Ford Performance NASCAR: Daytona 2 Friday Press Conferences (Aric Almirola)

Ford Performance NSCS Notes & Quotes:
Coke Zero 400/Firecracker 250 – Daytona International Speedway
NSCS/NXS Friday Press Conferences
Friday, July 3, 2015

Aric Almirola piloted the famed No. 43 Ford Fusion into victory lane one year ago here at Daytona International Speedway, his first career Sprint Cup victory. Almirola met with media members prior to opening practice sessions for the Firecracker 400 race weekend to discuss last year and his prospects to put the 43 back in victory lane.

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion – YOU JUST FINISHED A BIG ANOUNCEMENT ON PIT ROAD, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT AND TELL US WHAT HAPPENED. “Today, in partnership with Smithfield Foods and NASCAR and their diversity program we donated 43,000 pounds of Smithfield protein to Second Harvest Food Bank. We do that all across the country. It is always special to do that but a little more special for me when I get to do it here in central Florida. I feel I have the opportunity to give back to people that I once called neighbors. One in five families is affected by hunger. It is a very real situation and very real need. To have that opportunity to come back and give back to communities and people, especially here in central Florida is really special for me. To have children of my own, like Alex here, I can’t imagine what those families go through that don’t know when or where they are going to get their next meal from. To have that opportunity to come on behalf of Smithfield and donate 43,000 pounds of protein is awesome. To be able to feed people is a really cool thing and it is something that I take a lot of pride in and Smithfield takes a lot of pride in and I know NASCAR does as well. It has been fun to do that stuff all across the country and I always enjoy it. This weekend, obviously coming off a year ago winning here in Daytona is even more special.”

LAST YEAR AT THIS RACETRACK YOU DROVE THE 43 CAR TO VICTORY LANE. HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT YOU CAN GET BACK THERE THIS YEAR? “I feel good about it. Every time you come to Daytona and Talladega you feel you have a 1 in 43 shot of winning and a 1 on 43 shot of ending upside down. It can go either way. That is how this racing goes. We brought the same car back and it has had some updates aerodynamically but we feel good about it. It is the same car we had at Talladega and we ran really well there and was up front a lot of the race. I felt good about the way it drafted there. We will see. Having the race under the lights here Sunday night will be really cool. Having NBC back as our broadcast sponsor is really exciting and I can’t wait to get the race started. I know we have some practice left to do this weekend but I feel really good about our chances and I would love nothing more than to put that 43 car back into victory lane and write our ticket for the Chase again.”

 

YOU ARE 15TH IN POINTS AND COULD POTENTIALLY MAKE THE CHASE ON POINTS. DO YOU APPROACH THIS RACE IN POINTS PROTECTION MODE OR TRYING TO GET A WIN? “To be honest with you we are in a different situation then we were in last year. Last year I think we were 23rd in points at this time and really making the Chase on points wasn’t a real option for us. We could be a lot more aggressive and didn’t have anything to lose where this year we do. We have to be mindful of that and can’t just throw caution to the wind and just go and be extremely aggressive and just whatever happens, happens. We have to be more methodical about it and need to take calculate risks for sure but at the same time here at Daytona anything can happen. You can be minding your own business and end up in a wreck not of your doing. You can be over aggressive and cause a wreck. For us, it is about making it to close to the end and then going and racing for it. What we can’t do is wreck on lap five. That is something that we have to be very cautious of. I think when it comes down to it, we have to go race. There is only so much you can play defense before you have to start playing offense too. We will go out and try to get a win and then we won’t have to worry about our points situation.”

