Good Start for Almirola and Ford

Aric Almirola

Almirola topped both practice sessions on Friday. (Photo: Getty Images)

The combination of Aric Almirola and new crew chief Mike Ford has gotten off on the right foot this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

In their first weekend working together since Ford was named as replacement for former Richard Petty Motorsports crew chief Greg Erwin, the duo is feeling very comfortable.

Almirola promptly went out and led the opening weekend practice session for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 and is looking very forward to the opportunity to further his progress with Ford now on the pit box.

“Yeah, I am excited to add Mike to our race team,” said Almirola. “It is going to be really good for me to have Mike’s experience come on board. He has a whole new fresh set of ideas and a lot of experience to help me. I know I’ve run quite a few Cup races but I am still relatively new at this.”

“This is my first full time season so to have the experience and leadership of Mike on board will be really good. Not just for the 43 team but for Richard Petty Motorsports as a whole. I think what Mike brings to the table will be really great for our race team and I am looking forward to getting going with him this weekend.”

Ford has been on the sidelines since he parted ways with Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of last season. While the former Denny Hamlin crew chief was anxious to get back into the Sprint Cup Series garage, he didn’t want to make a wrong move and jump into a situation not to his liking.

He feels he’s found that right opportunity at RPM and working with Almirola. And as a bonus, Ford believes kicking things off at Talladega is just icing on the cake.

“I think you couldn’t ask for a better place to come back,” Ford said. “Looking back to Daytona, all the Fords ran really strong there and that package is pretty buttoned up.”

So Ford has a bit more time to ease his way into the organization with the previous knowledge and information the team gathered at Daytona.

“Like Aric said, I came into the shop Monday morning and had been in meetings all week trying to get up to speed on planning and moving forward,” he said. “I am pretty much, to this point, I will work practices and the race because obviously I am here to do that, but to this point on the preparation I haven’t had any true influence yet.”

But Almirola is confident Ford will have plenty of influence as the pair spend more time working together.

Almirola points to Ford’s past successes as well as his work with young drivers as one of the main reasons he’s excited for what lies ahead.

“To bring Mike in, who has had success with Dale Jarrett and Bill Elliott before Denny Hamlin, then to go work with Denny the last few years and have that success there,” said Almirola. “To come in and play that mentor role like he did with Denny, that is something I am looking forward to with Mike. To have someone that can talk to me on the radio and kind of teach me along the way and mentor me and tell me what he wants and what he wants to do and make decisions and stuff like that.

“From the leadership standpoint, I think Mike is going to be a huge asset and I think I am looking forward to that. I am looking forward to being the guy that gets to drive the race car and let Mike tell me what to do.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Aric Almirola

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