Almirola: Goal is to help RPM teammate Ambrose get into the Chase

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Thanks to Aric Almirola’s rain-shortened win last weekend at Daytona, Richard Petty Motorsports will be represented in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Now comes the next task for RPM: Getting their second man, Marcos Ambrose, into the post-season as well.

Following Cup practice today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Almirola called the matter a “priority.”

“Marcos is obviously really good at Watkins Glen, so we’re going – the week of Indy – when we leave Indy, we’re gonna go to Watkins Glen and test that week,” Almirola said.

“We want to give Marcos the best shot we can to win at Watkins Glen, because that would be unbelievable to have both of our cars [in the Chase]. For as small and as underdog of a team that we are, to have the possibility of having both of our cars in the Chase is phenomenal.”

Sprint Cup teams are given four opportunities to test during the season, and this Watkins Glen test would be the third of RPM’s four tests (they have tested so far at Charlotte and Michigan).

Obviously, if Ambrose were to score an upset win this weekend at New Hampshire, that could certainly change their testing strategy a bit.

Almirola himself noted that if Ambrose won this weekend, they’d likely not bother to test at the Glen since Ambrose is a good enough road racer as it is.

But with one team test available to them, Almirola figures that RPM will use it for one of the early Chase tracks like Chicagoland, New Hampshire, or Dover.

Those tracks host the first, second, and third events in the Chase respectively, and they collectively make up the Challenger Round of the playoffs.

“Our philosophy still is that it doesn’t do us any good to save and hold on to those tests,” Almirola said. “We’ve got to do everything we can to be the best that we can in the first round of the Chase.

“I’m assuming, after talking with [crew chief] Trent [Owens], that we’re probably going to test on one of the tracks with the first three races of the Chase.

“It doesn’t do us any good to save a test for Homestead if we’ve already been knocked out of the Chase. That’s kind of our motto – go big or go home.”

Almirola is currently 10th on the Chase Grid thanks to his Daytona win, while Ambrose – without a win – is 22 points back of the 16th-place cutoff position currently occupied by Austin Dillon (Ambrose in 19th overall in Sprint Cup points).

Al Unser Jr. to race Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in 29 years

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is coming out of retirement to race again.

Unser Jr., who turns 56 on April 19, will compete in the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. It will be the first time Unser has raced at Pikes Peak in 29 years, since the 1989 event.

Unser won the Hill Climb and was named “King of the Mountain” in the 1983 event.

Unser said in 2007 that he was retiring from racing and had no plans to race in the future. However, he has taken part since then in some selected vintage racing events.

Speaking of vintage cars, Unser is slated to drive a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan in this year’s Hill Climb, according to race organizers.

He’ll compete with a number of luminaries including eight-time Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach; Layne Schranz, who will be competing in his 25th “Race to the Clouds”; 23-time champion Clint Vahsholtz; 25-time Hill Climb competitor David Schmidt II and three-time Climb winner Spencer Steele.

Unser recently returned to IndyCar racing as a consultant with Harding Racing, which is beginning its first full season in the series with Gabby Chaves behind the wheel.