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2014 Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Richard Petty Motorsports
Posted by: newsla on Apr 01, 2014 - 05:37 PM
2014 Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Richard Petty Motorsports

Richard Petty Motorsports in enjoying the organizations most successful start to a season thus far in 2014. Coming off the organizations 100th and 101st top-10 finishes with Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola at Martinsville, the drivers, along with Director of Competition Sammy Johns, took part in a teleconference Tuesday morning to discuss the success both individually, and as a team.


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CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT IT IS ABOUT THE PETTY FAMILY THAT WOULD MAKE YOU WANT TO PERFORM SO WELL? MARCOS AMBROSE - "Driving for the Petty Family and Richard Petty in particular is just an honor. The Petty family is one of the most famous names, probably the most famous name in racing, definitely in North America if not the world. I grew up 15,000 miles away and I knew who Richard Petty was when I was growing up. It is an honor to drive for them and it was a really tough week last week losing Linda. It is an honor to drive for the Petty family because of what they stand for. Their family is built around racing. It is four generations of racers in the Petty family and it is an incredible story. I am privileged to be a part of that story in the latest generation of Richard Petty Motorsports"

ARIC ALMIROLA - "All of what Marcos said is true for me as well. It is a huge honor and very humbling to know that I get to drive that famous 43 car and all that it has been before me and all the history associated with it. For me personally, driving here is unlike any other place I have raced. I have raced at a lot of places and every place I have raced has been very business oriented and very corporate, if you will. This is the one place I have come to to drive a race car that made me feel like part of the family. That is the way they run their operation and race team. It has been a family run business since the ‘40’s and ‘50’s and it is still that way today. Richard comes in here and puts his arm around everybody and makes them feel like they are a part of the Petty family. So to lose Linda, it certainly feels like we all lost a huge part of our family. Obviously on my race team specifically, my crew chief, that was his aunt. Trent Owens’ aunt passed away. There was a lot more to it internally than just Miss Linda. It was a huge part of our racing family along with being Richard’s wife."

MARCOS AMBROSE - I AM WONDERING WHAT THE FEEL IS EACH WEEK WHEN YOU ARE SHOWING UP TO THE TRACK RIGHT NOW. IT IS ONE THING TO THINK YOU ARE HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, BUT WHEN THE RESULTS START TO COME, DOES THAT CHANGE THE TEAM CONFIDENCE LEVEL? "It certainly does. I have been at Richard Petty Motorsports for four seasons before this one and it was a real focus in the off season to add strength to our company and try to innovate internally and start thinking for ourselves and answer the question that we had. I think you see that we are very quickly reaping rewards. Performance has picked up and that adds a lot of confidence for me as a driver to know that I have people internally in our company behind us working hard to improve our performance. It has added to what we already had in place. I think that the sentiment inside my team, the 9 team, is a feeling of as much optimism as there has ever been. I think we have a real scope to keep improving and have only scratched the surface. I think the path we are on is looking better and better. The new rules package has really lined up well with the changes we have made with our company and the additions we have made within RPM. I think the two go hand-in-hand. We’ve got more strength in the engineering and innovation and the rules package now allows us to take advantage of that."

ARIC ALMIROLA - "For me, I look back at when I first came here and the year before that when Marcos first came here, they were some pretty troubled times for Richard Petty Motorsports. To see the growth they have made over the past three or four years and continue to get better and get sponsors that continue to invest with Smithfield stepping up the way they have for our race team. That investment has helped us increase performance on the race track and we are seeing that pay off. All winter long when I would come to the race shop and meet with Sammy, he would tell me that it just feels right. We were doing the right things and putting the right people in place. When you start doing those things the results come. And they are. We aren’t just talking about it anymore. We talked about it all winter and now we are doing it. We told people we were doing things to increase our performance on the race track and now we are walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. That gives me a lot of confidence. All the talking in the off season had me fired up and ready to go but now that we have actually gotten it done on the race track and running better than we ever have, it makes me more confident than I have ever been going to the race track and getting in the race car."

