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RPM off to strong start after offseason upgrades

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: April 2, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Richard Petty, still mourning the death of his wife, skipped the short trip to Martinsville Speedway to watch his team compete.

At the track located a little over an hour south from Petty's famed race shop, his two drivers set out to capture a victory in honor of the late Lynda Petty and their boss, "The King."

Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola fell short of driving their way into Victory Lane on Sunday. But for just the fourth time in 77 races as teammates, both Richard Petty Motorsports drivers finished inside the top 10.

Ambrose led 22 laps en route to his season-best finish of fifth and Almirola was eighth. It marked the second time in three races the duo both finished inside the top 10, and showed the RPM has turned a corner in its bid to recapture some of its glory days.

"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," said Almirola. "We want to get back to those successful ways that they have had for so many years. 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."

Petty, a Hall of Famer, won 200 races and seven championships for Petty Enterprises. The organization has won just three races since John Andretti's 1999 victory and went through a 10-year losing streak.

The organization has not won since 2012, but an offseason commitment from sponsor Smithfield helped RPM add personnel and invest in equipment, testing, and research and development.

Those gains have been evident through the first six races of the season. Ambrose is 14th and Almirola is 26th, in part because of two accidents Almirola was involved in. Each driver has two top-10 finishes, Ambrose has two top fives and Almirola finished a career-best third at Bristol.

It's the best start in seven Sprint Cup seasons for Ambrose, and it comes a year after Almirola raced out of the gates, when RPM was ill-equipped to have both teams competing at the same level.

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