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NSCS: Richard Petty Motorsports 2014 Season Preview

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Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR

 

By: Brian Eberly – NASCAR/IndyCar Contributor (@beberly18)

December 23, 2013

CHICAGO — The month of December marks the NASCAR off-season, but those within the sport know there is no real off-season as teams are working hard to prepare for 2014.  The staff here at Motor Racing Scene is also working hard to provide previews of all the teams over the course of the off-season.  Today’s featured team is Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM).

Not a whole lot will be new at RPM as both Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola will be returning to the team for the 2014 season.

Ambrose will pilot the No. 9 Ford Fusion with primary partners Stanley and DEWALT adorning the hood and quarter panels.  2013 was a bit of a down season for Ambrose, as he failed to win a race after finding victory lane in 2011 and 2012.

He recorded six top-10 finishes and ended the season outside of the top-20 in the final standings for the second time in his five-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) career (2013 – 22nd, 2012 – 18th, 2011 – 19th, 2010 – 26th, 2009 – 18th).

The key for Ambrose in 2014 will be finding success on the non-road course races.  Both of the Australian driver’s career victories came at Watkins Glen and seven of his 15 top-five NSCS career finishes have come on road courses.  If the team can strengthen their oval program, Ambrose will have a shot at climbing back inside the top-20 in the standings.  If not, he could be on the outside looking in at RPM come the 2015 season.

Almirola will be behind the wheel the No. 43 that his boss made famous and primary partners Smithfield Foods, U.S. Air Force, and STP will on board the Ford Fusion.  Almirola finished his second full-time NSCS campaign 18th in the standings, a two spot improvement over his 2012 finish.  He recorded one top-five at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to go along with six top-10s.

Todd Parrott was Almirola’s crew chief for the majority of the 2013 season before being indefinitely suspended by NASCAR for violations of the substance abuse policy.  Subsequently, he was released by RPM and car chief Greg Ebert was atop the box for the remainder of the season.  During the off-season, RPM named Trent Owens as crew chief for the No. 43.  Owens joins the organization from Turner Scott Motorsports where he worked with 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Kyle Larson.  Owens has five NNS wins to his credit with five different drivers.

“This is a great opportunity to join a Sprint Cup organization and a race team that can win,” Owens said in a statement.  “The No. 43 team has proven they can race up front.  We just need to find a little more consistency to make the Chase.  I believe we can put ourselves in contention for a Chase spot in 2014.”

While a Chase berth may be a bit of a lofty goal, the key for the No. 43 in 2014 will be how well the 29-year-old driver and Owens work together.  A driver and crew-chief’s chemistry can go a long way in having success on the race track and the team will need to get off to a strong start to the season.  I predict a top-15 finish in the standings for Almirola and his name being heard a bit more on Sunday afternoon in 2014.

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About Brian Eberly

Brian Eberly (@beberly18) is a Certified Public Accountant and Manager of Field Accounting at a transportation company, but when he isnt at the office you can most likely find him at a racetrack, watching a race on television, or following the action on social media. Eberly became interested in NASCAR in the nineties when Jeff Gordon was dominating the scene, and became hooked when he attended his first race with his dad in 1999 at Michigan International Speedway. Eberly has been writing about NASCAR since 2012 for various websites. An Illinois native and Northern Illinois University graduate, Eberly travels throughout the Midwest covering racing events in multiple series. When not following racing, he can be found on the golf course (usually trying to find his golf ball) and following the Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, Bulls, and of course the NIU Huskies.

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