What a Difference a Year Makes for Dale Earnhardt Inc. Rookie Driver Aric Almirola 24-year-old driver poised to take over No. 8 ride full-time in 2009 MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 27, 2008) -- A year ago Dale Earnhardt Inc. rookie driver Aric ...
What a Difference a Year Makes for Dale Earnhardt Inc. Rookie Driver Aric Almirola
24-year-old driver poised to take over No. 8 ride full-time in 2009
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 27, 2008) -- A year ago Dale Earnhardt Inc. rookie driver Aric Almirola made his Sprint Cup debut for DEI in the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The debut would prove to be a long night for the 24-year old driver, who endured his share of bangs and bumps en route to a 36th-place finish.
One year later, Almirola left the same event at Bristol's chaotic .533-mile track disappointed with a solid 13th-place finish. A scenario that might have seemed far fetched for the young driver a year ago.
"I guess it says a lot about how much ground we have gained in a short time and in just a few races," said Almirola, who has started in 11 Sprint Cup events since his DEI debut last fall. "We have a great group of guys to work with on this team and (crew chief) Tony Gibson and all the guys on this team have put me in great car every time I've driven."
"We had a really good car last week at Bristol," added Almirola, who started the race 23rd but powered his way all the way to seventh position, before a late mishap in the pits dropped him out of the top 10. "A lot better than our finished showed. We had moved up inside the top 10 and had a shot for a really good finish. I guess if you had of told me last year we'd be disappointed with a 13th-place finish, I would have thought that was pretty good."
Almirola returned to Bristol in March and silenced his critics with a strong eighth-place run at a short track built for temper and excitement and went back last week looking to back that up with another top-10 finish.
"We went back with the No. 8 guys in the spring and had a great run," said Almirola. "The car was really good there in the spring and obviously the track time helps. It was a great confidence builder to go there and run up front and prove that I could race with these guys in this series."
Now Almirola is poised to take over the No. 8 Dale Earnhardt ride full time next season, after sharing the ride the previous two years with veteran Mark Martin.
"It's a great opportunity," said Almirola. "I've really enjoyed working with Mark the past two seasons. He has been a great teacher and mentor, but I feel like I'm ready to go out and compete each week. I'm really excited about the opportunity to do that next season. I still have five more races this year and at some tracks where we have a chance to be really strong, so I'm just going to try and learn all I can before I get in the car full-time next year."
This weekend Almirola will make his second career-start at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where he finished 31st last season. He and the team will be looking to improve upon that finish, while building on the momentum of last week's race at Bristol.