In 2012, Aric Almirola felt on top of the world during one race. A strong qualifying effort, and an even stronger car had Almirola thinking it was the opportunity of a lifetime, one he was finally awaiting after signing with the Richard Petty Motorsports group a year prior.
But, in one blink of an eye, it evaporated. A cut tire on the No. 43 Ford put him in the wall, lighting a fire under the hood due to a cut oil line, and ended what was an incredible effort for the team.
That afternoon at the Kansas Speedway, Almirola admitted it was the best car he had not just in his NASCAR career, but his entire life. Opportunities with cars like that one he had do not come very often, and since then he's always thought that race was one that slipped away. But, every time he returns to this track, his confidence goes up, and he's looked at as a guy that could possibly take the win as a favorite or even a sleeper pick.
This year was no exception, as the No. 43 team again came to Kansas with confidence, and a strong car.
Almirola made the best of his opportunity. He qualified a solid 12th, making the final round of knockout qualifying. He would not only qualify strong, but he backed it up by staying near the front the entire night, keeping the nose of the car clean, and brought the No. 43 Ford home in the eighth spot. It would be his third top-10 run thus far in the 2014 season, already half of what he and the team had the entire season a year ago.
The run certainly gives the team a lot of confidence heading into the next two weeks at Charlotte for the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600, as the 1.5-mile program for this organization has gotten stronger with every season, and every race.
As the season continues, Almirola certainly is one to watch on the 1.5-mile tracks. Look for that to start at Charlotte.