Almirola Heads to Talladega On a Roll
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on May 2, 2013 | 9:37 A.M. EST
"When you have fast racecars and you go to the track and you execute on pit road and you do all the things you need to do it makes for good weekends." (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
Aric Almirola will be looking to record his fourth consecutive top-10 finish of the season in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Almirola and crew chief Todd Parrott continue to jell after being teamed together for the final 10 races of the 2012 season. Since then, the pair has captured five top 10s and 16 top-20 finishes.
"We picked up right where we left off. At the beginning of this year, we're getting along better than ever," said Almirola, who's the only driver to carry a three-race top-10 steak into Talladega. "The cars that Todd Parrott has been bringing to the racetrack and all these guys have been preparing back at the shop have been really fast. When you have fast racecars, go to the track, execute on pit road and do all the things you need to do, it makes for good weekends." (Audio)
During the off-season, the Richard Petty Motorsports team didn't test much as it prepared the new Gen-6 car. But during those limited sessions, the No. 43 Ford was fast including posting the top lap in January testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Now, with a fleet of cars coming together, Almirola and teammate Marcos Ambrose tested at Richmond International Raceway last month, which helped translate into an eighth-place finish for the '43' last weekend in the Toyota Owners 400. Following the Talladega race, the RPM teammates will head west to test on May 7 at Sonoma Raceway in preparation for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on June 23.
"Todd has obviously done his homework on this new car," Almirola said. "The first few races, we were a little off and we were unsure of what we needed with the new Gen-6 car. We learned more about the car and things we can do to the car to make it better and to get it to where I like it to suit my driving style. We have kind of gotten that over the last few weeks and now, we've gone from being a 12th-to-15th-place team to a sixth-to-10th-place team. (Audio)
"Our setups are drastically different from where we were at the end of last year. It’s taken us a few races to get the hang of it. We didn’t do very much testing over the winter, just because we were having a hard time getting cars built."
Almirola is off to his best start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, 11th in points after nine races. He was a career-high 10th after the third race, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but a crash at Bristol Motor Speedway dropped him to 19th. Almirola has climbed back with a 7.7 average finish in the last three races.
This weekend, he won't be back in the same car he finished 13th with in the season-opening Daytona 500.
"We weren't too happy with our car in Daytona so we came back and built a new chassis," Parrott said. "I'm very proud of the season we put together so far. If we keep putting ourselves in position for top 10s and keep improving, we'll start posting top fives and really be in contention to win each week. That's our goal. Talladega is difficult because you really don't know what you're going to get until the last few laps. We just have to give Aric a fast car and try to be in the right place at the right time at the end."
The first restrictor-plate race for the Gen-6 car saw the top lane be the preferred choice, but Almirola thinks it will be different Sunday on the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
"I could be wrong, but I really think that the inside lane will go at Talladega," Almirola said. "The corners are wider so I don't think the car will get as bound up, and you'll be able to keep up your momentum on the bottom. If you get a lane of cars down there cooperating and working together, they'll be able to go forward. We didn’t see that at Daytona. The cars on the bottom would get really bound up and then if the guys on the top side-drafted them at all, they were in big trouble.
"The top was, for sure, the place to be in Daytona. I think when it comes down to it, the top will be good at Talladega as well, as it has been in the past. I really feel like you will be able to make moves on the bottom if you get a few cars working together." (Audio)
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will air live coverage of Sunday's Aaron's 499 from Talladega Superspeedway starting at 12 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.