Ford Racing teleconference: Almirola and Moffitt

Ford Racing press release

Aric Almirola
Aric Almirola

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced today that Aric Almirola will drive the No. 43 Ford Fusion during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Almirola, along with RPM Chief Executive Officer Brian Moffitt, were part of a teleconference this afternoon to talk about the upcoming season.

ARIC ALMIROLA – No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Fusion – “I’m very, very excited about this opportunity to not only drive the historic and iconic 43 car, but to work with all the people here at Richard Petty Motorsports. I had the privilege last year of sitting on the couch on Sundays and watching the races and I saw how competitive their race cars were on a weekly basis and that was a big factor in making the decision to come over here to Richard Petty Motorsports. Their competition on the race track was very, very high and that gives me an opportunity to get in a race car that I know is very competitive, and where I’ve just got to go out and do my job and the results will come. It’s a great opportunity for me. I’m a little bit sad leaving where I left. I had a good home there with Junior Motorsports, but it was important for me to have their support to come and do this. I talked with Dale and Kelley quite a bit throughout this whole process and they supported me 100 percent. Dale said that was the main reason for him having a Nationwide team was to get guys in the Nationwide car at his shop and to give them an opportunity to go and make a career out of racing in NASCAR. For me, that’s come true. He gave me a great opportunity to go there and drive the 88 car and that’s led to this opportunity here at RPM. Like he said, if anything, it gives JRM credibility as a Nationwide team that they can take not only Brad but now myself and move them into their program and out of their program and on to a Cup ride. I’m very thankful for everything Junior Motorsports has done for me in my career and I’m excited about my new adventure here at Richard Petty Motorsports.”

HOW LONG DID THIS PROCESS TAKE? “It was pretty quick, but I’d say it’s about a year-and-a-half in the making. I got the privilege to drive here at the end of 2010 when I ran five races in the 9 car and got to work with a lot of the people here at Richard Petty Motorsports then and had a lot of fun driving that car at that time and built a relationship with Brian and Robbie Loomis and Sammy Johns and RP and Dale Inman and all those people that were involved in Richard Petty Motorsports. I’d say that had a lot to do with it. Even though this process went rather quickly this time around, I’ve had a lot of experience working with these guys already in the past, so it didn’t seem as big of a whirlwind just because of the experience I already had working with them.”

WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP DO YOU HAVE WITH MARCOS AMBROSE? “That’s actually funny. Me and Marcos actually started racing in the Truck Series at the exact same time, so we’ve been friends on and off the race track through that. We talked a lot when we were racing in the Truck Series together. I’ve watched him go on to Cup racing and have kept up with him and see him throughout the garage. I’ve always had a friendly relationship with him and I respect him a lot as a race car driver, so I’m excited to be his teammate now.”

BRIAN MOFFITT, CEO, Richard Petty Motorsports – WHAT DID YOU SEE IN BRIAN IN 2010 THAT MADE YOU LOOK AT HIM FOR THIS RIDE AND WHAT’S THE SITUATION ON SPONSORSHIP FOR THE CAR? “We saw a lot of potential in Aric and have watched him closely at Junior Motorsports throughout. Richard always said if we had an opportunity that he was somebody he would like to be in the 43. We got everybody together here at Richard Petty Motorsports – Sammy, Todd Parrott, who is still with us, and, of course, Greg Erwin, and went down the list and Aric was the top choice for us. As far as sponsorship, we will be making announcements in the coming weeks for the 43. We’re poised for a two-car operation as Richard mentioned earlier and we’re real excited about having Aric pilot the 43 for us.”

ARE YOU STILL LOOKING FOR FUNDING OR ARE YOU ALL SET? “We do have some open inventory on the car, but we will be announcing some new partners in the coming weeks.”

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUED – HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE A FULL-TIME RIDE THAT IS AS STABLE AS ANYTHING YOU’VE HAD IN THE PAST? “Like I said, this is a great opportunity for me. You take the last couple of years, I felt like a few years ago I had the opportunity to go Cup racing, but it wasn’t at this level. There were a lot of moving parts going on and it didn’t end up working out, but I went back and went Truck racing and ran very competitive in the Truck Series and won two races and finished second in the points, and then that same year was the year I got to run five races in the 9 car and ran rather well for being, quite honestly, my first time at a lot of those race tracks in a Cup car. So taking all of that and then moving that to the Nationwide deal last year with Junior Motorsports, we didn’t run as great as we wanted to, but we ran good. I think we had eight top-fives and 17 or 18 top-10s and we finished fourth in the points, so we had a respectable year, and I think taking all of that knowledge and stuff I’ve learned over the last two or three years has done nothing but make me a better race car driver. So to have the opportunity to get in as good of equipment as I’m getting in now, I’m really excited about it. I feel like I’m a way better race car driver than I am now than I was three years ago, so I feel like I’ll be able to make the most of this opportunity.”

