RPM driver shows gratitude to Ambrose for contributions to organization RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota LOUDON, N.H. -- Aric Almirola has plenty of pressure to perform the next two weekends to keep his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason hopes alive. One thing he's scratched off the list of things to worry about -- the livelihood of his Richard Petty Motorsports team. Despite his last-place position in the 16-driver playoff, Almirola was almost all smiles Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , two days after his team reaffirmed its commitment to remain a two-car operation in 2015. It's the sort of long-term vote of confidence in the wake of teammate Marcos Ambrose 's impending departure that can at least soothe some of the opening-round heartbreak that visited The King's famed No. 43 last weekend at Chicagoland. "It's really important," Almirola said. "You see most or all of the top teams in this sport are multi-car teams and that's important to have that resource of teammates and more information. I think any time you do things with just one person it becomes really easy to get stuck in your ways and not be able to see outside the box, but as soon as you get more information, more teammates, more heads thinking on the same thing, it opens your eyes to a lot of different opportunities as far as setups and people and ways to go about setting your cars up and processes in the shop. "So I think anytime something like this is going down, it's important for the guys and first and foremost for the guys at the race team to know that, 'Hey, you're OK, you're safe. We’re not shutting the car down. We're gonna have two cars and we're gonna go racing.' So that's first and foremost of the importance to let those guys know that they're OK, but on top of that for everything that we've built over the last four or five years to this point and being a winning race team and a Chase-contending race team, to let everybody know that's still our goal and we’re not backing down from that." Carrying over the status quo isn't necessarily the worst thing that could happen to a team that's seen its share of ownership changes over the years. Mergers and partnerships with principals such as Ray Evernham, Robert Yates and George Gillett made the team a cauldron of uncertainty throughout the previous decade as it shrank from a four-car conglomerate to a two-car stable, but the past three years have marked a period of relative stability in both the ownership and driver lineup. The smooth seas at RPM took on more than a ripple last weekend with Ambrose's announcement that he'd return to his native Australia, leaving Petty's No. 9 Ford with a prominent vacancy for 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage. While Almirola , who signed a three-year contract extension with RPM back in January, awaits the team's next chapter, he expressed his gratitude for Ambrose's legacy and lasting contributions. "He was there a year before me, so he was there at probably its darkest hour with the Gillett split and bankruptcy and Richard putting a lot of his own money to keep the team alive, and going from four cars down to two," Almirola said. "Marcos has seen a lot of that company and helped build it to where it is today, and I'm extremely appreciative of that because I get to reap the benefits of that. I feel like I was a big part of that, but I came in a year later. He's probably been one of the best teammates that I've ever worked with. He's such a fun guy and a lot of fun to be around, and he's an extremely good race car driver." For the shorter term, Almirola and Co. need to regroup -- and fast -- to make their imprint in the Contender Round, the next three-race cut in the new-look Chase. Reaching that goal means turning it on in this Sunday's Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN) and following up strong the next weekend's race at Dover International Speedway. While Almirola said he didn't think he'd need a win-or-else approach over the next two races to advance, he also knows a repeat of the 41st-place finish outside the Windy City last weekend would be devastating. The Chicago setback hasn't stopped the 30-year-old from crunching the numbers to see how he'll avoid being one of the four eliminated drivers after Dover . "All the guys on my team and myself included know that we've got to go out and for our best shot -- without winning, for our best shot to transfer we have to run top-five the next two weeks," Almirola said. "There's no doubt about it and we've got to hope that the guys that are already down in points run 20th-25th. I think right now we're 23 points out of 12th, so if we run fifth and Carl (Edwards) runs 20th, that's 15 points and that puts us within seven going to Dover . That makes it a reality getting to Dover , but we've got to take a big chunk out here." While it's small consolation now, Almirola said that engine builder Doug Yates pinpointed the broken exhaust valve that caused his No. 43 car to go up in smoke just 37 laps from the finish last weekend, saying that similar trouble befell fellow Ford drivers Joey Logano at Kentucky and Ambrose at Atlanta earlier in the year. Almirola was heartened by the fact that it was just his first engine-related failure to finish in his three years with the Petty group, but that the timing of the misfortune could not have been worse. "Of all weekends for it to happen the first race of the Chase," Almirola said, "Why could it have not happened at Atlanta or Richmond or wherever else, but it is what it is. It just wasn't meant to be. The stars didn't line up right for us at Chicago, but we’ll rebound." