Ford Performance NASCAR: Aric Almirola Media Teleconference

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang — YOUR OVERALL STATS AT BRISTOL ARE NOT THE GREATEST. DO YOU HAVE ANY ANGST OR IS THERE SOMETHING WE SHOULD KNOW BEYOND THE STATS FOR YOU THERE? “I really feel like the statistics at Bristol for me have been really just feast or famine. I have run really, really well at Bristol. I have led a lot of laps and have run up front in Stewart-Haas race cars and even ran really well there at RPM. I think I have a top-five there in the 43 car and a couple of top-10’s. I have run really well there but have just had silly things keep me from getting a good result. I think back in 2018 we ran up front and led laps and had a power steering failure. We have had other issues and had a really good car there this spring, arguably one of the best cars in the field and had a loose wheel and had to recover from that. Then coming back up through the field and passing a lot of cars we got caught up in a wreck on a restart. Just things have always seemed to either go really well and I have run top-five or run really well or we have had fast race cars and wrecked or not finished. The performance has always been there I feel like for me at Bristol. It is just whether or not we get the result.”

DOES THAT MAKE YOU MORE NERVOUS FOR SATURDAY NIGHT OR DO YOU HAVE CONFIDENCE? “I have a lot of confidence in how well we typically run there. I do. I have a lot of confidence going into Bristol and I feel really good about the cars that we have going there. If we get caught up in something then it just wasn’t meant to be. I feel like we will perform at a high enough level like we need to to go there and run good enough to make it in and transfer to the next round of the playoffs.”

WITH A SINGLE-DIGIT GAP CUSHION, ARE YOU PLAYING OFFENSE OR DEFENSE SATURDAY NIGHT? “We just have to go race. I think the ideal thing to do would be to win both stages in the race. Go score the most points and you don’t have to worry about it. Beyond that, it is really just about racing and scrapping and getting every point you can get in each stage and then fighting for every spot you can get in the race. Certainly once the race is happening and once you get through the first two stages, you will know kind of where you stack up points-wise. If I am sitting there running seventh, I am probably not going to stuff it in the fence trying to get to sixth if I know I have a decent gap in points back to where I need to. On the flip side of that, if we need that spot or a couple spots then you are going to be super aggressive and do whatever you can to go get those points. I think the beginning part of the race and going through the first two stages you are just going to race really hard and try to get as many points as you can get, just like everybody else is going to do. From that point forward, you will know what you need to do to close out the race.”


American Muscle

HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE HAS YOUR CREW CHIEF GIVEN YOU THIS YEAR? “Mike has been great to work with. He is a very passionate and intense crew chief and I enjoy that about him. He works really hard on the race cars and pays attention to all the details on the car and the simulation side of things. That is kind of where he came from. He had been an engineer for most of his career and then graduated to being a crew chief and a good one at that. He has been a lot of fun to work with. He is certainly fiery and competitive and I appreciate that about him. He certainly expects the most out of me as the driver and he expects the most out of our team. All the guys rally around that and we do our best to make sure that we give our best and we do that anyway but Mike expects that out of us.”

ANY LESSONS YOU LEARNED FROM THE ALL-STAR RACE THAT YOU WILL TAKE TO SATURDAY NIGHT? “I think Bristol is one of those unique race tracks that changes all the time, especially with how they apply the PJ1 on that bottom groove. In the spring race, it seemed a little different than what they did for the All-Star race. The All-Star race didn’t seem quite the same as the spring race and the bottom groove didn’t seem like it had as much PJ1 or wasn’t as wide and so a lot of the cars were a lot looser in the All-Star race it seemed like. I think a lot of the field was struggling with running the bottom. The top never really came in either. We were the only series there and our race was really short. All the runs in the open were very short runs and all the runs in the All-Star race were very short runs. It really takes a long run of 30-plus laps for that top groove to even start to come in. From lap 50-60 on in a run you see that top groove starts to become a little bit more dominant. We never got that in the All-Star race. I think a lot of things will be different, including the weather. It looks like the weather is going to be quite a bit different. The All-Star race was a pretty hot night where now it looks like it is going to be in the 50’s for the race coming up this weekend.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL THE CHOOSE RULE HAS IMPACTED THE RACES IN THE PLAYOFFS AND WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DO YOU SEE GOING FORWARD? “I think the biggest impact that is has is that now you get to kind of choose your own destiny on the restarts at least. In the past, wherever you came off pit road or wherever things kind of cycled out is where you would line up and you would see the games that were played on pit road where somebody would rather restart fourth than third so they would slam on the brakes as the end of pit road if they were third and hope that one car would pass them so they could restart fourth. Or you would be fourth and one of the guys in front of you would get a speeding penalty and it would be like, ‘Oh man, now I am going to restart third.’ Because that was not a favorable spot to be in. Now, you could be fifth or sixth in line and if nobody chooses to restart third, you can choose that and actually advance up there. If you get a good restart actually come out to the good a spot or two. It just puts things a little bit more in the drivers hands to where you are not married to that spot where you come off pit road for the lineup. If you don’t want to start on the inside, if you feel your car is struggling to take off on the bottom lane or the top lane or want a different guy pushing you or follow somebody different, you have that choice where in the past you didn’t.”

LOOKING AT THE NEXT ROUND WITH VEGAS, TALLADEGA AND THE ROVAL, WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS WITH SOME PRETTY BIG WILD CARD RACES IN THAT GROUP? “I like it. I really enjoy the excitement that this schedule has put into our playoffs. Our playoffs are already intense and exciting and from a fans perspective I just think that the way that they have set this schedule for the playoffs is incredible. I think a Saturday night short-track race at Bristol for a cut-off race? C’mon, that is awesome. Then in round two you go from the 1.5 mile at Las Vegas, a downforce track, to Talladega which is certainly exciting and a little bit of a wild card and then to the Roval. It is three distinctly different race tracks. I think it is just really awesome for the fans. From the driver standpoint, I like it too. It really sets up for that versatility and makes sure that you have to be good everywhere. You can’t just be good at your short-track program or your 1.5 mile program or superspeedway program. It all has to be good. I think that is really, when you crown a champion, what you want to identify. You want to crown somebody who has been successful at every different type of race track throughout the year. Incorporating that into the playoffs is awesome.”


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