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JUL 25, 2014 | Indianapolis, Ind.

Petty, Almirola and Operation Inspiration Present Special Gift


(Ford Racing Public Relations)

Richard Petty and Aric Almirola were part of a presentation with sponsors Eckrich and Kroger that recognized Samuel Sawyer and his military family Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of Operation Inspiration.  Sawyer, who was born with spina bifida, was presented a new wheelchair designed like the No. 43 Eckrich Ford Fusion.  Sawyer will attend Victory Junction Gang Camp this summer with Eckrich covering all costs.

RICHARD PETTY, Owner, No. 43 Eckrich Ford Fusion – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO WHEN NASCAR CAME HERE FOR THAT FIRST RACE?  “It was sort of like a dream come true.  I think everybody running Cup had dreamed of being at Indy just because it had been here all those years.  Indy is Indy and to have a chance to come up here, we did some practicing and testing once they decided to do it and they let us come and play around to get the PR and stuff.  There were 20,000-30,000 people that came up here just to watch us practice and it was a really, really big deal in racing all over the world.  It’s probably not as big a deal now because we are here, but the Indy cars the same way.”

WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU FIRST WALKED DOWN GASOLINE ALLEY?  “Just being here, I guess.  I had been here before when the Indy cars were here, but to bring our crowd to Indy, which had been doing it for 80-90 years with no competition more or less, to kind of break a mold felt really, really good for all of us, I think.”

HOW MUCH NICER IS IT TO COME BACK TO THE TRACK AFTER A WIN?  “It’s always a lot better.  Aric will attest to that.  It’s always better to be a winner than a loser or being second or third.  With our team, most everybody knows we were up there and been down so long and now we’re working our way back, but this is so good for our sponsors and inner-workings.  The 9 crew and the 43 crew are one crew, it just happens that some of them work on one car and some of them the other.  At Daytona there were as many from the 9 crowd in the winner’s circle as there was the 43 because it was a full Richard Petty Motorsports win, so from that standpoint it goes a long, long way.  Morale and just the deal today we can do this, now we just have to work a little bit harder and maybe we can do it again.”

HOW ABOUT FOR YOU PERSONALLY?  “It’s always good to be up front.  To me, it makes me feel good that all the people who are doing the work it’s finally paid off.  I just sort of wander around and pat them on the back and tell them to do a little bit better next week than they did this week and sometimes it pays off.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS EVENT TODAY AND WHAT IT MEANS TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS FOR A MILITARY FAMILY?  “Working with Aric, Eckrich and all the Smithfield companies, and Victory Junction Camp also, this was a combination deal where the kid was coming to camp anyway and they play all kinds of stuff down there.  He’s a big soccer fan, so that worked out really, really good, not only for us and Eckrich but for the camp also.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – No. 43 Eckrich Ford Fusion – HOW DO YOU FEEL BEING ABLE TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS FOR A FAMILY?  “It’s really cool.  We’ve been doing this for several years with Eckrich and Operation Inspiration and it’s such a neat feeling to be able to see a family in need and be able to help them.  Obviously, I’m the guy who is lucky enough to represent Eckrich and show our support through that, but to have that honor and be able to give back to that family, especially to see a little kid like that.  I have two kids of my own and couldn’t imagine what it would be like to deal with a child that has spina bifida, and to see the support that Eckrich gives to Operation Inspiration to this military family and a lot of military families is really humbling for me and makes me feel really good about our partnership with our sponsors.”

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUED – HOW HAS IT BEEN SINCE YOU WON AT DAYTONA?  IS THERE RELIEF?  “Absolutely, it’s certainly been a relief for us.  It’s been a long time since that 43 car has been to victory lane so we’ve all been pressing pretty hard over the last several years to try and do everything we could to get that 43 car to victory lane and it just hasn’t become a reality until Daytona, so it’s such a gratifying feeling and certainly a big weight has been lifted off our shoulders, but, at the same time, we don’t want to wait 15 more years to win again.  We’d rather do it sooner than later.”

THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND?  “We brought a brand spanking new race car with I’m sure a lot of horsepower from Doug Yates, so I’m expecting good things.  We haven’t been on the race track for practice yet, but every time you show up at the race track you expect to run really good.  I don’t think anybody shows up at the race track expecting to run 35th, so I fully intend to have a lot of speed and be able to go race on Sunday for a Brickyard 400 win.  That would be amazing to have an opportunity to win at probably both of the most historic race tracks on our circuit.”