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No More Waiting: RPM Ready For 2014 and Make Chase for First Time

Entering 2014, the Richard Petty Motorsports group is hoping to have more smiles.
Entering 2014, the Richard Petty Motorsports group is hoping to have more smiles.
Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

The time for talk has just about ended. The haulers are loaded up and heading south, loaded with two, or possibly three cars, preparing to kick off the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The off-season has seen changes in the format, both how to qualify for the race and an entirely new Chase.

But the common goal for each week has been the same: go for the win.

Richard Petty Motorsports saw many ups, many downs, and some unexpected changes a year ago, and ended the year not going to victory lane. But, with renewed confidence, stronger backing, and longer partnerships, it is shaping up to be a very strong year for the RPM team.

Here's a look at the drivers for 2014:

Aric Almirola: No. 43 Smithfield Foods Ford

For the last couple seasons, Almirola took the reins of the most famous number in NASCAR, one that team owner Richard Petty made infamous. Despite not going to victory lane, it was clear that Almirola was very capable of handling a high-profile ride. His best run came two years ago at Kansas, but the run was thwarted due to a wreck that blew the motor. He called the car the "best he's had his entire career."

This off-season, RPM got a boost from sponsor Smithfield Foods, as they extended their sponsorship for multiple years, and at the same time RPM signed Almirola for the same extent of time.

Smithfield signed to continue to sponsor the No. 43 for many more races in the season, a theme that had been occurring the last few seasons. Now, with nearly full funding for the entire season, Almirola seems to have found a place in Sprint Cup where he feels at home, and wants to be.

Heading into 2014, things are looking up for Almirola, and with financial backing and a renewed contract, he has every reason to get to victory lane.

Marcos Ambrose: No. 9 DeWalt/Stanley Ford

The only driver to have achieved a win since RPM has gone to just a two-car team has been the driver of the No. 9, and the win came at the same track.

But, last year the Australian-born driver did not make it a three-peat on the road course at Watkins Glen.

Ambrose ran strong at the Glen, winning the pole and leading the most laps, but found himself in the middle of the pack during the late stages, and then ended up involved in a bad wreck, ending his hopes for a win and a possible run at a "Wild Card" spot in the Chase. It may have been considered his only chance to get into the Chase, but as the rest of the season progressed, he still tried to make it in, but to no avail.

It's another year, and another chance for Ambrose to prove he's not just a road-course guy. He has the talent, and equipment, so he's going for it.

The season kicks off Saturday night with the 2014 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona.

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