Preview: Richard Petty Motorsports

Richard Petty sees better things ahead after an infusion of sponsorship -- and stability. Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

One in a series of 15 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team previews ahead of the season-opening Daytona 500:


Principal owners: Richard Petty, Andrew Murstein, Doug Bergeron

Manufacturer: Ford

Engine source: Roush Yates Engines

Alliances: Roush Fenway Racing

Drivers (crew chiefs): Aric Almirola (Trent Owens), Marcos Ambrose (Drew Blickensderfer).

2013's top finisher: Almirola (18th)

2013 grade: C-plus

2014 preseason grade: B-minus

2014 outlook: After a tumultuous few years in which Richard Petty was forced to take back control of his team from bankrupt co-owners, NASCAR's most successful driver has emerged in position to win a race as an owner for the first time since 2012. New ownership partners and the appointment of Brian Moffit as CEO have stabilized the team's financial picture, and increased sponsorship commitments from the U.S. Air Force and Smithfield Foods have allowed the team to invest in in-house engineering resources, with a new emphasis on wind-tunnel testing and aerodynamics. Marcos Ambrose is typically a threat at road courses and bullrings, while Aric Almirola brings an element of consistency.

Quotable: "We're probably in the best shape we've been in the last three or four years. Everybody knows we went really to the bottom a couple or three years ago when our car owner went bankrupt or whatever, and we got with a couple of guys and bought the place out and just tried to get some foundation. I don't know that our year last year was that much better than the year before, but it was a lot more stable and that's what we're trying to do now. We've expanded our engineering effort and we can do more of our own research and development, rather than just take what Roush Fenway gives us." -- Richard Petty


Aric Almirola (No. 43 Smithfield Foods/U.S. Air Force Ford): "We started off last year really well and faltered through the summer. We're not going to falter this year. We're going to keep it up and keep that going. The commitment Smithfield Foods made to Richard Petty Motorsports and to me is tremendous. It's allowed us to go out and hire more people, and I've got a new crew chief this year in Trent Owens. I feel really lucky to have him because he's going to help us a lot. We've got a lot of momentum on our side and we're excited about this year."
2014 goal: First Sprint Cup victory

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 Stanley Tools Ford): "I've seen over the last 12 months the commercial success RPM has had has really reinvigorated our race team. We've added a lot of human resources to our program for 2014. We've created an R&D program, and that's the first time that's happened since I've been here. I'm excited about the potential of unlocking some more brain power on our race program. I've seen it at its darkest days and I'm really looking forward to 2014 because I think it's the year Richard Petty Motorsports can break out and really show everybody the maturity that it has taken since I've been there."
2014 goal: A race win on an oval