SAMMY JOHNS - LAST YEAR YOU GOT OFF TO A REAL GOOD START WITH ARIC BUT MARCOS DIDN’T GET OUT OF THE GATES AS QUICKLY. NOW THEY BOTH ARE OFF TO A GOOD START. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DISCIPLINE INVOLVED WITH THINKING YOU WERE ON THE RIGHT TRACK LAST YEAR AND NOT BEING ABLE TO SUSTAIN IT AND ALSO HOW YOU HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO IT THIS YEAR WITH BOTH CARS? "I think the things we have added over the winter with the engineering support and additional equipment and personnel are going to help us sustain that. I am never happy when we go to the race track and the two cars are as distant apart as they were last year with Aric running in the top-10 and Marcos struggling and crashing and just not finishing races and being where we needed to be. From my seat, that is troublesome. We are putting the same effort into both cars. This year, with the additional engineering we have added and the personnel and equipment we are able to have both cars running together on the race track and working the best together that I have ever seen the two of them work on the race track. Our teams are working closer together and the addition of Trent Owens this year really fit well with Drew Blickensderfer and we have gotten the best fit between crew members, drivers and everything is going well that way right now. Scott McDougal being added to our engineering department and different things like that will help us sustain it this year. We are testing more than we have ever tested and tested more over the winter than we ever have. We have a test plan to help us sustain it. Last year we weren’t able to do those types of things. I think that is how we will sustain it and keep both cars up front and challenge for this Chase."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE STARTED TO SEE THE BENEFITS OF THE R&D DEPARTMENT OR WILL YOU SEE THOSE MORE DOWN THE LINE? "I think we will see it more down the line but what we are seeing now is benefits from what we have done over the winter. The testing we did over the winter, a lot of it was on short tracks and that is where we have been strong. We met yesterday and probably the 1.5 mile to two mile tracks are our weak point and our R&D will start working on that to get us better at those race tracks. We were strong at Daytona and had a lot of speed down there all week. We have been strong at Phoenix, Bristol and Martinsville and our weak points have been Vegas and California. That is where we need to work on and the R&D is going to focus on that now. Their focus over the winter was a lot toward short tracks. I definitely think the performance has been from the additions we have added and our employees were excited all winter and liked seeing the investment the company was making in being better and I think everybody’s excitement has helped bring the performance to the race track."

MARCOS AMBROSE CONTINUED -- THERE WAS TALK THAT YOU WOULD BE DOING MORE STUFF ON YOUR OWN AND NOT RELYING SO HEAVILY ON ROUSH FENWAY AS MUCH. HAVE YOU GOTTEN TO THAT POINT YET? "I want to be very careful here in saying that we are complimenting what we already have in place. We have a great working relationship with Roush from a technical perspective they provide the Roush Yates engines and what we wanted to do was actually add content and bring it to the table. We are adding to what is already in place, not walking away from our relationship with Roush and everything that is good and the benefits we have there. We are trying to combine our efforts to make it all better. I think that is a really important point. We have a great relationship with Roush and we want to keep working with them and add where we can. That is part of outsourcing a little I guess. We are working on the things we need to work on to help the whole group."

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUED - "From my perspective I think it is really good to see the performance pick up with the stuff we have done because a high tide raises all ships. If we can bring more to the table and help them improve that only in turn helps us. It has been nice to be asked questions about what we are doing rather than just going over there and picking up our parts and pieces and assembling cars and going to the track with whatever we’ve got. We have input now because we are running so well and have an engineering group that is directing us and leading us down a certain path that may not be the same but at the end of the day we all have one goal of making all the teams better and perform at a higher level."