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Get the latest Aric Almirola news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Get the latest Aric Almirola news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Get the latest Aric Almirola news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Edwards, Kenseth and more experience Chase woes RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota JOLIET, Ill. -- His broken No. 43 Ford parked in front of the team hauler, Aric Almirola climbed out of the window net with his afternoon finished 37 laps before he wanted it to. Team owner Richard Petty was there to great his driver, and 'The King' wore a smile. Almirola did not. At least not at first. After Petty put his arm around the driver's shoulders and pulled him in for a brief hug, Almirola was able to flash some whites. Meanwhile, his No. 43 team popped the hood and tried to diagnose a busted engine that had previously shown no problematic signs, and was in fact healthy enough for Almirola to be in sixth place when it suddenly let go following a pit stop. It all contributed to an aura that was equal parts desolation and optimism, with one of the biggest underdogs in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup balancing the feeling of knowing he was one of the best cars on the track with the reality that was his 41st-place finish. "Heartbroken I think is the easiest way to describe it," Almirola said, before saying in the next breath the team had "nothing to hang our heads about. We drove from 23rd up to the top 10, running sixth with just over 30 to go and it just wasn't meant to be. We will regroup and go to Loudon and Dover and try to be spectacular." The team will have to be. Following his four-point day, Almirola is last on the 16-driver Chase Grid with 2,007 points. He is 23 points behind 12th-place Carl Edwards . New Hampshire and Dover are the final two races of the Challenger Round, before the Chase field gets trimmed to 12 for the Contender Round. "We know we are capable of running in the top-10," Almirola said. "Everyone else might not think so, the rest of the world thinks we are underdogs and we will gladly accept that tag, but what we've shown today and these last two weeks is exactly what we are capable of. "We have to win. That is it. There is no other option. We have to go and figure out how we can win one of the next two races." Almirola and crew aren't the only ones looking for a win -- or the very least, to be in contention for a win -- following Sunday's postseason opener at Chicagoland Speedway . Here's who else ran into trouble, and what it meant for them: • Ryan Newman . Two laps down late in the race, Newman somehow rallied for a lead-lap finish and crossed the start/finish line in 15th place. A blown tire on Lap 99 necessitated two stops down pit road and put Newman 23rd as the final car on the lead lap. A tire rub on Lap 155 brought him down pit road again and put the No. 31 two laps down. "Find out why that tire started rubbing again and make sure it doesn't happen again, please," Newman said tersely over the radio. Three cautions in the final 35 laps were enough to get Newman back on the lead lap by virtue of being the beneficiary. He restarted 19th on Lap 259 and finished 15th. He is 13th in the standings, one point behind Edwards. • Carl Edwards. Edwards started third but finished 20th, thanks in part to a shredded tire that brought out the yellow flag on Lap 232. Even before that incident, though, Edwards simply had a slow No. 99 Ford. He consistently fell throughout the race and finished 20th, one lap down. "We had a flat tire and got fortunate that didn't hurt us," Edwards said. "Our day was not good. We've got to be a little faster and we have to continue to have good luck. For us to advance we are going to have to rely on other people making some mistakes." • Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch . Both of these drivers had the exact same error, and both recovered. On Lap 46, Busch spun entering pit road and lost lots of position. He also knocked over the commitment cone and had to serve a pass-through penalty, but later got back on the lead lap and finished eighth. Kenseth, too, took a solo spin when coming fast into pit road. His snafu was on Lap 148, but he rallied to finish 10th. "I'll never fault you for being aggressive," crew chief Jason Ratcliff said over the radio. Busch is ninth in the standings (2,039 points) and Kenseth is 10th (2,034 points). • Greg Biffle , AJ Allmendinger . Like Kenseth and Busch, these two had related issues. Unlike Kenseth and Busch, neither driver recovered. The problem? Being slow. Allmendinger continually used the word "hate" to describe his No. 47 Chevrolet over the radio, and Biffle's No. 16 Ford underscored that Roush Fenway Racing is still off on speed. Allmendinger finished 22nd and Biffle was 23rd, both two laps down. Allmendinger is 14th in the standings (2,025 points) and Biffle is 15th, four points behind him. No. Chase driver Issue 41 Kurt Busch Lap 46: Spun entering pit road 5 Kasey Kahne Two pit-road speeding penalties 4 Kevin Harvick Lap 70: Loose left rear tire 31 Ryan Newman Lap 99: Blown left rear tire 20 Matt Kenseth Lap 148: Spun entering pit road 2 Brad Keselowski Lap 183: Right front loose tire 99 Carl Edwards Lap 231: Blown left rear tire 43 Aric Almirola Lap 231: Blown engine MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Chase contender Aric Almirola blows an engine, ending his day at Chicagoland Speedway.
