Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 3/7/13

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Aric Almirola, driver of the #15 Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota, sits in his truck during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 5, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
No one really is giving Aric Almirola much credit. He’s taking the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series world by surprise by earning two straight top 15 finishes to start the 2013 season off and making the famed No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports car competitive again. Almirola is entering his second season behind the wheel of the famed No. 43 and it’s showing the trust and seat time is all he needed to succeed at NASCAR’s top level. Almirola bounced around rides in all three forms of NASCAR racing for the past seven years and has only made 72 career Cup starts counting Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 from Phoenix. He is sitting 10th in the season standings so far after a 12th place finish in the season opening Daytona 500 and a 15th yesterday. Don’t let those two finishes fool  you either, he was a contender in both races. If it wasn’t for a mid race pit strategy that put him mid-pack, Almirola could have contended for the win at PIR. He was running up front challenging Greg Biffle for the lead near the 100 Lap mark and had one of the better cars in clean air on Sunday. Unfortunately, he fell victim to the dreaded bad handling race car that most had in the middle of the pack and could never rebound. He told me after the race that he had a car to win and contend but when you get shuffled out it’s hard to make that ground up with passing behind so difficult. He seemed very discouraged when I talked to him, which is a good sign to come for RPM and Almirola. No longer is a 15th place finish okay in their mind. They used to treat that as a small victory for quite sometime as this car hasn’t been remotely competitive. Now, they’re disappointed with that result. Last year, Almirola finished a career-best 20th in the final standings and even won a pole. Now that he’s got the backing and knowing this isn’t a revolving seat, he’s performing better than ever. I don’t think this is a fluke for him either, and suspect Almirola will get in victory lane this season and be the surprise driver in the Chase. The post NASCAR: Is Aric Almirola a real Chase and title contender? appeared first on Race Review Online.
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