Fontana II: Aric Almirola preview

A Year Later, Almirola has Different Outlook for California Race FONTANA, Calif. (Aug. 26, 2008) -- This weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway will mark the second time that Aric Almirola will compete in a stock car at the...

A Year Later, Almirola has Different Outlook for California Race

FONTANA, Calif. (Aug. 26, 2008) -- This weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway will mark the second time that Aric Almirola will compete in a stock car at the 2-mile oval in Southern California. Unlike his first time one year ago, the 24-year-old driver is entering the race with a high degree of confidence.

For starters, Almirola is coming off a strong performance at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he ran in the top 10 for a good portion of Saturday night's race before a late pit-road mishap relegated him to a 13th-place finish.

Along with the Bristol result, Almirola says he is gaining confidence each time he drives the No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc.

"Last year was kind of like a blur," recalled Almirola. "So many things were happening so fast. I was just getting acclimated to Cup racing and my association with DEI. The confidence level is definitely a lot higher right now."

When Almirola arrived in California last year, he had only made two Cup starts in his career and had only been affiliated with DEI for one month. He posted a 31st-place result in his debut at the California track after starting at the rear of the 43-car field due to a prerace engine change.

Fifty-two weeks later, the mindset has taken a 180-degree turn for Almirola, who shares the No. 8 Army ride with veteran Mark Martin.

"We have a great team chemistry and we all work well together," offered Almirola. "Tony (Gibson, crew chief) has done an outstanding job in making this team competitive week in and week out. I just want to go out there and run as hard as I can and make our brave soldiers proud of their car."

Gibson, who has watched Almirola mature into a competitive Cup driver, has only high marks for the rookie driver.

"As far as I'm concerned Aric has graduated with flying colors to the Cup level," said Gibson. "This kid knows how to drive a racecar and he has a great future."

Sunday night's race at Auto Club Speedway will mark Almirola's eighth Cup start of the season and the 14th of his career.

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Aric Almirola , Mark Martin