No. 9 opening piques interest of veteran driver RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today SPARTA, Ky. -- After losing his full-time NASCAR Nationwide Series ride at the close of last season, Sam Hornish Jr . has gotten used to having time for a more normal family life. And now that he's spent most weekends at home with his wife, Crystal, two daughters, Addison and Eliza, and son Sam, it will take a lot for a team to convince him to get back on the road for a full season. "There's not a ton of availability to be out there to be full time, and I also have three kids, so there's a part of me that really wants to go full-time racing -- and to do it in the (Sprint) Cup Series -- and that's a big part of me," Hornish said. "But then I realize, the other thing is, as far as a family aspect of it that I'll miss, it's gotta be the right thing." The right thing, he said, is a team that will put him in a place to win and surround him with good people. Just such a ride has piqued his interest: the one Marcos Ambrose 's well-timed departure will leave open next season. Ambrose announced earlier this week that he'll leave Richard Petty Motorsports to return to the Australian V8 Supercars as a driver for Roger Penske. Team officials for RPM have said they're still evaluating options for a replacement in his No. 9 Ford. However, Ambrose's primary sponsor, DeWalt, revealed this week it will move to Joe Gibbs Racing for 2015, leaving future sponsorship in question for the No. 9. With Aric Almirola , driver of the No. 43 for RPM, making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time this season, the team is certainly a strong option for a driver as selective as Hornish. His interest in the ride, he said, shouldn't be of surprise to anyone. "I feel like any driver that wants to be full time in the Cup Series or would like a good place to go work at has talked to Richard Petty Motorsports about that opportunity," he said. "When you look at it, they've still said that they're working on getting all their funding in place. I read the same things that you do. As soon as we found out there was an opportunity, that Marcos might be leaving, you know, 'Hey, what are you guys thinking about for next year?' " Almirola's performance, in particular, has given Hornish confidence the organization is on the rise and could be a good destination. With nine races remaining, the No. 43 driver has already tied his record number of top-10 finishes in a season with six. He led laps in last week's Chase opener at Chicagoland before suffering a heartbreaking engine failure that ended their day. "They've shown a lot of progress with the 43 team over the past year. With all of Richard's success, you would feel like it's very important for him to move the team forward, to get back to where he expects that it should be at," Hornish said. "I feel like there's -- on the outside looking in -- a lot of good things going on over there." As a part-time driver for Joe Gibbs Racing this season, Hornish has one win and four top-fives in seven starts. He's fattened his schedule with testing for the Sprint Cup Series, TV responsibilities, appearances and time at the Joe Gibbs Racing garage. He's also found time to simply be a dad, dropping his kids off at school and taking them on family outings. Since driving nearly a complete schedule since 2008, Hornish hadn't gotten a taste of that life. When it was announced he would no longer have a full-time Nationwide Series ride last year, he took it in stride. Should he learn he's without one again, he'll shake it off again. "A lot of people might've taken things harder or whatever," he said of getting the news last year. "I've just enjoyed the fact of getting a little bit of a new outlook on life and what's going on around me." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Chase standings leader wins pole at New Hampshire RELATED: Qualifying results LOUDON, N.H. -- You couldn't script a better beginning to Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for Brad Keselowski , who showed no sign of stopping his relentless run toward a second championship on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Fresh from a dramatic victory in last Sunday's first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway , Keselowski blew away the track record in winning the pole for Sunday's Sylvania 300 at the Magic Mile (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). The Coors Light Pole Award was Keselowski's fifth of the season, the eight of his career and his third in 11 starts at the 1.058-mile flat track. In the second and final round of knockout qualifying, Keselowski covered the distance in 27.090 seconds (140.598 mph) to edge Jamie McMurray (140.437 mph) for the top starting spot by .031 seconds. Kevin Harvick qualified third for the second Chase race at 140.065 mph. "The kind of track is kind of right in my wheelhouse, right in our team’s wheelhouse," said Keselowski, who won the July race at New Hampshire in dominating fashion. "We had this race circled before the Chase started, and we felt decent about Chicago, but we really felt like this was a race of emphasis for us to get a win and get out of the first bracket (three-race elimination round). "It's good, right? We just want to keep it going." Despite the excellent performances of the first two weeks, Keselowski isn't ready to claim ownership of the title just yet. "With the resets (after each round), the success of today really means nothing come Homestead (where the four remaining eligible drivers will race for the title, with the highest finisher among the four claiming the prize)," Keselowski said. "It's great. It's positive momentum. It's everything you want to do, and it’s everything you think you should