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JUL 11, 2014 | Loudon, N.H.

Almirola Enjoys A Crazy Week After An Unusual Victory


Aric Almirola raced his way into the Chase, for all intents and purposes, with a win last week in the rain-shortened race at Daytona. Almirola met with media in New Hampshire Friday afternoon and reflected on that win, what it means going forward and more.

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 43 Charter Ford Fusion -- IT HAS BEEN A COUPLE DAYS SINCE THE WIN. HAS IT SUNK IN? HOW WAS YOUR WEEK? “My week was really busy. It has sunk in. All the guys on the team are fired up. It has been a really busy week. I did all my media obligations mostly on Monday because we did a tire test in Richmond Tuesdayand Wednesday and then yesterday I did a little bit of media and started off this morning at 9 am with more media. It has been really busy but I will take that kind of busy any day. To come off a win and take all that comes along with that is really special. Our race team is really fired up, not only about the fact that we won but that there is obviously a really good shot we will be in the Chase now. We feel good about that and we are going to work our butts off for the next seven or eight weeks to get our cars the best we can and get ready for that Chase.”

ONE PRACTICE UNDER OUR BELT. HOW IS THE CAR HEADING INTO THE WEEKEND? “We fought tight pretty much since we unloaded. We got it a little better and when we switched over to qualifying trim we have been just okay. We were 19th I think in practice. All in all we just need to roll the center of the corners better but Trent has a plan for tomorrowbut it requires changing a lot of parts and pieces and we wouldn’t be able to get it done and in line for tech in time for qualifying today so he is going to come up with a new plan for tomorrow for race trim and make the best of what we’ve got for today.”

SO YOU HAD THE FLAG DELIVERED TO YOU? WHAT IS THE STORY? “So obviously I didn’t win under green-flag conditions so usually if you do you swing back by and grab the flag from the flag man at the end of the race and so I didn’t get to do that and so this morning the flag man, Rodney, brought down to my team guys the checkered flag. When I got in the race car this morning the checkered flag was sitting inside my race car. That was really cool.”

WHAT IS YOUR TEST PLAN NOW THAT YOU HAVE MADE THE CHASE? “We have another race car that we need to get into the Chase at Richard Petty Motorsports so Marcos is obviously really good at Watkins Glen so we are going the week of Indy, when we leave Indy, we will go to Watkins Glen and test that week. We want to give Marcos the best shot he can to win there because that would be unbelievable to have both of our cars – for as small of an underdog team as we are, to have the possibility of getting both our cars in the Chase is phenomenal. That is the priority on our list right now. After Watkins Glen that will be three of our tests. Our mindset going into the year was to use all four of our tests if we have to before the Chase starts because we want to get into the Chase. That is what it was about for us. We didn’t feel it would do us any good to save a couple of our tests or one of our tests for the Chase if we didn’t make it. We were going to use everything in our power to try to make the Chase. Fortunately we’ve won a race now. Hopefully Marcos can go and have a really good run at the Glen and win there or somewhere besides there. I would love for him to win here this weekend and then we don’t have to test Watkins Glen because we know he will be good there anyway. We’ve already talked about that and we have one test left after the Glen. Our philosophy is still that it doesn’t do us any good to save and hold on to those tests. We have to do everything we can to be the best in that first round of the Chase. I am assuming after talking with Trent that we are probably going to plan on testing at one of the tracks in the first three races of the Chase because it doesn’t do us any good to save a test for Homestead if we are knocked out of the Chase. That is our motto, go big or go home.”

WHERE ELSE DID YOU TEST? “Charlotte and Michigan.”

