Originally written on Start 'N' Park Blog  |  Last updated 11/19/14
Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Farmland Ford Fusion, sits 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after finishing 13th at Daytona and 15th at Phoenix in the first two races of the season. Almirola visited the Las Vegas Motor Speedway infield media center to talk about the start to his season during a break in testing before this weekend’s event.  WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR GOOD START TO THIS YEAR? “I think I can first attribute it to Todd Parrott and all the guys on this 43 team. The core group of guys is the same from last year that we ran so well the last 10 races with, so going into this year I was more excited than ever about just showing up to the race track because I knew I was gonna be competitive based on how we finished last year. Every year you always get excited about going back to race. I’m a racer. That’s what I love to do, but this year I was excited about the opportunity I had ahead of me. We’ve gotten off to a good start and proven that all of my expectations were correct and the big thing we wanted to focus on this year was to not dig ourselves a hole at the beginning. That’s easy to do and hard to stay away from at Daytona as far as getting in a wreck or something like that, so Daytona was good. We got out of there with a solid finish. We felt like we were in good position there at the end of the race and got shuffled out and then worked our way back up and got a good finish out of it, so I’m excited to get off to a good start. Even though it’s only two weeks in, it feels good to be competitive and be where we want to be in points and we’ve just got to keep this going.” HOW MUCH WEIGHT DO YOU PUT INTO THIS PRACTICE AS FAR AS HOW THE ENTIRE YEAR MAY GO ON THESE INTERMEDIATE TRACKS? “Not much right now. Us, for sure, have been through a pretty big test plan already this morning. We’re just trying to gather data on this new car and just work out some things and some things we were unsure of, that we thought we had ideas on from the Charlotte test and we came here to try and verify them or figure out if they were gonna work or not work, so we haven’t really started tuning, so to speak, for race conditions at all. We’ve just been going through a pretty big test plan and trying to knock stuff out to find out if it’s better or not.” ARE THE SPEEDS WHAT YOU ANTICIPATED OR DO THE CLOUDS HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT? “I think so. Obviously, with the new rules and stuff for qualifying and our cars are lighter. We still have just as much horsepower as we did last year and we’ve got 100 pounds less weight to carry around the track and less right side weight, so the cars are gonna handle better. Now with the new rules for qualifying to where we don’t have to qualify full of fuel, I think you will see track records broken at most race tracks we go to.” IS THE POTENTIAL THERE FOR THAT TO HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND? “The tracks where you run close to wide-open in qualifying, I think, is gonna be harder to break those track records just because weight is less of an issue when you’re running wide-open. The best way I can explain it is like a big flywheel or something. Once you get it moving it keeps moving. It doesn’t matter how heavy it is, but it’s really hard to slow it down and start it back up again. It’s the same thing with this car. It weighs less, but we’re running so close to wide-open than we did with the old car that the extra 100 pounds or more nose weight is not gonna be as big of an issue at a place like this where we’re going so fast. But I think it’s gonna make a bigger difference when we get to places like Bristol and Martinsville and Richmond and those kind of places. It’ll be a big deal.” DO YOU WORK WITH ROUSH AT ALL AT A TEST LIKE THIS? “It’s pretty much two separate groups. We do work with them. Obviously, we get our cars and engines and stuff from them, so we kind of stay in tune with what each other is doing, but, for the most part, the 9 and 43 run their own test plans and the Roush cars run their own test plans. But at the end of the day I think the crew chiefs get together and talk about what they saw throughout the day, so it’s somewhat together, but, at the end of the day, we’re two organizations that race against each other so it’s kind of separate, too.” DO YOU SEE TOMORROW’S POTENTIAL FOR RAIN AS SORT OF DE FACTO QUALIFYING? “Yeah, that will be tough. Hopefully it doesn’t rain, but if it does, we’re working on race trim right now, so we haven’t focus any on qualifying trim for that reason in particular. We want to gather as much data as we can in race trim and worry about qualifying tomorrow, but if we do get qualifying in it will be extremely important. We’ve already seen in the first couple of races that track position is key, so we want to qualify well. It’s going to be very important and we feel like tomorrow will be a good opportunity for us to work on that. If it does rain, unfortunately, we’re just one race away from switching over to the new owner’s points where we would have a lot better starting place than what we’re gonna have on Sunday if it rains, but we’re fingers crossed that we get to qualify.” DO YOU ANTICIPATE ANY OF YOU GUYS RUNNING TOGETHER TO GET AN IDEA OF WHAT THIS CAR IS LIKE IN A GROUP AT THIS PLACE? “Yeah, mostly single cars and, like I said earlier, we’re just working on so much stuff. It’s a new car and we’ve still got a lot to learn. There’s a lot of things we can do differently to try and make our cars faster. If our car goes faster by itself, it’s gonna be faster in the field. And if it drives better by itself, I’m gonna be more able to pass cars if I’m faster than other cars, so that’s really what we’ve worked on. We’ll just go race it. I think most everybody gets pretty aggravated when you pull out there in front of them or start trying to race in practice because we’re all still trying to get a handle on this new car.” HOW DID THINGS GO THIS MORNING? “Pretty good. I think we ended up 15th or 16th – something like that, I’m not sure – but we weren’t really focused on trying to go for max speed. We were just going through a test plan and with this new car there are so many different things aero-wise about this car, obviously, with the new Ford Fusion. It’s a much different than what we had last year, so we’ve worked a lot with our aero package, made a lot of changes with our quarter-windows and stuff like that, trying to get an idea of what we’re gonna need come Sunday for the race, so that’s been our biggest thing has been kind of test and tune and we’ll start worrying about race preparation tomorrow and Saturday.” DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE THE SAME SPEED YOU SHOWED AT KANSAS LAST YEAR? “I feel like it, so far. Phoenix was our first true test of how this year is gonna go. Daytona is always a crapshoot. You never know what to expect there, so Phoenix I felt like was gonna be our first true test and there at the beginning of the race when we stayed out and got track position, I raced Biffle for the lead for 60-70 laps. I felt really good about our program and where we were at, so I feel like Todd Parrott and all the guys on this team have done a great job getting our cars ready for this 2013 season and I really do feel like we’ve picked up right where we left off from last year. Our chemistry is really good. You always hear about that and people always talk about good chemistry and it’s hard to grasp or understand it, but it’s there and me and Todd really get along well. He brings me fast cars to the race track every weekend, so Kansas was disappointing that we ran so well and I felt like that was gonna be my first opportunity to win a Cup race, and everybody says you have to lose one before you can win one, so I feel like we lost that one for sure. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get that 43 car back in Victory Lane this year.”

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