AUDIO/NASCAR Media Tour Day 3: Richard Petty Motorsports Optimistic About 2015; Dakoda Armstrong Hoping for Breakout

Jacob Seelman / James Pike Audio, Carolinas Racing, NASCAR, Southeast 0 Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Story by Race Chaser Online Correspondent James Pike and Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Tom Baker audio — Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images North America¬†photo —

If there was one team that overachieved in 2014 and didn’t get all the credit they deserved, it was Richard Petty Motorsports.

Which is why, heading into the new year, no one should be surprised if they have additional success — and the team alluded to that during Day Three of the 2015 NASCAR Media Tour presented by Technocom.

Taking to the stage were Jeff Dennison, the president of RPM, director of competition Sammy Johns, CEO Brian Moffatt, and RPM drivers Aric Almirola (NSCS), Sam Hornish (NSCS) and Dakoda Armstrong (NXS).

Johns kicked off the presser by expressing his optimism about the new race shop that the organization will be utilizing for the 2015 season.

“We’re really excited about the shop,” Johns said. “We have 35 new members to the team and a great engineering relationship with Roush-Fenway Racing that we feel like will help propel us into 2015. We feel like this model can win championships and we want to build on our Chase appearance from last season.”

The driver who made that Chase berth possible with a win at Daytona, Aric Almirola, said he was happy with the way his 2014 season went but wants to do more with the new tools that the team has in front of them.

“I thought we had a really good 2014 season — going into the season I felt really good about bringing Trent Owens on-board and the additional support that Smithfield was giving us to be able to help grow our race team and provide more assets. I thought that was going to be a big improvement and that proved to be right. We went out and set some pretty lofty goals and we hit them (with a win and making the Chase). I think we surprised some people, it was a pretty breakout year for us.”

“We want to grow from that. Last offseason we were working hard, but we were only working with what we had,” Almirola added. “Now we have more tools than we’ve ever had since I’ve been there. I couldn’t be more proud about where Richard Petty Motorsports is now compared to where it was when I got here three years ago and I’m looking forward to what we can able to accomplish in 2015.”

Listen in to an extended cut of Almirola’s thoughts on RPM and the upcoming 2015 season below:

New hire Sam Hornish circled his teammate as a big boost heading into the 2015 campaign and says he is more than ready to be back full-time on the Cup circuit.

“I’m just excited about all of it,” Hornish said. “The toughest part was having the opportunity to come to RPM and then be thinking about it for four months. Aric came to all of the tests, and I feel like we both want similar things out of the race car so that helps a lot.”

“To work for Sammy and Brian and with the excitement that’s going on in the shop, with what it takes to move a race shop its been pretty substantial. Things were thought through and moved seamlessly and that was neat. I’m excited for the opportunity to go back to Cup — it’s going to be way different than it was the last time I was there. We still need to sit down and figure out what our goals are and how we’ll reach them, but that’s really it.”

RPM announced that multiple sponsors would be stepping up to support Hornish’s full-season effort in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, including R-M Automotive, Medallion Bank, and Petty’s Garage.

RPM also stated that Medallion Sports Properties has hired Sean Downs to help find additional sponsorship for the team in 2015.

NASCAR XFINITY Series pilot Dakoda Armstrong, coming back for his second season with the organization, is ready to elevate his performance after a season-best of seventh at Richmond in the fall and a lackluster finish of 13th in the championship standings.

“We just gotta get better all the way around,” Armstrong said, “but with the new shop it should happen. Once you start getting better and get more consistent running top 10, if you do that every week then you can run top five and be consistent going to each track the second time around. It’s things like that that bring more confidence; I’m looking forward to what we can do. I love Winfield as a sponsor, and we’re just shooting to keep getting better every week.”

Armstrong also circles the “driver’s tracks” on the schedule as the places where he can shine in 2015 — with Bristol right at the top of the list.

“I would say Bristol is 70-30, where it’s 70 percent car and 30 percent driver, where big tracks are almost 90-10. It’s still a lot of driver, and you can make a lot of mistakes on restarts and other things that are in the driver’s hands.”

“It’s a very, very fun place — you do race the track a lot — but once you get good enough at it it’s a fun place.”

Listen in below for additional commentary from Armstrong on track vs. driver balance and his feelings heading into 2015 below:

Is it a building year for RPM? Absolutely. They lost a major sponsor and have a new full-time driver to get re-acclimated to the Cup Series.

But should we expect them to be down for too terribly long? The way their anticipation speaks for them, that answer is: probably not.

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