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF CHANGEOVER AT RPM AND SHUFFLING OF PIECES. ARE YOU GUYS SATISFIED AT RPM WITH HOW THINGS HAVE GONE THIS YEAR? “I think we have done a lot better job this year at being consistent, at least for the 43 team. Minus a few hiccups here and there we have consistently been a top-15 race car. It doesn’t matter what kind of track we are on, even a road course like Sonoma last week, we have been a top-15 car and have run in the top-15. I have been extremely proud of the consistency we have had this year. We haven’t had the sheer speed that we need and we know that. We are not oblivious to that. The guys have been working really hard. We took this winter and moved into a shop that is twice the size of the old shop we were in and took over hanging our own bodies and a lot more of our quality control is in our hands now. We used to depend on Roush for everything. They would give us a car, we would basically assemble it and go race it. Now we have a lot more control in our hands. It is a lot more up to us and I think that has made us a lot more consistent of a race team. We have been able to understand the aero balance about our race cars and the mechanical issues we have with our race cars and that has made us better. It is certainly a work in progress to get where we need to be on the speed. Today can we go race at any race track and race in the top-five or for wins, no. But I feel like we are certainly working toward that. We have to consistently run somewhere to kind of set a bar to progress from there and I feel like we have set our bar around top-15 and that has been a realistic spot for us. We have been able to run top-15 everywhere so we have to continue to make those steps and get our program better so we can consistently run top-10 and then top-five before we worry about winning races.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE LAST YEAR TO DRIVE THE 43 INTO VICTORY LANE? “It was unbelievable. I said that from the beginning of starting at Richard Petty Motorsports in 2012. I said that I wanted to be the guy that got the 43 car back to victory lane. I knew there had been quite a few drivers between me and John Andretti in 1999 that had driven the car. I wanted to be the guy that ended the drought and got the 43 car back to victory lane. That part was very special. It was really cool to see the gratitude and excitement on Richards face when I saw him when I got back to North Carolina after winning down here. There has been a lot of cool things that have come about because I won down here in the 43 car at Daytona on Fourth of July weekend, 30 years to the weekend that Richard won his 200th. There were a lot of special things but for me selfishly it was just cool that I won my first Cup race. The fact that I won my first Cup race and did it right here in Daytona, a place that is really special to me growing up in Tampa, I couldn’t have scripted it any better. Now we have one win out of the way and we have a lot more to go hopefully.”

THERE IS A BILLBOARD ON I-95 WITH YOUR FACE ON IT. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU HAVING GROWN UP HERE IN FLORIDA TO SEE YOUR FACE ON A BILLBOARD NOW? “To be honest I haven’t seen it in person yet. I saw the renderings for it when they were getting ready to put it out. It is neat. When I was a kid and I dreamed about racing, I just wanted to drive race cars because that is what I loved to do. I never thought about the fame or stardom that comes with it. I never thought my face would be on a billboard on the side of I-95. I just wanted to drive race cars. That is all I ever wanted to do. The fact that all of that comes along with it is great but I am still not overly eager to be famous or be a superstar. I just want to drive race cars and I want to win races and I am a fierce competitor so having a billboard on I-95 is just kind of a bonus I guess.”

YOU ARE BACK IN THE XFINITY CAR THIS WEEKEND. HOW BENEFICIAL HAS THAT BEEN FOR YOU? “I think especially at a place like here at Daytona and Talladega, when we come here in February we do a lot of single car runs. We are in the race car a lot. So you have a week and a half to kind of work the nerves out. You race the duels and do all that and by the time the Daytona 500 comes you are ready to race. ON all these other weekends you kind of get amped up and excited about the race on Sunday and so for me to race the XFINITY race really helps to kind of understand what the race track did from the time we got off in Happy Hour with the Cup car and how the race track changed throughout the XFINITY race. Otherwise you just guess at it. The other teams have XFINITY cars on the race track so they can go and talk to their teams and understand how the track changed and get better prepared for the race on Sunday but we don’t have that luxury. To have this partnership and be able to run on Saturday is a really great opportunity for me to understand how the race track changes but also to get a race under my belt and it helps you sleep better at night because you are wore out from racing and helps you not be so amped up about racing because you just got done with a race. It is really calming for me for Saturday night to be able to race the XFINITY car. I always enjoy it to have good equipment, it isn’t the best equipment but it is really good equipment. We have had some really close chances to win races. Here at Daytona in February we were third crossing the white flag and cut a tire down and Talladega we ran in the top-three pretty much the entire race. We have had a really good superspeedway car and their 1.5 mile and intermediate program has been getting better and better too. It doesn’t really matter to me if I get in that car and win or run 10th. I think it helps me dramatically for Sunday’s race.”



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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