With a new team and fresh start, Aric Almirola’s spark is back and blazing in 2018.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver likened his season so far to a different spark stemming from a high school experience on Wednesday.
“It’s honestly like when you’re dating a girl in high school and things just don’t progress and then you make that change and you got a new girlfriend and that’s all you can think about,” he told NASCAR.com. “You go to bed thinking about it, you wake up in the morning thinking about it, it consumes you and that’s kind of the place I’m in right now.”
That place is a good one in which to be. Almirola is the only driver in 2018 to finish all five races in the top 13. This weekend’s race marks a milestone for Almirola; it will be his 250th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start. His No. 10 Ford currently ranks 10th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings heading into Monday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway (2 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“I think it’s really just a confidence booster,” he said of his strong early runs. “It … motivates us even more and gets us more excited about the rest of the season because we’re off to such good start with a relatively new and inexperienced team working together. So, as we build a notebook and as we get more comfortable with each other and as (crew chief) Johnny (Klausmeier) and the engineers start to develop trends that I like in the race car, I feel like we’ll start unloading at the race track with more speed and the cars will be more comfortable and it will help our whole weekend just go more smoothly.”
The 34-year-old started this season with a blank notebook, one that he and his team slowly fill each week that they visit the race track. A new beginning in a series that he has competed in full time for six years has left him rejuvenated and he wakes up excited every morning with the opportunity of a clean slate and the promising speed of Stewart-Haas Racing Fords.
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It’s almost like he’s a rookie again.
“The first few years (in the Monster Energy Series) we progressed and got better and we won a race and I was very excited,” Almirola said. “We made the Playoffs and things were continuing to get better.
“And then all of a sudden, things leveled off and they leveled off for a few years and whether that was my fault or the team’s fault or whatever, it doesn’t matter; the reality was that things continued to stay the same. And that when happened, I feel like either you’re growing or you’re dying … It sort of took the wind out of my sails after a while – and same for the team, also. So that’s why change was somewhat inevitable …
“Now for to have this opportunity with such an incredible organization like Stewart-Haas Racing, it’s re-energized me and made me feel like a rookie again. You get all that newness and that excitement.
“I’m putting in so much effort and so much focus because I feel like this is the opportunity for me to either go make it or go home, and I want to make it.”