HOW COOL WAS IT TO COME UP TO YOUR CAR TODAY AND SEE THAT WINNER STICKER ABOVE YOUR DOOR? “That is really cool. When I go-kart raced at local go-kart tracks in Florida or even nationally on the WK series, when you would win a race you would get a sticker and put it on your go-kart. The coolest thing was at the end of the year to see how many stickers you could accumulate on the side panel of your go-kart. Even if you really tore up your go-kart, you always tried to save that side panel and put it on with the next body because it had all your win stickers on it. That was really cool as a kid growing up. To have this on the car is really neat and it reminds me a lot of my childhood memories of winning go-kart races. I think it is really cool.”

I HEARD YOU GOT A LOT OF TEXTS FROM FELLOW DRIVERS. ANY GUYS GIVE YOU A HARD TIME ABOUT MAKING THE WINDOW SMALLER FOR THEM TO MAKE THE CHASE? “Not really. I was really surprised when I woke up on Monday morning I had 223 text messages to respond to. All of them were very kind and everybody was really happy for me. That was really neat to wake up to that. I had quite a few voicemails and emails too. It was really neat for me to see that kind of outpouring. There are plenty of days when I have bad days at the race track that I wish I would get 200 text messages telling me to keep my head up. It was really cool to see the outpouring that we got but I don’t think anybody was upset. We all race under the same circumstances and we know that winning is a huge part of what gets you in the Chase now. I think we are still going to see a few more winners this year that haven’t won a race yet get into the Chase too. I think the spots in the Chase are going to get pretty slim for guys on points. It is going to be pretty exciting to watch these next eight races in my opinion. I think there will be a lot of people with a lot of pressure on them to get a win.”

DO YOU HAVE COMPASSION FOR THOSE GUYS? “I certainly do. We were in that same position. We had a few good runs where we had fallen out of races for whatever the circumstances were and me and Trent these last couple weeks were really sweating it. We pretty much were convinced that with the cars we had in front of us in points and where we were at, we knew we had to put all our chips in on the table because we wouldn’t make it on points where we were at. We needed to win a race and low and behold we did. Now that puts us in a whole new position. We were really concerned with where we were at in points and we were points racing all the way up until Daytona and we kept looking at the points. Every time the race is over you get on the plane and look at the points to see how many points we were out of where we needed to be to get locked into the Chase. You look at that stuff every week and are very aware of what is going on.”

WHEN YOU GET TO THE CHASE, BECAUSE THE RACES ARE DIFFERENT AND THERE ARE ELIMINATION RACES, FROM A COMPETITORS STANDPOINT ARE YOU STILL FINE WITH A HALF-WAY RULE OR SHOULD NASCAR LOOK AT GOING THE FULL DISTANCE OR THREE-QUARTERS FOR A CHASE ELIMINATION RACE? “That is a great question. I don’t know the answer to that. I think they have a lot of hoops to jump through when races get postponed and TV is a big part of that. They can’t keep pushing TV schedules back and cutting off whatever else was supposed to come on air. I know that really plays into the decision. I think that has just been the rule. The rule is when it gets to halfway and it rains and doesn’t look like they can go back racing in a timely fashion and get with their TV partners, then the race is called. I understand the circumstance at Daytona. We had already been postponed from racing Saturdaynight, so they push it to Sunday morning. We get delayed in the beginning of the race, then get back racing and every single one of us that was on the race track could see it. I think that is why the big wreck on the restart happened because everyone was pushing in shoving because we could all see from inside our race cars the back straightaway how black and dark it was and the rain coming. Our spotters and crew chiefs knew it was all around us and right on top of us but didn’t know when it was coming. We were all racing really hard past halfway to keep our track position and stay up front because we all knew the rain was coming. Those are the rules and how we all raced. I don’t know the answer to that question or how to make it fair or not fair. I know that has been the rule and that is how we race and I won and I am excited about it.”

ARE YOU REACTING TO LEBRON LEAVING MIAMI? “No, I have no reaction for that. Wherever that guy wants to take his talents he can take it. I am not a huge basketball fan. I like college basketball a lot more. College basketball seems a lot more like a team sport and the NBA seems a lot more like and individual sport.”