News & Media

Almirola ready to make some noise in iconic 43

April 27, 2012, Joe Menzer,

RICHMOND, Va. -- For much of this season, Aric Almirola has ridden around under the radar in the Sprint Cup Series.

That's hard to do in the No. 43 Ford he drives for Richard Petty Motorsports. He's behind the wheel of the car bearing arguably the most famous number in NASCAR.

"This is a good place to get started on hopefully putting a string of good finishes together."


Fin. 21-worse5
Lead Lap Fin.2
Avg. Start21.9
Avg. Finish20.8
Points Rank20
Behind Leader-125
Behind 10th-62

Almirola, however, readily admits that he would like to start making a little more noise as his inaugural season in the car with the iconic number continues to motor along. He said he figures this Saturday's Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway is the perfect place for him to start doing it.

"I really like this race track. Last year in the Nationwide Series, I felt like I had a shot to win the spring race here," said Almirola, who finished fourth in the Nationwide points last year before moving to Cup full time this year. "But we ran out of gas, so that was disappointing. We ran in the top two all night and battled with Denny [Hamlin] for the win. So that was fun and I feel like I get around here pretty good, so I'm really looking forward to this weekend."

Almirola enters Saturday night's race sitting 20th in the point standings. That may not sound so great, but it's been a steady climb in the right direction since an accident relegated him to a 33rd-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Plus, Almirola is most comfortable on short tracks such as Richmond, a .75-mile venue.

"I just always feel a little more comfortable when we come to any short track. It's just my background, where I came from. And our cars are good here as of late," Almirola said. "Everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports is working really hard to get our mile-and-a-half stuff a little bit better, and I need to get better for what I'm looking out of me everywhere we go. But the short-track stuff has been good, and if you go back and look at last year with AJ [Allmendinger as the driver of the 43 car], they ran really well then, too."

When it comes to Richmond, what he likes the most is the way the Goodyear tires react under his car on this particular race track.

"It wears tires out," he said. "Goodyear brings a soft tire here for us, so tires mean a lot. You can make a lot of gains on tires."

Almirola's only top-10 finish of the season was eighth at Martinsville. He also finished a respectable 12th at Phoenix. Both are short tracks.

He admitted his first season in the 43 car hasn't gone quite as well as he had hoped. But both he and crew chief Greg Erwin remain optimistic about what the future may hold.

"[Aric] has come into a good opportunity and I think he realizes that the car and the team showed last year that they can be competitive just about every week. So he knows that he's in good equipment," Erwin said recently.

"And he has put a lot of effort into learning the team, learning the guys and communicating with us and treating us all really well and becoming a team player. That means a lot and it goes a long way. So everybody's happy and everybody's looking up and I know [Aric's] excited because he's been very complimentary of the way the car has run."

That's not to say Almirola is in any way satisfied.

"The season has gone OK," Almirola said. "We have plenty of room for improvement. Our short-track program has been pretty good. We ran 12th at Phoenix and ran eighth at Martinsville, so we feel pretty good about where we are on our short-track stuff. We'd still like to be a little bit better there, and we've got a lot of room for improvement in our mile-and-a-half stuff.

"But this is a good place to get started on hopefully putting a string of good finishes together. I've got the confidence in myself and the team that we can do it."