FONTANA, Calif. (Army News Service, Sept. 4, 2007) - Aric Almirola called it an excellent learning opportunity after finishing 31st in Sunday night's Nextel Cup race at California Speedway where air temperatures throughout the weekend exceeded 100 degrees.

The 23-year-old driver, who was competing in his third career Cup race and second with the 01 U.S. Army team, started the 250-lap, 500-mile event cautiously but picked up steam in the later stages of the competition.

"This was my first time on this track in a stock car and it took a while to find the right lines and feel comfortable," Mr. Almirola said. "I didn't want to do anything stupid, I just wanted to keep on improving and finish the race."

Mr. Almirola, who started the race at the back of the 43-car field due to an engine change following Friday's practice session, stayed patient throughout the event and managed to avoid a number of wrecks on the two-mile oval.

"The guys did a great job in the pits and we made a number of good adjustments to the Army Chevy," said Mr. Almirola, who is sharing the 01 Dale Earnhardt Inc. ride with veteran Mark Martin. "This wasn't an easy weekend with the extremely hot weather. But the good news for our team is that we're learning about each other. I feel we're off to a good start and I can't wait to get back in the Soldiers' car."

Mr. Almirola posted a 36th-place finish last week in Bristol, Tenn. - his first race with the 01 Army/DEI team.

"As I said before the race this is all about a learning process right now," said crew chief Ryan Pemberton. "This is a very competitive form of motorsports, and for a young driver, Aric has handled himself very well."

The 01 DEI team is 14th in owner points after 25 of the 36-race Nextel Cup schedule.

The next event for the 01 team will be Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway where Martin is slated to pilot the U.S. Army Chevrolet.