Aric Almirola Fights Through Adversity at Bristol
August 27, 2007
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Army News Service, Aug. 27, 2007) - Starting at the rear of the field plus a lack of early cautions handicapped Aric Almirola in Saturday night's Nextel Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The end result was a 36th-place finish for the 23-year-old driver, who was making his second career Cup start and his first with the U.S. Army race team.
The good news for Almirola, who will share the 01 Army ride with veteran Mark Martin, is that he gained valuable experience by finishing the 500-lap race on the daunting half-mile short track.
"It wasn't really the finish we were looking for tonight," offered Almirola. "But I was able to get plenty of seat time and turn in a lot of laps. It didn't help that we had to start in the back of the field, but we hung in there and never gave up the fight."
Almirola and the Army team went into the race with little practice time in the 01 Chevrolet. After only completing a few laps in Friday's practice, the team discovered a broken valve in the engine, which sidelined Almirola for the remainder of the session.
"I over-revved the engine and that caused the problem," said Almirola. "There was only one practice session and we never got the opportunity to work on a race setup."
Unlike previous Bristol races when the yellow flag would fly frequently, the first caution wasn't called until Lap 126.
"Without any early cautions we weren't able to make the necessary adjustments," explained Almirola. "We got lapped early and it was a struggle to keep pace. We eventually settled in and started to click off some pretty good lap times."
Adding to his frustrating Army debut was an incident with Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 car. The two machines made contact on Lap 226, causing extensive rear-end damage to the 01 Army Chevy.
"As I said, it was a tough beginning, but we still managed to finish the race and that was one of our goals," said Almirola. "It was truly an honor to drive the Soldiers' car and work with this team. The chemistry is really good and our performance will get a lot better."
Almirola is slated to drive the 01 Army Chevy in the next Cup race, Sept. 2 at California Speedway.