Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola earn solid results for mourning Petty team

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Shortly before the start of today’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway – the first race after the loss of Lynda Petty, wife of seven-time Sprint Cup champion Richard Petty – the Richard Petty Motorsports team tweeted a vow:

Ultimately, a win was not to be for either of RPM’s drivers, Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola. But the two still netted solid results today in Martinsville with Ambrose finishing fifth (his second Top-5 in the last three races) and Almirola finishing eighth (his second Top-10 in the last three races).

“We’ve had a really tough week,” Ambrose said after the race, which did not have Richard in attendance (USA Today and NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan reports he is expected to return next month at Richmond).

“We lost Miss Lynda. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Petty family right now. We really wanted to win for them bad out there, but we’ll take a Top-5. We’re really proud of our efforts.”

Ambrose was especially stout this afternoon. Starting 17th, Ambrose made his way into the Top 5 shortly after the Lap 100 mark, and then on pit stops under a yellow at Lap 170, his pit crew was able to help him win the race off pit road and claim the lead on Lap 173.

The Australian would hold the point for the next 22 laps before Matt Kenseth passed him at Lap 194. Ambrose would hover around the Top 10-15 in the middle stages before making a late charge back into the Top 5 on the strength of solid pit work and a good car on long stints.

“We had great pit stops all day,” Ambrose said. “Our guys probably had their best day on pit road in a long time and [crew chief] Drew Blickensderfer and [team engineer] Derek [Stamets] on the pit box made great calls late in the race and if we would have had another round of pit stops, we might have had something for them.”

Like Ambrose, Almirola was able to keep around the Top 10 for the majority of the race even though he admitted that his car could never quite find a sweet spot.

“Our car was very touchy to the clouds,” Almirola explained. “When it would cloud up, my car would get real loose and then when the sun would come out my car would get better and it would tighten out, but we bounced around on adjustments all day and couldn’t ever get the car balanced right.

“We would either be too tight or too loose and we really struggled for forward drive, which really hurt us on longer runs.”

Nonetheless, Almirola was buoyed by another solid performance all-around for RPM.

“Marcos had a really good run as well, so we’re doing things right,” he said. “If we keep running like this, we’ll get to Victory Lane.”

Now more than ever, that’s the goal for RPM: A #WinForMissLynda.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).