Unfortunately for the seven time Winston Cup Champion, Richard Petty Motorsports will begin the the 2013 season in about the same position they closed out 2012, a second to third tier team. The King has two very talented drivers currently running in the Sprint Cup Series, and a youngster at the Nationwide level who is looking to move up in the near future. The 2013 season will see the return of the Tasmanian Devil, Marcos Ambrose in the #9 Stanley Black and Decker Ford, and Aric Almirola in the iconic #43 Smithfield Foods Ford. Michael Annett will field the #43 Pilot Flying J Ford Mustang in the Nationwide Series.
RPM has not reached Start and Park status, but Richard Petty, with co owners, Medallion Financial, and Douglas Bergeron, continue to struggle with sponsorship, and really don’t have the resources to field top teams like Hendrick Motorsports, or Rouch-Fenway Racing, but continue to find ways to keep the wolves away from the door every year. They have been able to retain Ambrose and Almirola, who have continued to show promise and seem to be very competitive.
After moving away from the Evernham Gillette connection in 2010, and moving from Dodge to the Ford Fusion, it has taken a couple of years for RPM to come up to speed. They were close in 2012, as Marcos Ambrose picked up a win at Watkins Glen, and sat on two poles in back to back weeks at Michigan and Sonoma. He finished a respectful 8th and 9th at those events.
Ambrose has shown promise in his endeavor to switch over from a road racer to the circle tracks. After his win at the Glen, he picked up two 5th place finishes at The Pure Michigan 400, and the Bristol night race. He was in the mix for a wild card berth in the Chase, but faded after Bristol, and didn’t get into the top ten for the remainder of the season. He finished 18th in points.
Aric Almirola has shown some promise in the familiar #43 car. He sat on the pole at the Coca Cola 600 where he finished 16th when the checkered flag flew. He picked up one top five finish at Martinsville where he finished 4th, to go with four top 10′s. He finished the season in 21st place in the standings, but had decent finishes down the stretch with the 4th at Martinsville, and a 7th at the season finale in Miami.
Michael Annett finished 5th in the Nationwide standings, but didn’t visit Victory Lane in 2012. He did pick up six top 5 finishes, and 17 top 10′s, and improved in races with an average finish of 11.2 after average starts at 17.1. His best finish of the year was a third place at Daytona in July.
With all of the RPM teams being underfunded, I don’t see much improvement in 2013. I do think Ambrose is knocking on the door, and will pick up a third win this year, and it will be on a standard track. If his team can get him hooked up, he is ready to win a roundy round race. But like all teams, his ability to get off to a good start will depend on how long it takes them to get a handle on the new race cars.
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