TALLADEGA, Ala.—Fortunately for Aric Almirola, most of the heavy lifting had already been done before NASCAR suspended his crew chief, Todd Parrot, for a violation of the sanctioning body's substance abuse program.
Parrott is especially adept at building and setting up superspeedway cars, and it showed Friday, even in his absence at Talladega Superspeedway, when Almirola's No. 43 Ford was fastest in the draft (202.000 mph) in the first NASCAR Sprint Cup practice session.
That performance earned Almirola the top starting spot for Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 500, the sixth race in the Chase, after rain forced cancellation of Saturday's qualifying session.
With Parrott out of action indefinitely, until he completes NASCAR's Road to Recovery program, Richard Petty Motorsports director of operations Sammy Johns is filling in as crew chief this weekend, but the team is seeking a longer-term solution to the unexpected problem.
"That was definitely something that caught us all off guard and something that we have had to just work with on a day-to-day basis," Almirola said. "Every day has been just a little bit different, and we're trying to work through it and do the best we can.
"We're working on a plan, and I'm sure they will announce the plan next week as to our plans for the rest of the year moving forward. We have sat down and talked about it and tried to come up with the best solution for what is best for us."
Despite Parrott's suspension, Almirola remains loyal to his crew chief.
"I'll reiterate, and I said it on Twitter, but Todd Parrott is a good person and a good crew chief and a good friend of mine," Almirola said. "I think he has a lot of support and a lot of people rallying behind him to get through this difficult time.
"That being said, we have a job to do and have to go out and race and do what is best for us. We have to figure out a plan."
By Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service