ARIC ALMIROLA SHINES AT INDIANAPOLIS RACEWAY PARK In Just Second Start in No. 47 Home Depot Silverado, Tampa, FL Native Cracks Top-10 Clermont, IN -- When hours of rain cancelled scheduled practice and qualifying for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck...
ARIC ALMIROLA SHINES AT INDIANAPOLIS RACEWAY PARK
In Just Second Start in No. 47 Home Depot Silverado, Tampa, FL Native Cracks Top-10
Clermont, IN -- When hours of rain cancelled scheduled practice and qualifying for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Indianapolis Raceway Park, there was a look of apprehension on the face of 21-year old Aric Almirola.
The second-year driver from Joe Gibbs Racing's diversity racing team prepared to make his second attempt at qualifying the No. 47 Home Depot Silverado fielded by Morgan-Dollar Motorsports, butthe only laps Almirola had around the very tricky short track were from a one-day test session the previous week that was also interrupted by rain.
The decision came to set the 36-truck starting field by conditions outlined in the 2005 NCTS rulebook and to begin drying the track for a one-hour practice session for the starting field to work on their race setups. Series' provisions give guaranteed starting positions to the first 30 in current NCTS team owner points followed by trucks meeting additional established criteria. The formula landed Almirola in the field, starting 31st, on the inside of the 16th row.
During the short practice time, Almirola and the Randy Goss-led team fought a tight condition in the No. 47 Silverado. Following the practice, which ended just one and a half hours before race time, the team rolled the dice and made several big changes in an attempt to have the truck where they felt they needed it to give Almirola a good handling and adjustable truck for the race.
The gamble paid off as Almirola started moving forward from virtually the drop of the green flag. Carefully setting up passes on one truck at a time; the young driver worked his way into the top-20 by lap 50 of the 200-lap/137.2 mile Power Stroke Diesel 200.
With only five caution flags to bunch the field, Almirola had to gain every position the hard way, under long green flag runs. By the 150th circuit, the Joe Gibbs Racing Diversity Program driver had worked his way to 14th position.
As the last 50 laps wound down, Almirola continued to move through the competition as well as maneuver around lapped traffic. The closer to the top-10 he got, the tougher the competition but Almirola was determined and kept his focus on each truck in front of him, working on them until the right opportunity came to make a clean pass.
"It was awesome," said Almirola. "Randy (Goss, crew chief) and the guys worked really hard to get our Home Depot Silverado right. We had a terrible truck in practice and nothing we did made it any better. The guys changed about five things before the race and it was awesome. We got hung up in traffic a little bit and Dennis (Setzer) got by us and we got a lap down. But we had a really good truck, a really really good truck. Track position would have helped us out tonight but I am happy. It feels so good. I had a blast."
Goss was equally as pleased with Almirola's performance.
"Aric is a great young talent," said the veteran crew chief. "He worked his way through the field with tremendous patience and kept his focus throughout the entire race. It was a great race for him and all the guys on this No. 47 team. I couldn't be happier.
Almirola has spent the past two seasons as a member of the Reggie White/Joe Gibbs Racing Diversity Program racking up wins and top-five finishes in a late model at short tracks all over North Carolina.
JGR's diversity program traces it roots back to May of 2003. In partnership with the late Reggie White, a Hall of Fame defensive end who played in the National Football League, JGR formed the diversity program to create a grassroots stock car team that would identify and assist minorities with the desire and talent to make a career in motorsports. In January of 2004 the diversity program became reality, thanks in large part to the support of JGR's sponsors, most notably, The Home Depot and MBNA -- the team's primary sponsors, and Rockwell Automation and Cintas -- the team's associate sponsors