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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Aric Almirola aims for Victory Lane in Cup series; it won’t be easy, but he has the talent to get there

Aric Almirola’s career hasn’t exactly been a straight line upward, bouncing around through various series and various rides -- some successful and others not so successful.

But now he’s on the right track. At the midway point of the season, the driver of the #43 car sits 22nd in points and has had a great year considering the recent history of that car. He is running more consistently well, has a strong crew chief in Mike Ford and the Richard Petty team is showing flashes this year of what it might be able to do down the road.

The last couple of weeks we haven't gotten the result we're looking for, but everything leading up to that has been great. Working with Mike has been really great. Mike's a great crew chief and a great leader, and he's really smart. These last few weeks we've been trying some stuff, trying to get better,” Almirola said this week, “We haven't really hit on what we need, but it's all in an effort to try to get better. We know that and we realize that. Sometimes it's not fun to run bad, but sometimes you learn kind of what not to do. So the last couple of weeks we've learned that and I feel like since he's come on board at Richard Petty Motorsports our organization as a whole has gotten better , not just the 43, but I feel like the 9's performance has gotten better too. I really enjoy working with him. His experience has helped me a lot. He helps me a lot more than just being a crew chief.”

Almirola has won on the lower levels of NASCAR but not on the Cup level. He hopes that’s not true for long.

“I think for me it's just about performing. I want to win a race. I want to win a race at this level,” Almirola said. “It's hard. I didn't expect to come Cup racing and beat Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards and those guys every weekend. I knew it was going to be tough, and I had a lot to learn, and I still do. I feel like I was right. It is tough. It's extremely hard, extremely competitive. The thing that I get excited about is when we have weekends like Charlotte where we qualify on the pole and run good, and then we go to Dover and qualify well and run in the top five and finish sixth. Those are the weekends that I look forward to and trying to have more and more of those. So if we can do that and put ourselves in position to run in the Top 10 on a more regular basis, then we can start worrying about trying to win races.”

It won’t be easy, but I’ve long seen Almirola as a driver who could potentially win at this level if he had the right team. He’s a good kid, and I hope he can continue to increase his competitiveness. It’s always nice to see new winners, and down the road I wouldn’t be surprised if Almirola gets to Victory Lane in the 43 car.

Toyota tidbits

--Toyota drivers registered three top-10 finishes in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series(NSCS) race at Kentucky Speedway -- Denny Hamlin (third), Martin Truex Jr. (eighth) and Kyle Busch (10th). Hamlin led 58 laps (of 267) in the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 11 Camry, however on the final run of the evening, Hamlin was forced to save fuel in order to ensure a top-five finish. Busch led the field five times for a race-high 118 laps, but he brushed the wall with his JGR No. 18 Camry during the middle of the race and later struggled with a damaged shock, which required an extra visit to pit road. Truex's eighth-place result was his ninth top-10 finish of the season.

--Camry driver Kurt Busch finished as the race runner-up in Friday evening's NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Kentucky Speedway. In Thursday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race at Kentucky, four Tundra drivers registered top-10 finishes in the 150-lap race. Timothy Peters (fourth), Matt Crafton (fifth), Johnny Sauter (sixth) and Jason Leffler (eighth) all earned top-10 results for Toyota. With his fourth-place result, Peters moved into the top spot in the championship standings and is currently four points ahead of second-place Justin Lofton. Crafton started on the pole -- his first in a Tundra -- and led the field four times for a total of 27 circuits.

--Camry driver Joey Logano will make his 100th career NNS start in Friday night's race at Daytona International Speedway. Logano, who won the NNS race at Daytona last July, has amassed 14 wins, 47 top-five finishes, 77 top-10 results, 19 pole positions and has led 1,909 laps since joining series competition in May 2008. The Connecticut-native has recorded a series-high five wins and three pole positions this year for JGR. Logano has also compiled six top-five finishes, eight top-10 results and has led a series-high 456 laps in 11 NNS starts this year. The 22-year-old has won four out of the last five NNS races he has competed in and has registered five straight top-10 finishes.

--NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS): After 17 races, Denny Hamlin moved up three spots into fifth in the series point standings, trailing leader Matt Kenseth by 68 points … Clint Bowyer (seventh) and Martin Truex Jr. (eighth) also rank in the top-10 in the standings …

Waltrip returns to Daytona

Two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip will make his 49th career NSCS start in Saturday night's race at Daytona.

"I'm really confident when I go to Daytona. I feel like I can run well and win and be up front. Daytona is a different animal. We've led the race at Talladega and ran up front and feel like the same will happen at Daytona."

Regarding missing the Daytona 500, he said:
"That was tough, but everything happens for a reason I like to believe. My future is probably more TV than it is race car driving, and while I wanted to be in the 500 worse than anything and it hurt really bad, being able to be on the FOX broadcast with my brother (Darrell Waltrip) and be a part of that for what wound up being a couple of days -- I was okay with that. When we didn't make it, it was really, really hard to swallow and then a couple days later I'm enjoying the new role."

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