Aric Almirola says he’s coming to NASCAR Cup series tracks and “taking a shot in the dark” on set-up because he lacks the “notebook” experience of his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates.
Almirola joined Stewart-Haas Racing as Danica Patrick’s replacement for 2018 after missing two months of the Cup season with a back injury last year.
He almost won the Daytona 500 in his first race with SHR but was tipped into a spin by eventual victor Austin Dillon on the final restart.
While teammate Kevin Harvick has won three times this season and Clint Bowyer took victory at Martinsville, Almirola is yet to do so.
Almirola says building up a notebook of how to set-up the cars and work with his team is his biggest obstacle to matching his teammates.
“I would say the biggest challenge for me is getting to know what I need out of the racecars,” he said. “Trying to gauge myself off of Kevin, Clint and Kurt [Busch] and really understanding what I’m looking for in a racecar compared to those guys.
“The thing I’ve noticed is that all four cars are fast each weekend and we all end up with a little bit different set-up and I think that’s the challenging part for Johnny Klausmeier [crew chief], myself and the engineers right now, really identifying what it is I’m looking for in the racecar and building that notebook.
“We’re showing up to a lot these tracks without a notebook of working together and so we’re kind of guessing on what we need for a setup when we arrive and throughout the weekend, and we tune and tweak on it and usually by Sunday is when we have the car at its best.
“I’m really proud of Johnny and the engineers for that. That’s a testament to how hard they’re working throughout the weekend to get us where we need to be.
“Every time we show up at the racetrack, it’s kind of a shot in the dark as far as what we need when we get there.
“I think that’s the most challenging part right now, just building that notebook and that familiarity of the cars and the setups.”