WHAT’S THE TOUGHEST THING ABOUT ADJUSTING TO A NEW TEAM? “I’m getting pretty good at it. That’s been the thing is I have been with quite a few teams, I’ve probably been with a handful of teams, and I think the biggest thing for me is I worked with Gibbs and I worked with DEI and now I’ve worked with Junior Motorsports and Hendrick collectively, and then now with Richard Petty Motorsports and obviously their affiliation with Roush Fenway. The biggest thing for me is I’ve been fortunate to work with really high quality teams. I’ve had the opportunity that most people would beg for and I’ve been very fortunate to get those opportunities. This is another one of those. I think even you guys in the media can’t discount what Marcos and AJ did last year. They were very competitive on the race track and ran in the top 10 a lot, the top-five a lot and Marcos went to Victory Lane. Me as a 27-year-old kid that grew up racing his whole life and wants to make a career out of this and do it at the highest level in the Sprint Cup Series, this is, by far, probably the best opportunity I’ve ever had to go and succeed at it and all the while doing it driving the 43 car is pretty special.”

TAMPA TO DAYTONA IS ONLY ABOUT 130 MILES, BUT CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS HUGE LEAP? “Growing up in Tampa watching my grandfather race dirt sprint cars all around Florida and the southeast and then myself, I started racing go-karts when I was eight, so I’ve always been involved in racing. When I was racing go-karts we would go over to Daytona. Every year right after Christmas they would have kart weeks there and I would go and race my go-kart there at the municipal stadium on the dirt oval. Everytime we went we would go and watch the go-karts run on the road course over at the big track. I can remember being a little kid driving over from Tampa to Daytona the night of Christmas, because everything usually started in Daytona the day after Christmas, so usually we’d open up our presents and hang out and do whatever Christmas day and Christmas night we were driving to Daytona to go race. I remember being a kid and driving through that tunnel many a times wondering how cool it would be to get on that race track and race and not just to get on that race track and race, but to race in the Daytona 500. Now, I’ve had the opportunity to do that once already, but to have that opportunity now with a team that’s committed to run for a championship and to go and try to win races and for the Daytona 500 to be our first shot at it, and to be able to do that in the 43, I realize I make a lot of driving the 43, but, for me, it’s really special just because I remember growing up as a kid watching that and realizing how special that was to witness everything the King did in that car. So to have that opportunity is gonna be really neat to go down to Daytona and be able to race in the Daytona 500 in the 43 car.”

BRIAN MOFFITT CONTINUED -- WHAT ARE YOUR REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS YEAR? “Our expectations and what we plan on moving forward with is Top 20 and making the Chase this year. We set our goals last year with Marcos and AJ to be in the Top 20 and hopefully one of them make the Chase or Top-15 and we actually hit that goal, and we expect the same with Aric and Marcos going into this year.”

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUED – “Obviously, it’s gonna be my first year running full-time in Cup, so there will be some growing pains. I realize that I’ve got a lot of learning to do. I don’t expect to just go out there and win six races and run for the championship, but I do expect to be competitive. I do expect to run really good on a regular basis. Their equipment is very capable of that. I feel like Greg Erwin is among the best in crew chiefs, so I don’t really see any major reasons on why we shouldn’t be competitive. Obviously, being a rookie I’ll probably make my share of mistakes, but I don’t think from a sense of speed and being competitive on the race track, I don’t see any reason why we won’t be. I feel very confident that we’ll be competitive and run up front and we’ll have some weekends that are great and some weekends that are just okay, but, at the end of the day, I feel like on a regular basis we should run competitively and wherever that shakes out I’d love for it to be in the Top 15 and have a shot at making the Chase, but the reality is that it is my first year and if I go out there and run competitive and run in the Top Five and do the things that I need to do as a driver and take care of my race car and I’m there at the end of the races, the points will take care of themselves. I can’t really control that, so if I run good and finish good, the results are gonna show for that. If I finish bad every weekend and crash and stuff, then I’m obviously not gonna be where I want to be in the points, but if I drive these cars the way they’re capable of running and finish where I feel like we’re capable of finishing as a race team, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be competitive and finish decent in the point standings. Like Brian said, Top 20, Top 15, and maybe even having a shot at getting in the Chase.”

