Sometimes when luck is on your side, it spreads through like an inferno. To start the season, Richard Petty Motorsports was not on the greatest roll, not being able to secure a strong finish. But, entering Bristol on Sunday, things were looking up as it was a strong track for the team over the years.
Little did anyone anticipate that good luck would be on both the teams' sides this time.
The big surprise of the night at the end of the race was Aric Almirola in the No. 43 Smithfield Ford. He didn't qualify the best, starting mid-pack in 23rd, but he methodically worked his way up through the field, keeping out of accidents, and making smart decisions. He would make it all the way to second, challenging Carl Edwards on a couple occasions for the lead, but more importantly showing the improvement of the RPM group from a year ago.
When the checkered flag waved, Almirola would take home a third-place finish, his best finish of the season through four races. Afterward, he praised the hard work the team had done to start the year, and how it's a great improvement from a season ago.
"Everybody has been working really hard, and that hard work pays off. I know everybody works hard, but we were not very happy with how our season went last year and we've made a lot of changes, and all of those changes have seemed to be positive," Almirola said. "Everybody has been working really hard, and that hard work pays off.
"I know everybody works hard, but we were not very happy with how our season went last year and we've made a lot of changes, and all of those changes have seemed to be positive."
At the same time, Marcos Ambrose had just as strong a night. Statistically, when it comes to oval tracks, the "Bull Ring" is the best one for the driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford. This weekend backed that up as Ambrose qualified fifth, stayed near the front all afternoon and night, and would bring the car home in the same place he started.
It's the first time in many years that both cars from the RPM bunch have finished in the top-five together, showing that when things begin going well, it can only improve from there, both in performance and confidence.
The RPM group hopes to keep that momentum next week at the Auto Club Speedway in the Auto Club 400.