NASCAR AMERICA: Almirola, No. 43 Petty team focused on winning, making Chase again (VIDEO)

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Aric Almirola and his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team made their breakthrough last July at Daytona.

Their Coke Zero 400 victory propelled them into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. And as 2015 looms, they have bigger goals now.

During his co-host role in today’s episode of NASCAR AMERICA, Almirola talked about those aspirations and also discussed how competing in the Chase caused them all to recognize that they had to raise their game.

“Everybody really understands now at RPM what level of excellence is expected out of them throughout the season, especially when you get to those last 10 races,” he said today.

“It’s amazing how much the level of competition actually increases when you get to Chicago to start the Chase. Now we have a better understanding of how tough we’ve got it [then], and how hard we’ve gotta work.”

Almirola’s win was the first for the famous Petty No. 43 car since John Andretti took the checkered flag at Martinsville in 1999. Almirola wants to ensure that it won’t take as long for the next one to occur.

“I don’t want somebody else 15 years from now talking about trying to get the 43 car back to Victory Lane,” he said.

For more on how Almirola and RPM have been preparing for the new season, check out the clip at the top.

NBCSN will present ‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ Monday

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With motor racing reckoning with its own issues of diversity and equality, “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” will tackle the topics of social justice with several athletes. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Monday, July 13 on NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic channel and on regional sports networks.

The roundtable discussions will be hosted by Damon Hack and feature Charles Barkley, Steph Curry, Jimmy Rollins and Ozzie Smith in one segment. The other segment will include Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Lynn, Troy Mullins and James Blake.

Race has been a major topic in motorsports this year.

NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at its race after lobbying by Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in the premier Cup Series. In Formula One, six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton has joined Black Lives Matter marches in London and also formed a panel on diversity. The lone Black driver in F1 also led 14 of 20 drivers taking a knee before the season opener in Austria.