HOW IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH RICHARD PETTY? “Richard is obviously always around the garage area, so I’ve seen him around the garage a lot. He’s always been very friendly to me. He’s always stopped and shook my hand and talked to me. My wife actually worked at Richard Petty Motorsports at one time, so I got to spend some time with him at that time and also with Brian and a lot of the people here at RPM, so I feel like over the last several years I’ve known Richard. I’ve been over to his motorhome a time or two and sat down and had discussions with him and when I got the opportunity to drive that 9 car for those five races he was always around and would always lend a hand as far as advice or tell me what he was thinking and also just being there helping out whatever way he can help out. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him as a car owner and obviously as a driver. He’s won over 200 races, so I have a lot of respect for any input that he has to give.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO GET TO THIS POSITION AFTER BEING IN AN EARLY DIVERSITY DRIVER PROGRAM? “It means a lot. And I say that honestly. It means a lot to me. I was just home for Christmas and got to see all my family and when I was over with my dad went and saw my grandparents on my dad’s side of the family and they are the family that came over from Cuba in ’66 on the freedom flights. When I was younger I didn’t really appreciate it. I didn’t really think it meant anything, but the older that I’ve gotten and to now pay my own bills and now that I’m married and possibly thinking about having a family, I understand a lot better what they went through when they gave up everything they had. They gave up their house, their cars. My grandmother gave up her wedding ring. They gave everything back to the Cuban government to come to America and to live the ‘American Dream’ and to create a better life not only for themselves, but for their family. So I get to be living proof of that. I get to drive a race car for a living, so that means a lot to me – coming from where my family has come from and the sacrifices that they have made to get to the U.S., to create a better life for themselves and their family, and then for me to be able to live out that dream that they had in 1966 when they decided to give everything back to the Cuban government, that means a lot to me. Like I said, I took that for granted when I was a kid growing up. I didn’t really think anything of it, but the older I get the more that sinks in and I realize what a huge sacrifice that was to leave everything that they knew to come here to America and start over.”

WILL YOU RUN ANY NATIONWIDE OR TRUCK RACES? “As of right now my sole focus is to strictly run that 43 Cup car and do the best job I can in that, so the answer to that would be ‘no’.

HOW WILL YOUR WORKOUT AND CONDITIONING CHANGE BASED ON THIS NEW RIDE WHERE THE RACES ARE LONGER? “Honestly, I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in my whole life. Last year, being a part of Junior Motorsports, I worked out with the strength and conditioning coach at Hendrick Motorsports, so I’m gonna have to find a different plan now, but I worked out with a strength and conditioning coach down there, and I got a road bike and I’ve been riding my road bike two to three days a week and I run quite often, so I feel like I’m in the best shape that I’ve ever been in, and I stay in shape for me. I stay in shape because I want to be healthy and because I want to live a longer life and I think that will help me. And I feel better when I’m healthy, but I think Tony Stewart is a proven example that you don’t have to be in the best shape in the whole wide world to win races and win a championship, so I don’t think that’s gonna be a key factor. I realize that the races are longer and the season is longer, but being in shape is something that I do for me and I just enjoy working out, and I enjoy riding my road bike and stuff like that.”

DO YOU HAVE A TARGET DISTANCE OR WEIGHT THAT YOU LIFT? “Last year was probably my best year in the weight room. I worked out with weights three days a week and I did cardio either two or three days a week, plus the day in the race car I count as a cardio day, so I was doing cardio three days a week solidly and lifting weights three days a week solidly. Last year, I thought I was doing pretty well. I raised my bench max to the highest that I ever had. I think I benched 255 one time, which I only weigh 165 pounds, so they say that if you can bench your body weight that’s good, so I did a little bit more than my body weight, and I squatted 320, so from a workout standpoint I got a lot stronger last year than I ever have been. I put on five pounds. I was 165 pounds at the beginning of last year and I’m up to like 171 right now, and my body fat has stayed very similar to what it was going into last season, so that’s just six pounds of muscle. Basically, I’m a lean mean fighting machine (laughing).”

HOW MUCH PRESSURE IS THERE TO PERFORM RIGHT AWAY? “How many race car drivers have you ever asked that question to and any of them gave you the answer, ‘No, I don’t really feel that much pressure to perform.’ I’ve always put more pressure on myself than anybody else has ever put on me. I’m a very, very competitive person. I don’t like to lose a board game against my wife. I don’t like to lose playing cards and I don’t like to lose on the race track. My competitive spirit comes out when I’m on the race track and I don’t like to underperform by any means, so I put more pressure on myself than anybody else can put on me, so from that standpoint, I don’t feel like anybody at RPM or anybody else is putting any pressure on me to go out and do something that I don’t already put pressure on myself to go and do.”

EVEN THOUGH YOU WERE SET FOR THE YEAR, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN ALL THESE CUP RIDES CAME OPEN SO LATE? “I was content. I thought going into this year that over at Junior Motorsport after the year we had last year that we would be able to win some races and contend for a championship, but when this opportunity came up, like Brian said, they sat down here at RPM and thought of their list of drivers they were potentially looking at and my name was at the top of the list, so when they called I was dealt a dilemma to stay where I was at, where I was comfortable and where I felt like I had a home, or to take a chance and go and make a career in the Cup Series. Every race car driver, if they tell you differently, they’re lying to you, every race car driver wants to race in the Cup Series. That’s just the fact of the matter. Nobody wants to compete at a lower level. Everybody wants to compete at the highest level that they can possibly compete at and I’m the same way, I’m no different. I got offered the opportunity to compete at the highest level in NASCAR with a great team that has very competitive equipment, so that made the decision a lot easier. Obviously, there are probably opportunities out there that I would have gladly stayed at Junior Motorsports, but this opportunity with this competitive equipment and this group of people was too hard to turn down.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags almirola, brian moffitt, ford, richard petty, rpm