Ford Performance NASCAR: Daytona Media Day (Aric Almirola)

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Ford Fusion — HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE DUEL RACE AND NOT WANTING TO WRECK YOUR PIECE FOR THE 500? “I think for me, my mindset is to go race. You have an opportunity to go and learn how your car is going to drive and be in the draft and make sure that your competitors and everybody knows you have a fast car and your car is driving good and all those things. If it is not, then you need to know that. For us, I don’t think it is a viable option to just ride around. At the end of the day, if something bad happens, so be it. Last year, we finished dead-last in the Duel and got tangled up when Jimmie Johnson blew a tire and got caught up in that. We finished last and started last in the Daytona 500 and we were leading on the last lap and almost won the Daytona 500. It really is not about where you start, it is where you finish. I think the Duel plays a big part in that and giving you a really good idea of how your car is handling and driving. At night time conditions, which typically the Daytona 500 ends at night, so it gives you a glimpse of what to expect.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “I don’t know. I come to this race track with a really positive outlook. Growing up in Tampa and coming over here to race, I have always enjoyed driving through the tunnel and being here and being at Daytona. This is a dream come true for me. Being here, I am just always excited and fired up. I feel like that positive attitude really kind of carries over through the weekend to whatever race car I am in. I know a lot of the guys when they show up here kind of dread it and they hate restrictor plate racing and all those things but I embrace it. I like it.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “When I come to Daytona and think about the Daytona 500, I really think it is just always changing. Moves that you made in the past with a different rules package are not going to work this time. You constantly are having to adapt and evolve your driving style and the way that the draft is working and as you transition from year to year and you show up down here at Daytona, it is always new. I think that is one thing that is exciting for the fans and exciting for the drivers. There is always a new challenge. Even if the rule package stays exactly the same. There are new cars and different things are always making the draft different.”

IS THERE SOMETHING THAT STANDS OUT TO YOU, MEMORY WISE, FROM DAYTONA 500’S? “For me, last year being a mile away from winning the Daytona 500, that stands out for me. Being that close. I can literally feel it and see it and smell it and taste it. Everything you can imagine like it was there. It was right at my fingertips. Certainly that is one that comes to mind when I think about the Daytona 500, just thinking about being that close.”
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DO YOU HAVE A NEGATIVE ATTITUDE TOWARD LAST YEARS RACE? “No, I don’t. It was tough to swallow and defeat is never easy, especially in that situation right there at the last minute in the closing mile of the race. Certainly that was a tough one to swallow but I feel like everything in life happens for a reason and I feel like last year, if we would have won right out of the gate, things might have went differently for our race team. That was a har done but I really feel like it made our team grow together and kind of created a bond amongst me and my teammates and the guys on my team, my crew guys. We kind of rallied around each other and picked each other up to hold our heads high and go on to the next race and carry on, knowing that we kind of left Daytona knowing that our competitors are going to have to deal with us each and every weekend, not just here in Daytona.”

WHAT IS YOUR BIG TAKEAWAY FROM LAST SEASON? “I learned a lot going through the playoffs and going as deep into the rounds as we did and getting that close to making it to the Championship 4. I learned how hard it is. I learned how incredibly, incredibly pressure packed it is. That is something that you can’t really learn or understand until you experience it yourself. So going through that was really helpful for our race team and I think it will make us better for this year and years to come, just being able to know and understand what to expect. And understand the level of intensity and level of excellence that is needed through those playoffs to be able to keep going on from round to round and to ultimately make it to the Championship 4.”

AT THE END OF LAST YEAR, YOU HAD A RUN IN WITH JOEY LOGANO ON THE TRACK. HAVE YOU HAD TIME TO REFLECT BACK ON THAT AND WHAT YOU WERE UPSET WITH? “That was just hard racing and the emotions were just running really high. We were deep into the playoffs at Texas and everybody is trying to get everything they can. In that moment I felt like as a Ford teammate that he could have cut me some slack and that he chose not to. I was just upset in the moment. The reason that I was upset is because what happened on the racetrack didn’t meet my expectations and didn’t meet what I thought was going to happen, so because of that I was upset. We talked it out and we are fine. We are good. I am happy for him that he went on to win the championship and I am really happy for Ford and everyone there at Ford Performance. At the end of the day, it is just racing. The emotions were running really high and there was a lot of intense pressure that day. Pressure is good. If you don’t have pressure, it means you don’t have expectations and if you don’t have high expectations it means you probably won’t perform at a high level. I enjoy pressure. I welcome pressure. With that comes high expectations and with high expectations means you have the equipment, team, resources and everything that goes along with that to be successful. That is one thing I was most excited about with joining Stewart-Haas Racing, that the expectation levels were really going to rise and that the ball was going to be in my court. I knew I was with a team capable of winning races and running for championships and at this point it was up to me to gel with my teammates and adapt and go figure out how to win races.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “I lived that. I was there. And it is challenging and I am proud of what we were able to accomplish in the time that I was there. We were able to get the 43 car back to victory lane for the first time in a long, long time. I think since 1999. That was really special, right here in Daytona to take the 43 car back to victory lane and to make the playoffs and to run as well as we did. But I knew that we were always one step behind the great race teams. The great race teams just have more resources and more capability. Just everything. It really boils down to resources, money, engineering, tech support and people. I think we did a great job and had a great group of guys and people there. Richard was great to race for but Richard himself will tell you that he was so successful way back when, when it was really all about racers. As time went on, business men came in and started making it a playground. That really changed the evolution of our sport and that is when things started to change for Richard Petty himself too.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “I feel like I am going into this year just like last year. It is really about just contributing to my team and trying to do my part. Trying to not do too much. Often times, I have seen in the past with myself where I have tried too hard and tried to do too much and end up making more mistakes. End up not competing at a level that I know I am capable of just because mistakes start to happen when you put too much pressure on yourself. For me, this year is really about trying to grow from last year and continue to get better. From a race team aspect, we are still really young. I think the average age of all the crew guys and me as the driver, our average age is 32 or 33 years old. From an industry standpoint, I would say our team is probably one of the youngest in the garage area. That means we have a lot of room to grow and a lot of potential. I am excited about that but we just have to continue to focus on what we need to do to be better and what we need to do to fix our weaknesses and the things that we do really well, we need to figure out how to continue to do those things.”


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