At the beginning of the 2012 season, his first in the historic No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports, Aric Almirola had some tough luck but knew he and his team could do more.
“I made a few mistakes last year at the beginning of the year and we dug ourselves a hole in the points and we never recovered from it really,” said Almirola in a recent NASCAR teleconference. “We spent the whole rest of the year clawing our way to get to 20th in points. And if you look at where we started, I think we finished Daytona in 33rd or something like that. I went into this year knowing that we were capable of running better, especially at the intermediate tracks and the mile-and-a-half tracks and stuff like that. So the big thing for me was the first few weeks of this year to not make any major mistakes.”
This year, the second-year RPM driver sits 10th in points after three races, with finishes of 13th, 15th and 16th at Daytona, Phoenix and Las Vegas, respectively. He’s quick to credit his team, led by veteran crew chief Todd Parrott, with his recent success.
“I think really just Todd Parrott and all the guys he has surrounding him,” said Almirola. “It's the same group of guys we had in the last ten races of last year when our performance really elevated. We have just really clicked, and our chemistry has been really strong. We have fast race cars every week, and right from the very get go, he's understood me and I've understood him, and we just know how to get our cars where we want them throughout the weekend for the race. So I've been real encouraged and I was really excited this whole off-season to get going this year because I knew what we were capable of after the last ten races of last year.”
During the last 10 races of 2012, the team put together eight top 20 finishes, including two top 10s at Martinsville and Homestead-Miami – they had 13 top 20 finishes in the first 26 races. While Almirola knows that there are still a number of teams to beat, he believes the No. 43 team is headed in the right direction.
“When you really sit down and think about it,” said Almirola, “you look at the race teams that are on the racetrack, you've got four Hendrick Motorsports cars, and three Gibbs cars, and you know, the three Roush cars, two Penske cars. When you start looking at it, it's like, man, there's a lot of good teams really deep into the field, and you have three RCR cars, and then you throw Richard Petty Motorsports in the mix, and I feel like we are right there with those guys.”
“I feel like it would be crazy for us to think that as new as we are and the reality is that we don't have the same amount of resources as some of the other teams – it would be crazy for us to think that we are a championship team at this moment. But I do feel like we are on the cusp of being a consistent Top-10 team. I feel like we are a competitive race team and I feel like we can compete with these other teams. You know, I'm really proud of what we've been able to do, which this 43 team with Todd Parrott and the guys that we have on our crew. They bring me fast cars to the racetrack, and they do a lot with probably a lot less than some of the other teams that we're competing against. So I'm just really proud of the effort that we have put in, and you know, I think we are picking right up where we left off at the end of 2012.”
Quotes in this piece provided by NASCAR.
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