MARCOS AMBROSE CONTINUED - DREW WAS TALKING AT THE END OF LAST YEAR ABOUT BEING ABLE TO FORM MORE OF HIS OWN TEAM AFTER BEING THERE A YEAR. DO YOU SEE MORE COHESION IN THE GROUP YOU ARE WORKING WITH? "Yeah, certainly. Our team on the 9 side here at RPM is really strong. Drew has been able to rally the troops around him and we all believe in Drew and what he is bringing to the table. He calls an incredible race and is a great leader for our 9 team. He has been able to lift up the group we already had and add to it as well. We really are lucky to have Drew with us on the 9 team and our new engineering group has added strength inside the work shop in getting our cars ready week in and week out. This business is all about details. You aren’t going to do it with a 25 pound spring change on race day; you will do it by everybody having the attention to detail and commitment to being the best they can. You have to rally the troops around your team and there are a lot of people that play a part in our success on Sunday and we are very mindful of that and Drew is great at getting people up and getting them committed. Everyone just needs to give it their best all of the time."

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUED -- HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU GUYS TO GET RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS BACK TO A TEAM THAT IS COMPETING FOR WINS AND BEING A TEAM THAT IS CONSIDERED AS ONE THAT CAN RUN UP FRONT EACH WEEK? "Between all the meetings we have had with our sponsors and with Ford, that has been our number one topic of conversation. We have a brand here at our race team and it is Richard Petty Motorsports and it is the King and all that he has accomplished. We want to live up to that. We want to get back to those successful ways that they have had for so many years. I think you hit the nail on the head. It certainly is a lot to accomplish but I don’t think it is crazy. I think that is what we expect, it is what Richard expects and we are on our way back to that path. Obviously we have been through some tough times and we are clawing our way back to where we need to be and we see the light now. It was pretty dark a few years ago but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and if we continue to run like me and Marcos have run, in the top-five and top-10 and challenging and leading races and challenging to win races, you can only do that so many times before you start winning races. That is where we want to be and we want to put this race team back on the map as one that is capable of winning any given weekend when we show up to the race track."

HOW DID IF FEEL TO LOSE TODD (PARROTT) AND HOW GOOD OF A FEELING IS IT TO GET OFF TO SUCH A GOOD START WITH YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF? "It has been great to get off to such a good start with Trent. Obviously losing Todd was nothing that we expected and not something that we had hoped for by any means but circumstances led us down that path and Sammy got put on the job of trying to find somebody to replace him. We sat down and looked at a lot of options, a lot of options. The number one guy on our list was Trent Owens. We tried everything in our power to figure out how we were going to get him. We met with him several times and it wasn’t easy to be honest. He was being courted by a few other teams but we were able to get it done and we got him over here on our team and I feel like we stole the best crew chief out of the Nationwide garage. He has done so well so fast over here. He fit into our program really well and works so well with Drew. He is super smart. He is probably the most underrated and underestimated guy that I have ever seen as a crew chief. He doesn’t walk around with a big ego talking about how great he is and what he can do, he is very quiet and goes about his business of getting stuff done. I was really impressed with how smart he is. He has an engineering degree and can get on a computer and work right next to our engineers and understands the race cars better than I ever thought. I thought he was really good with the details and calling the races but he is way more than that. I couldn’t be happier to have him as my crew chief and I think the start that we have gotten off to this season is just scratching the surface as to what we are capable of."

MARCOS AMBROSE CONTINUED -- WHEN YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT MAKING THE CHASE, ARE YOU LOOKING AT IS AS WE HAVE TO WIN OR THAT THERE WILL BE AN OPPORTUNITY TO GET IN ON POINTS? "Winning solves a lot of problems doesn’t it? That is my mindset on the 9 team. If we win a race, we are close to locking ourselves in and our year is changed. If you win races the points take care of themselves. That is absolutely our focus. We made a decision at Martinsville after we got rained out on Saturday to stay aggressive and try some stuff we hadn’t tested on Friday and it paid off for us. That is what we will keep doing. We will take some risks to be the best we can out there and I think that winning, there is more reward now, and I think you have to keep that in the front and center of your mind. It will fix a lot of problems"

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUED -- "For us on the 43 team our chips are pretty well cashed in as far as points are concerned. We got caught up in a wreck and Daytona and getting wrecked out at California makes it hard to make up that many points on the guys in front of us. We need to keep running like we have been running and contend to win races. We have 20 races before the Chase begins and if we put ourselves in position enough time I promise you we will win a race."

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