Ford Performance NASCAR: Las Vegas Media Day (Aric Almirola)

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Thursday, September 12, 2019


ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Ford Mustang

American Muscle

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO MAKE SURE IT DOESN’T COME DOWN TO PHOENIX THAT DETERMINES YOUR FATE AGAIN THIS YEAR? “I think last year we were really close to winning that race and being able to advance. Looking forward to this playoffs, it really is just about worrying about one week at a time. You can’t get too far ahead of yourself or worry about Phoenix. You have to run all of the races before you get there. I think we have got a great opportunity in front of us and we have to go out and maximize that opportunity and that means being at our best every single weekend.”

VEGAS HAS YOU PEGGED AS A LONG SHOT. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE THAT WANT TO TAKE A RISK AND GAMBLE ON YOU? “I would say that we have been in this position before. We were under the radar and an underdog last year going into the playoffs and I don’t think anybody would have picked us to be so close to making it to that final four and going to have a shot to run for the championship. We ended up finishing fifth in the points. Yeah, I am good with flying under the radar. It takes a little of the attention off me and my race team and we can go just do our job.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY RESIDUAL EFFECTS FROM YOUR ACCIDENT AT KANSAS? “Zero. I broke my back in that wreck at Kansas but was able to come back from that seven weeks later and get back in the race car and have had no side effects or anything from that. My body was able to heal up nicely and I had a lot of help from a lot of rehab and physical therapy. Once I got back to 100% I have been that way ever since.”

WHAT DO YOU DO ON SUCH A HOT RACE WEEKEND LIKE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE? “It is really a year worth of workouts and routine. On hot weekends like this, that is when it really pays off. If it is 65 degrees out I feel like everybody inside their race cars can manage that. We are all professionals. But when you get into these extreme elements like this weekend when it will be 102-degrees, that level of fitness and being able to adapt and not being completely worn out helps keep you a little more focused when you are really dying inside the race car.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “I think there is still more work to do. It never stops. That is the beautiful thing and crazy thing about our sport. The evolution and amount of work that everybody and all the different race teams put in to being at their best never stops. For us, yeah, it is more of the same. We are going to continue to push really hard and find more speed in our cars and get them to where they not only go fast but they drive good. That has been the biggest challenge this year. You can make your car go fast but you will pay a penalty in how it drives. You can make your car drive good but you will pay a penalty with how fast it goes. Finding the balance has been the key and we are doing a good job with that at Stewart-Haas Racing as of late at getting the cars into race winning condition.”

WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE 10 TEAM SITS GOING INTO THE PLAYOFFS? “I feel like the beginning part of the year we were disappointed when we were running top-10 and top-five. We knew we had more. Then we just got off and we have had things not go our way from bad luck to being caught up in wrecks to a driver not doing his part and miscues on my part and miscues on pit road. Just not firing on all cylinders and we have got to get back in our 10 team ways. When we are at our best we do everything really well. I feel like if we can get back to that, which I feel confident we will be able to here to start the playoffs. Last year we were able to do the same thing. Last year the playoffs started and we came out of the box with our head down and really maximizing our weekends. If we can do that again we will be fine. It has been disappointing leading into the playoffs but the beauty of the playoffs is that those last 26 races don’t matter anymore.”

WHAT PLAYS INTO WHERE SOME TEAMS ARE BETTER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR THAN AT THE END? “I think it is just happenstance. Last year Harvick started out the year on fire, so I think it is cyclical and year to year and team to team. There is a lot that goes into our sport. There is a lot of luck, a lot of human elements and a lot of different things. There are so many variables. To have all those variables line up perfectly to be abel to go win doesn’t happen every weekend. You see teams like the 18 team get off to such a great start at the beginning of the year and then they have gone kind of cold actually. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a great team and Kyle isn’t a great driver, it just means things haven’t been clicking. Same for us. We are a very good race team and I feel like we fly under the radar a lot which is fine but at any moment we can break out and we did that last year. We can contend and compete to win races and make a run at these playoffs.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “I think the biggest difference as you go through the rounds, especially for a team like ourselves, it becomes less about points and more about winning. The first round if you just look at the points now, there are a lot of cars within just a few points and you can make up that points difference. When you get into the third round, the teams that are still in those rounds are usually the teams that have a bunch of bonus points. Those bonus points make a big difference when you get to those rounds. You aren’t going to just out point those teams by 40 points because they are too good. You aren’t going to outrun those teams by 10 positions three weeks in a row. You just aren’t going to do it. It puts the pressure on you to have to win to advance to the next round.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “You do but you still find a way to take it to a whole other level. Every week you go and the mentality is to go try to win but in the back of your mind you want to win but if you have a 10th place car you also want to run top-10 with that car. When you get into that third round of the playoffs you want to win and if you have a 10th place car you want to win with it. Plain and simple. It changes strategy and it changes how aggressive you are on restarts and so I feel like for most of the year you try to win but at the same time you try to not lose. When you get to the playoffs you don’t really care if you lose because winning is all that really matters.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “We were in the final few laps of the race inside 10 laps to go on a late restart and we had been leading the race and in a position to win and through some pit strategy and stuff we got back. We needed to make a bold move there to try to get back to the lead to win the race. We felt like in that second round that we needed to win to make it to the next round. It didn’t work out at Dover but it did the very next week at Talladega.”

RYAN NEWMAN SAID HE THINKS THE FIRST ROUND IS THE MOST DIFFICULT? IS THAT BASED ON WHERE YOU ARE IN POINTS? WHAT GOES INTO THAT BEING THE HARDEST ROUND? “I think it is the most difficult because there are the most cars. As it gets slimmer and slimmer in the car count and you start taking four cars away, you have fewer cars to worry about. You aren’t racing as many cars so you aren’t trying to out point or beat as many cars heads up. When you have 16 cars and all 16 are very competitive and can all race each other and take points away from each other and all those things it is difficult. Then on top of that the race tracks and how they stack up. Las Vegas, Richmond and the Roval. Those are some really challenging race tracks and very different race tracks. Quite honestly, we haven’t been on a 1.5 mile race track in a couple of months. So all these race teams have been working really hard on their 1.5 mile program to get where they think they need to be and Vegas is the test and we will all find out where we stack up.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “It would be huge. That is what we all strive for, to be a champion of the sport. A sport that I love and have grown up admiring and want to be a part of. To be crowned a champion would mean a lot. It gives you some sort of sense of accomplishment. I have worked my whole life for this. I grew up going to race tracks and started racing go karts when I was eight years-old and put in a lot of long hours and slept on a creeper under the race car many times chasing this dream. To be crowned a champion would be a big deal.”

CAN YOU DO IT THIS YEAR? “I think we can.”

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