Concord, N.C. – This Saturday night, Richard Petty Motorsports, for the first time, will start their two cars in the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race for 2012 pole winners and past “Unlimited” winners. Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 Stanley Ford team and Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team will both be making their first starts in the event.
Ambrose qualified for the event after winning two poles in 2012 (Sonoma and Michigan in June) while Almirola led the field to the start of the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May last year. The three poles proved the continued progress of Richard Petty Motorsports in 2012 and now allow the team to get a head start in 2013. This race was a priority explained Director of Competition, Sammy Johns.
“We have certain goals each season and having each team win a pole is one of them,” explained Johns. “Last year was good because it showed our cars have plenty of speed, but also because it allows us to race this weekend. Getting in real race conditions before the 150 races will be very helpful to us as we prepare for the Daytona 500. It’s a huge advantage to have both of our teams in this race. It’s why we want to have both teams win a pole or two or three this season as well.”
After capturing their first-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series poles last season, both Ambrose and Almirola will compete in their first ever Sprint Unlimited event. With the fans ability to vote on some of the parameters of the race, this event leaves a lot of unknowns going into the start of the race.
Ambrose’s only strategy is to run up front. “Without knowing the format of the race ahead of time, our goal is to run up front,” explained Ambrose. “As we saw in the test, the Gen6 cars line up differently making it harder to bump draft. I think you will see more guys taking chances in the Sprint Unlimited and hopefully that will help us figure out how to race these new cars in the draft.”
“Having both teams in the event really shows how far RPM has come over the past few years,” Ambrose continued. “Being a part of this special event will give us some good momentum to start the 2013 season.”
Almirola agrees and says his strategy is to run all out for the 75-lap exhibition event. “You can’t really have a plan without knowing the rules going into the race, so our strategy is to race all out for all 75 laps,” said Almirola. “No matter the outcome, having some track time in a race setting should really help us for the 500 and help us figure out the new car in the draft. The ‘Unlimited’ has always been an exciting race and the new format should add to that, so I’m looking forward to being a part of it this year.”
The Sprint Unlimited will be broadcast on FOX Saturday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. EST. Fans can vote on the race format, pit stops and eliminations at www.nascar.com/sprintunlimited.