Richard Petty Motorsports Impresses in Daytona Debut

Jen PrestonSenior Analyst IFebruary 15, 2009

They didn't win the Daytona 500, even though with 54 laps to go, it looked like one of them would.

But Richard Petty Motorsports drivers Elliot Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger, and Reed Sorenson all put up impressive numbers during Speedweeks and into the Great American Race.

It began with teamwork. Sadler and Sorenson drafted with Allmendinger during their Gatorade Duel. Falling back to draft with him, the famed No. 43 of Sorenson started 34th.

Sorenson was also fastest in Happy Hour.

"Everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports building great cars. I was hoping it was going to rain when Elliott was leading and Reed was second and I was fourth. That would have been a really great result for the team," Allmendinger said after the race.

I was trying to push Reed and Elliott as much as I could," he added. "They are the ones that got me into the race. It was my turn to return the favor and try to get them the win."

"I'm going to be honest with you," Sadler said later in the press conference. "I'm not going to lie to you. I was getting pretty emotional under the caution when it was raining a little bit in turn one and two.

"I thought it was going to be called a little bit earlier than it was. I was getting emotional in the car thinking, 'Wouldn't this be the coolest story?' I came down here as a fan the first time in 1979 and (then) finished second to Ward Burton, and now to have a chance to win the race.

"Seen guys like Harvick and Newman and them celebrate the last couple years on last lap passes, and how fun it looks like to me in Victory Lane. I had a lot of that cool stuff going through my head. But, you know, just wasn't meant to be."

The fourth teammate, Kasey Kahne in the No. 9 Budweiser, was caught up in a late race incident with Aric Almirola and finished 29th.

Things didn't have to be this way. Sadler was told in December that he would be replaced by the man he helped qualify for the 500. The Virginian fought, kept his job, and is looking to put the incident behind him for the good of the team.

"You've got to be a man about these things," Sadler said of the off-season turmoil. "Kasey Kahne is the flagship driver of Richard Petty Motorsports. But I'm the most experienced, oldest…been here the longest…if I don't lead by example and set good ways for the drivers to go by, who will?

"A lot of times you have to…race what's good for you and your company."

Sorenson, the youngest of the RPM drivers at just 23, is feeling the pressure of getting Petty's famous No. 43 back into the Winner's Circle.

"They haven't had a lot of success since (Petty) got out, so I'm trying to bring a little bit of that back.

"I'm not the only one who knows that I'm driving the 43, our team is part of the 43. The tire guys know it, the tire changers know it, my car chief knows it, my crew chief knows it. Everybody knows it. We all feel the pressure but it's exciting. We have something to represent."

If Daytona is any indication of the season ahead for the former Petty Enterprises and Gillett Evernham Motorsports, then you better believe this season is going to be a great one.

Thanks to, St. Petersburg Times, Inside Track Breaking News Blog, and ESPNEWS for the quotes and information used in this piece.