Ex-RPM driver is shining
in the Nationwide Series
Ambrose loves the team spirit at RPM,
and will always be strong on road courses.
It was at Sonoma that Kasey Kahne scored
the team’s last victory, in 2009 (BELOW).
“I’m really excited that our team is
learning,” he says. “They’re learning me,
season, Allmendinger was 17th in points,
four positions ahead of the Aussie
Ambrose. Twice Allmendinger has
qualified on the front row, and Ambrose
has three finishes of sixth or better.
If one or both of them can win one or
two races, they easily could qualify for
the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s
season-ending, 10-race playoff round.
The RPM Fords are unquestionably fast,
but what the team must do now is put
together the entire package – qualify well
to earn a good pit stall and track position,
have great pit stops during the race and
not make any mistakes. It’s harder than
it seems – one reason there have been 10
different winners in the first 15 races of
the 2011 season.
For Allmendinger, RPM remains very
much a work in progress.
“I look at it as we’re still building a
race team here,” he says. “We show up
every race weekend with a plan to try and
win. If we didn’t do that, we shouldn’t
be here, but sometimes I look at it as
maybe I’m a pessimist or I look at it as a
realist. I know where our race team is
and I know where we need to get better.”
Ambrose, in his first year with the
team, is adjusting to racing Fords for the
first time in Sprint Cup, adjusting to a
new team and a new crew chief in Todd
Parrott, and still trying to build on the
talents that made him a two-time V8
Supercar champion in his native Australia.
Sometimes you have to take
a step backward to move
ahead, and no one knows
that better than Elliott Sadler, the
Emporia, Va., native who is among the
favorites to win the 2011 NASCAR
Nationwide Series championship.
After years of slogging around in
uncompetitive NASCAR Sprint Cup
rides, Sadler lost his ride at Richard
Petty Motorsports when the team
downsized from four to two cars for
this season. Unable to land a Cup
ride, Sadler signed on with Kevin
Harvick Inc. for a seat in a KHI
While some would view that as a
step backward, for Sadler, nothing
could be further from the truth.
Instead of running near the back of
the Cup field every week, Sadler is
now a threat to win at almost every
NNS race, and that has him all smiles.
“This is fun for me. I show up
every week with a chance to run up
front, get a top-five, lead laps and sit
on poles,” says Sadler, who is second
in the Nationwide points standings
after 15 races. “This is not pressure.
This is what we’re supposed to do.
Pressure is showing up with a knife
at a gunfight for three years. That’s
pressure. This is fun.”
Harvick is convinced he made the
right hire for his team.
“They’ve got the top-five stuff
down. The next step is to take it to
the next level and start winning some
races,” Harvick says of Sadler and his
team. “It’s been a great process to
see it evolve, and I’m very happy with
what the team has done and with
what Elliott has done.”
So is Sadler, who scored seven
top-five and 10 top- 10 finishes in his
first 15 races of the season. He
remarks: “I’ve learned this sport is a
whole lot more fun when you have a
team and a supporting cast around
you that believes in you and wants to
do well week in and week out.”