Almirola holds future in his hands
CONCORD, N.C. – What can a career-first Sprint Cup Series victory in the Coca-Cola 600 mean for a driver?
There are four drivers – Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and Casey Mears – in the field for today’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway whose first career win came in this race.
Three of them – Gordon, Kenseth and Labonte – have gone on to win the series championship.
Could pole-sitter Aric Almirola be the next on that star-studded list?
Almirola’s future in the series certainly won’t be decided in today’s race but a victory could set the tone for the rest of the 2012 season and the direction his career has yet to take.
“We ran some things at the All-Star Race that weren’t exactly what we were looking for, so Mike (Ford, crew chief) came back with a few things a little different and we were a lot better (this weekend),” Almirola said.
“I think the speed in our cars has always been there, it’s just about executing, and that’s the one thing Mike has really focused on is just execution – trying to get all of the little parts and pieces and things.
“Everybody is so good and our competition is so tough that if you don’t execute all the little things they’ll jump up and bite you. So, I feel like as far as speed has gone we’ve had really fast race cars, it’s just about executing.”
Almirola will be joined on the front row by his Richard Petty Motorsports teammate, Marcos Ambrose – the first time since 2010 at Kansas that RPM claimed both front-row spots.
The qualifying performance on Thursday night was another step in the development of the organization, which has shown speed and potential this season but thus far produced inconsistent results.
This is Almirola’s first season with the team, and entering this weekend he is 21st in the series standings with one top-10 finish – an eighth at Martinsville, Va.
Some were surprised about Almirola’s move to the iconic No. 43 in the offseason, but Almirola has remained confident in his ability.
“I just go out and do the best I can every week. I feel like I’m a good race car driver,” he said. “I feel like I can get the job done, and nights like (Thursday) proves that to me so much more because anytime you can get a pole in the Cup Series, that’s doing something.”