do. "But when it resets, it resets, and nothing that you've done in the past really matters, as long as you're eligible for the bracket. I'm a long, long way from using the word favorite or feeling overly confident." McMurray, who did not make the Chase field, was pleased with his effort in qualifying. "I felt like, in my first run, I didn't get everything out of the car and maybe left a little bit on the table," McMurray said. "The first run I didn't think I got it all, but the second run out (in the final round), the second lap was really good. "Honestly, I came off Turn 4 and tried to run three laps and tried to just drive a little bit harder, but the tires just wouldn’t hold up for another quick lap." Chase drivers who will start in the top 12 on Sunday include Denny Hamlin (fourth), Kyle Busch (fifth), Jimmie Johnson (sixth), Joey Logano (seventh), Carl Edwards (eighth), Ryan Newman (ninth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr . (11th) Keselowski led the first of the two qualifying sessions with a lap at 139.614 mph (27.281 seconds), a scant .005 seconds faster than the No. 99 of fellow Ford driver Edwards. All told, 26 drivers in the 30-minute first round broke the track qualifying record of 138.130 mph (27.574 seconds) set by Kyle Busch on July 11, 2014. Earnhardt Jr. was the 12th and last driver to advance to the second session with a lap at 138.987 mph (27.404 mph). Chase drivers Jeff Gordon (13th), Kurt Busch (15th), Matt Kenseth (16th), Kasey Kahne (17th), Aric Almirola (21st), Greg Biffle (26th) and AJ Allmendinger (27th) failed to advance to the 10-minute final round. Notes: The track qualifying record was the 19th set this year in Sprint Cup Series time trials, in the first year of the knockout format. ... Keselowski has accounted for four of those records. ... The last two times Keselowski has won a pole for a Sprint Cup race (at Kentucky and Richmond), he has also won the race. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
See the order the Sprint Cup drivers will roll off (Friday, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota # Car Driver Team 1 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford 2 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota 3 77 Corey Lajoie(i) Fochler Veterans Law Ford 4 32 Timmy Hill US Chrome Ford 5 36 Reed Sorenson American Muscle Driving Experience Chevrolet 6 66 Mike Wallace(i) Royal Teak Collection Toyota 7 13 Casey Mears Geico Chevrolet 8 42 Kyle Larson # Target Chevrolet 9 4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Designate a Driver Chevrolet 10 55 Brian Vickers Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota 11 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet 12 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 13 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 14 27 Paul Menard Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet 15 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Chevrolet 16 47 AJ Allmendinger Bush's Beans Chevrolet 17 14 Tony Stewart Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet 18 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford 19 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet 20 38 David Gilliland Clean Harbors Ford 21 31 Ryan Newman Quicken Loans Chevrolet 22 40 Landon Cassill(i) Snap Fitness Chevrolet 23 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. EcoPower Oil Ford 24 51 Justin Allgaier # PlanBSales.com Chevrolet 25 5 Kasey Kahne Time Warner Cable Chevrolet 26 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 27 83 Travis Kvapil Burger King Toyota 28 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota 29 34 David Ragan Taco Bell Ford 30 23 Alex Bowman # Dr Pepper Toyota 31 15 Clint Bowyer 5-Hour Energy Toyota 32 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet 33 98 Josh Wise Phil Parsons Racing Chevrolet 34 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 35 26 Cole Whitt # Rinnai Toyota 36 3 Austin Dillon # Cheerios Chevrolet 37 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford 38 33 David Stremme Little Joe's Autos Chevrolet 39 16 Greg Biffle Ortho Ford 40 1 Jamie McMurray Belkin/WEMO Chevrolet 41 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota 42 7 Michael Annett # Feed the Children/Golden Corral Chevrolet 43 93 Clay Rogers Iowa City Capital Partners Toyota MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
See where your favorite driver will line up on pit road MORE: Starting lineup RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Brad Keselowski , who seeks a sweep of both New Hampshire Motor Speedway NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season and a sweep of the first two Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup events, will start on the Coors Light Pole in the Sylvania 300 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN). The first driver to advance to the Contender Round of the Chase Grid also earned the first pit pick on pit road, chose the first stall at pit exit toward Turn 1. Jamie McMurray, who qualified second, selected the 32nd stall on the Turn 4 side of pit road with an opening in front of him. The third-place qualifier, Kevin Harvick , picked the 29th pit stall with an opening ahead of him as well. The other Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, joining Keselowski and Harvick, picked the following pits: Joey Logano : Stall 3 Matt Kenseth : Stall 5 Kasey Kahne : Stall 7 Dale Earnhardt Jr. : Stall 9 Greg Biffle : Stall 15 Kyle Busch : Stall 19 AJ Allmendinger : Stall 21 Kurt Busch : Stall 26 Ryan Newman : Stall 28 Denny Hamlin : Stall 31 Aric Almirola : Stall 34 Jimmie Johnson : Stall 41 Jeff Gordon : Stall 42 Carl Edwards : Stall 43 MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation