CONCORD, N.C. — Pole qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 wasn’t only about speed for Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose. For both, it was personal.
The two drivers for Richard Petty Motorsports felt a greater sense of pride to put the most-successful driver in NASCAR history back out front, sweeping the front row for Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Almirola’s iconic No. 43 ran a lap of 192.940 mph, beating Ambrose’s lap of 191.598.
“It’s a huge honor to come to this organization. I’m not just driving at Richard Petty Motorsports; I’m driving the 43 car. It’s really special, a huge honor,” Almirola said.
Petty, who has teetered on the brink of closing a couple times in the past few years, made a resounding comeback at one of stock car racing’s biggest stages. The 600 is considered one of the crown jewels in NASCAR.
“Nothing would make me happier to see the King smile in Victory Lane,” Ambrose said.
Petty, who won 200 races and seven championships as a driver, was at the track to watch his cars. Although he won 114 poles during his career, few have been as satisfying as sweeping the front row – especially since the last time the No. 43 won the pole for the 600-mile race was in 1966 with Petty as the driver.
“Even though it’s just qualifying, it’s a big deal for us,” Petty said. “We got bragging rights for a couple days.”