Originally written on Start 'N' Park Blog  |  Last updated 11/18/14

LAS VEGAS - SEPTEMBER 26: Aric Almirola, driver of the #51 Miccosukee Resort Toyota stands during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 26, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich/Operation Homefront Ford team took the green flag for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 from the 13th position – a result of the team’s eighth top-15 qualifying effort of the season.  The Richard Petty Motorsports crew was ready to run 267 solid laps in the NASCAR Sprint Series’ second appearance at the 1.5-mile oval – and the first race with sponsor Eckrich and their partner Operation Homefront. 

After the first two laps, Almirola reported to crew chief Mike Ford that his Ford Fusion was extremely tight-handling.  It was feedback that Ford and many other crew chiefs on pit road would continue to hear from their drivers throughout the race.

During the first three pit stops, the team made multiple chassis and air-pressure adjustments to try to make the car easier to turn.  By Lap 124, Almirola relayed that the car was not responding enough to the changes to improve positions.  At this point, the team was in 25th place, with Almirola racing as hard as possbile with the condition of the car.

At this time, Ford decided to return the car to its original set-up in hopes of improving Almirola’s lap times despite the continuing tight handling.  The reversal helped, and Almirola was soon running his best lap times of the night.  But time, and the caution flag, were not working in the No. 43 team’s favor.  The mostly green-flag race, which saw only four cautions, made it difficult to make up track position.

Ford and the crew continued to try to loosen up the car for Almirola on two additional pit stops, as the driver tried to make up as many positions as he could.  The final 50 laps of the night, the team raced right around the top-25 mark and crossed the finish line in 26th.

Almirola now sits 22nd in driver points as the team heads to Daytona International Speedway for the Fourth of July holiday.

Comments from Eckrich driver Aric Almirola after Kentucky: “That was a tough night for us and our Eckrich Ford Fusion.  We were just too tight all evening.  But I want to give credit to Mike Ford and the guys for the great qualifying effort and for working hard all weekend

“We’ll look at the positives of having everyone from Eckrich and our guests from Operation Homefront here. They showed us a lot of support and now we’ll go back and chat about how to make this car better for next time.”

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