lap 27, Almirola was in 24th and said the car was tight the exit of the corner. Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer called for a four-tire pit stop and adjustments.
Almirola again raced in the Top 20 and finished Stage One in 18th. During the break, Almirola said the splitter felt like it was on the track after the last adjustment, so the Smithfield crew changed four tires and put a packer in the front. He restarted 18th and raced in the Top 23 for the next 15 laps. As cars began to make green-flag pit stops, Almirola said the No. 43 Ford Fusion still needed more turn. Blickensderfer elected to wait until late in Stage Two to get fuel only. On Lap 104, the crew #FueledByBacon fueled the car and sent Almirola on his way. While he was on pit road, the caution came out giving the Smithfield Ford the eighth spot on the restart. Shuffled out on the top after the restart, he fell to 18th when Stage Two was complete.
The team made a four-tire pit stop with adjustments and restarted 27th for the final 80-lap stage. Four laps after the restart, 17 cars were involved in an incident as Almirola and Spotter Joel Edmonds managed to drive low on the apron and clear the wreck. Unsure if there was damage to the No. 43 Smithfield Ford, Almirola came down pit road for four tires. With no damage to the car, the Florida native restarted ninth. Good driving and spotting by the duo, the No. 43 Smithfield Ford once again just missed a wreck on Lap 137. Staying out, Almirola restarted fifth. A big wreck behind the No. 43 Smithfield Ford on Lap 143 allowed the team to pit for four tires and adjustments.
Another quick caution three laps later was the last of the day. Just short of fuel to finish the race, Blickensderfer called Almirola down pit road for a splash of fuel. The No. 43 Smithfield Ford was the first to leave pit road and restarted second. Two laps after the restart, Almirola maneuvered his Richard Petty Motorsports car to the lead. He led for two laps before getting shuffled to the top line. He fell to 17th but fought to get back to the front. He drove back into the Top 10 as the field settled into single file racing for a few laps preparing for a big finish and saving fuel to try to make it to the final lap. In the last 25 laps, Almirola wheeled to a fourth-place finish, his best Daytona 500 finish.
"It was a wild day," said Almirola. "I can't believe how many cars were involved in wrecks here and there. We were able to get through quite a few of them. Our car just didn't quite have the speed we needed to make the big runs and complete the big passes, but all in all, it was a good day for our Smithfield Ford Fusion. I'm so happy for Ford Motor Company to get to go to Victory Lane. That's so awesome for them. A couple cars in front of us ran out of fuel, and that's one thing I think that maybe hurt our chances of having a shot to catch up to the lead pack and getting a good run. The 5 and the 27 were starting to run out of fuel in front of me, and I lost all of my help to go get those guys. All in all, it was a great day for us. We'll take it and get ready for Atlanta. The Daytona 500, you always want to come out of here with a good start to the season, and we did just that."

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