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Almirola leads RPM front row at Charlotte

Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose locked out the front row for Richard Petty Motorsports for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Aric Almirola claimed his first pole in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Thursday night, with a qualifying lap of 27.988s (192.940mph) putting him just ahead of his Richard Petty Motorsports team mate Marcos Ambrose on the front row for the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR's longest Sprint Cup Series race of the calendar.

“We struggled last week at Darlington, and we went with something totally different – we stepped off the island, and it paid off,” beamed Almirola. "A great day for Richard Petty and Richard Petty Motorsports. We're a two-car team trying to make it against bigger teams. It was a great night for us."

Almirola's time on the 1.5-mile oval Charlotte Motor Speedway was just 0.04s outside of the Cup record for the track, posted by Elliott Sadler in 2005. It is the sixth career pole for RPM as a team and the first of the season, and only the second time in the team's history that it has locked out the front row of a Cup race starting grid - the previous time being at Kansas in the autumn of 2010.

A car number strongly associated with Richard Petty as a driver, the last time the #43 started the Coca-Cola 600 from pole was in Petty's hands in 1966. The last time the #43 went to victory lane was with John Andretti at the wheel in April 1999. Not lacking any confidence now as an owner, Petty indicated the winner's podium and told the media, "We'll see you Sunday night."

Petty continued, “Even though it's just qualifying, it's still a big deal for us,” adding: "We've got bragging rights for a couple of days, anyway!"

Almirola was thrilled to have delivered on the #43's legacy so soon after joining the team, following AJ Allmendinger's off-season decision to leave the team - which came close to folding just 18 months previously - to join Penske.

"It's been a huge honour for me from day one to be able to come to this organisation," said Almirola. "Not just driving for Richard Petty Motorsports - I'm driving the 43 car, probably the most iconic car in the history of our sport."

Almirola's pole is also a triumph for his new crew chief Mike Ford, who has just signed up with the team after being let go by Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of last season after several years of running Denny Hamlin's #11 car, where he was displaced by Darian Grubb.

"I came in for a couple of weeks and observed, and these cars have got speed," said Ford. "It took me a couple weeks to just understand the approach of how to tune them ... We know that we've got the balance right, and the car's got speed and Aric's comfortable driving it, so he can go get the speed."




Related Pictures

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Kurt Busch after spinning the #51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet in qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 U.S. Air Force Ford, poses after qualifying for the pole position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Crew chief Chad Knaus inspects the car of Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, after a crash during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, crashes in the early part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Aric Almirola (R), driver of the #43 Charter Ford, inspects his car after crashing during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Erik Jones in action in the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies fifth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualifies fourth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualifies fourth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies fifth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, right, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert and the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 United States Air Force Ford, walks through the garage area prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/NASCARA via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, lead a group of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet, climbs from his car after being involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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