CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: (EDITOR'S NOTE: This image has been processed using digital filters.) Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola poses for a photo during the NASCAR 2017 Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center on January 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Aric Almirola: ‘Imperative’ Richard Petty Motorsports focus on one-car effort

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After five seasons of running two cars in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Richard Petty Motorsports announced late last year it will only field its iconic No. 43 car this season.

It will be the first time a Richard Petty-owned team has fielded only one car since John Andretti drove for Petty Enterprises in 1998.

The reduction to one car, driven by Aric Almirola, came after Brian Scott retired after one season driving the No. 44.

“I can just tell you the facts and the fact is it was imperative for us to get our focus and put all of our resources and all of our energy and all of our effort into one thing,” Almirola said last week at the NASCAR Media Tour.

Almirola enters his sixth season driving the No. 43 made famous by Petty. It will be his first full-time Cup season without a teammate.

“Over the last couple years we have been a little bit diluted and so to be able to take this opportunity is not what we wanted as a race team by any means, but sometimes in life you get lemons and you have to make lemonade,” Almirola said. “This gives us the opportunity to do that.”

Among the lemons was RPM not qualifying either of its cars for the playoffs the last two seasons. After Almirola made the playoffs in 2014 off his win in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, he finished 17th and 26th in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Last season, the Florida-native failed to earn a top-five finish for the first time since 2009, when he made nine starts.

Scott, who finished 31st in last year’s standings, gave RPM its only top five of the year with his runner-up result in the Talladega playoff race.

“We retained a lot of employees, so now it’s all hands-on deck on that 43 car,” Almirola said. “It’s no secret that last year, 2016, was not a good season for us. It’s just the reality, but 2017 is a new year and we’ve got to take advantage of what’s ahead of us, and I feel like by us scaling back to one car gives us that opportunity to do that, rather than to try and piecemeal a second car together.”

Almirola said “a few opportunities” presented themselves to RPM to possibly run a second car, but they wouldn’t be “high quality” efforts. That resulted in the December announcement that Almirola would be going at it alone this season.

Another result of the reduction to one car is RPM “upped our ante” in its technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, another Ford team that reduced the number of Cup teams it’s fielding.

“Over the past several years leading up to last year, we were really good at supplementing,” Almirola said of RPM’s relationship with Roush. “We took what Roush gave us and worked on it and tuned on it ourselves, fluffed and buffed it, if you will, and took it to the race track. Then we kind of went out on a limb and started doing more and more and more on our own and we almost got to a point to where we spread ourselves too thin.”

Almirola believes further piggybacking “off of the knowledge and the people” at Roush will help his team turn back the clock to the 2014 season, when he gave RPM just its third win since 2010.

RPM’s single-car campaign begins in the Feb. 26 Daytona 500.

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NASCAR America live at 6 p.m. ET: Daytona 500 recap, Kurt Busch interview

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America recaps all the major stories that came out of the 59th Daytona 500, which was won for the first time by Kurt Busch.

The episode airs from 6 – 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Krista Voda hosts with Dale Jarrett from Stamford, Connecticut. Jeff Burton and Kyle Petty join them from Burton’s Garage.

Voda will interview Busch just under 24 hours after the biggest win of his NASCAR career.

If you can’t catch the show on TV, you also can watch it via the online stream at http://nascarstream.nbcsports.com

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you plug-in that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Kurt Busch’s Daytona 500 winning car has a new home for the next year

59th Annual DAYTONA 500
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Kurt Busch’s Daytona 500-winning Ford Fusion has finally stopped rolling after adding an extra few hundred feet to its mileage log.

One day after capturing “The Great American Race,” the No. 41 was placed on permanent display for the next year at Daytona International Speedway’s Daytona 500 Experience Museum during Monday morning’s traditional race winner’s breakfast.

It was the first win for Stewart-Haas Racing in its first regular season race in Ford colors and power.

Check out some of the photos of the car and the festivities:

And then, last but not least, the Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 championship trophy is safely ensconced in its new home at Stewart-Haas Racing in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

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Atlanta to host 2,500th race in Cup history, last on current surface

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Photo courtesy Atlanta Motor Speedway
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This weekend’s NASCAR action at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with all three major series running, will provide some interesting storylines.

First and perhaps most important, Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 will be the last race ever held on the current track surface.

A complete repaving of the 1.54-mile high-speed quad oval track is slated to begin later this spring.

To make Sunday’s race all the more unique and momentous, it will also be the 2,500th race in Cup history.

AMS, which first opened in 1960, has had the same racing surface for the last 20 years, since its last repaving in spring 1997. That makes it the second oldest current surface in NASCAR.

During that time, it has played host to 31 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, 19 Xfinity Series races and 15 Camping World Truck Series events.

Among some of the highlights over the years on the outgoing surface:

* Dale Earnhardt’s 0.01-second margin of victory over Bobby Labonte in 2000. It would be Earnhardt’s 75th career Cup win and the second-to-last win of his storied career (won at Talladega that fall).

* In his third Cup start after the tragic death of Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500, Kevin Harvick would take the re-numbered No. 29 to victory lane at Atlanta, capturing a 0.006-second margin of victory over Jeff Gordon.

* Carl Edwards’ first Cup win and the first of two wins for him in both Atlanta races in 2005.

* AMS’s first-ever night race in 2009.

* Sunday marks AMS’s 102nd 500-mile race. No other track on the circuit has hosted as many races of that length.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sunday could also be a big day for defending and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

Having won both the 2015 and 2016 Cup races at AMS, Johnson is looking to become the first driver in track history to win three consecutive races there.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen won four times in as many years (1961 to 1964) at AMS, but they were not consecutive. Another Hall of Famer, Cale Yarborough, also won three straight spring races (1967 to 1969), but failed to win any of the fall races those same years at the track.

Johnson is also looking to extend his overall supremacy at the track, being the only active driver to have ever won there five times in a career (all on the current racing surface).

NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt holds the record for most wins ever at AMS with nine triumphs.

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Alex Bowman driving for GMS Racing in Atlanta Truck race

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Alex Bowman, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, walks through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 5, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Alex Bowman isn’t getting much time off between NASCAR starts.

Two weeks after he drove Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s No. 88 in the Advance Auto Parts Clash, Bowman will make his first start this year in a race that counts. He will drive GMS Racing’s No. 24 truck in the Camping World Truck Series’ Active Pet Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bowman is filling in for Justin Haley, who at 17, is too young to race on tracks 1.5-miles long or bigger due to NASCAR rules.

The defending K&N East Pro Series champion, Haley turns 18 on April 28.

The race will only be Bowman’s second start in the Truck Series. He made his first in 2015 at Michigan International Speedway for JR Motorsports. He started 16th and finished 11th that day.

Bowman continues to capitalize on his performance last season when he helped fill in for Earnhardt in the No. 88 while he recovered from a concussion. Bowman made 10 starts in the No. 88, which included winning the pole for the fall race at Phoenix Raceway. That qualified him for the Clash, which he finished third in.

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