RPM celebrates Charlotte success
CONCORD, N.C. - It was just a couple of fast laps for Tampa's Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose. It was a lot more than that to NASCAR's "King." Almirola and Ambrose went 1-2 in qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600, the first time a Richard Petty Motorsports entry had started up front since November 2010. To Petty, it was just the kind of thing that shows "what these guys have been doing has been right." Even though the two drivers faded in NASCAR's longest race three nights later, the Petty program left with the confidence that it won't take another 18 months to celebrate success."I can't reiterate enough that we're making improvement," said Almirola, who ended 16th in Sunday night's Sprint Cup race. "We see light at the end of the tunnel." Petty teamed with Medallion Financial and DGB Investments in 2010 to form the current two-car team. Ambrose brought the scaled-down program its first Sprint Cup win at Watkins Glen last season. Almirola signed on this season and collected his first pole in NASCAR's top circuit at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week. Sunday night, Ambrose led 20 laps in the early going and was running up front with the leaders most of the way until he snapped a wheel hub, needed major repairs and finished 32nd. The results haven't slowed the optimism of Petty, his drivers or team leaders. Respected crew chief Mike Ford joined Almirola's team a few weeks ago and saw then that there were all the pieces necessary to win races. "It was just a matter of putting them together, paying attention to all the details and executing," Ford said. Winning the pole was a strong step. "Now, we just have to build off that and keep improving and I have no doubt that we will," Ford said.