Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Almirola waits for golden opportunity

Aric Almirola is to Dale Earnhardt Inc. what Aaron Rodgers was to the Green Bay Packers (until Brett Favre retired), what Jimbo Fisher is to the Florida State football program. He's next in line to a man who shows little sign of slowing down anytime soon. Certainly, the 24-year-old from Tampa knows his partner in the No. 8 Chevrolet will eventually retire. Mark Martin, 49, has been contesting a part-time schedule for the past two seasons, but he's not going gently or quickly into the sunset. So Almirola waits. He says he doesn't regret his decision a year ago to leave Joe Gibbs Racing, the team that gave him a chance in its developmental program, for Ginn Racing, which was absorbed within months by DEI. There's no guarantee he'd be in Sprint Cup full time by now, but it's possible Tony Stewart could leave and create a vacancy. Almirola says he's happy with the progress he's making at DEI, compiling test data at tracks around the country and pacing through laps at Virginia International Raceway's road course as he readies for his fourth Sprint Cup start of the season next week at Sonoma, Calif. "He needs to be in the car every week," DEI vice president John Story said. "Hopefully, that day will come soon. … We think Aric is a future star, and we need to figure out how to manage this thing." The St. Petersburg Times talked to Almirola about his situation:

What's the difference in skills needed between racing on an oval and a road course?

The biggest thing I've been having trouble with is figuring out how much to be smooth and how much to be aggressive because it's a fine line between being smooth and being slow, and being aggressive and running off the course.

How tough has it been racing just four times in NASCAR's top three series this season?

(I'm) really antsy. There's not a whole lot I can do about it, so I just sit there, watch the races and try to do the best I can as far as learning.

Can you learn by watching Martin or do you need to drive?

Mainly you have to do it to learn as much as you can, but it is a help to go to the races and sit there and watch and listen to how the practice or races and stuff go on the radio.

Was it tough to get out of the car after racing three times in the first nine weeks, including the eighth-place finish at Bristol?

I was dying to get back in a race car, but I've done some odd stuff here or there, raced a Late Model at Eldora (in Tony Stewart's Prelude to the Dream charity event) last week. … I've done a lot of (Car of Tomorrow) tests for DEI here lately, so it's going good.

I have nine Cup races left. I think after this now, my longest time without racing is two or three weeks, so that will be a lot better.

Are you still glad you made the decision to leave JGR?

Yeah, very happy. Everybody at DEI has been working really, really hard. Really, honestly and truly, DEI has been doing a really good job at burning the midnight oil.

Has Martin clued you into his future plans, because they directly impact yours?

I think he's still planning on doing the semiretired deal (in 2009), but we're working through that stuff. Right now we're just trying to focus on what we've got going on this year, mainly.

We've talked about it briefly and still there are a lot of unknowns and stuff that has to be talked about and worked out.

That said, you're at an age where you need to be running full time in the Cup series, right?

I would (like to be), but at the same time if I was going to share a race car with anybody, I don't think they could pick a better teammate than Mark Martin. He's been around the sport a long time. He's an awesome race car driver. He's a really great person, so to be able to not only be a teammate with him but to hang out with him and spend a little time with him is pretty cool.

You have said you were the target of some racism at small North Carolina tracks while you were in JGR's developmental program. In light of Mauricia Grant's suit against NASCAR alleging racial and sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination, and you being Cuban-American, is NASCAR a hostile environment for nonwhite males?

No. I think now more than ever it's more accepted. You have myself, you have (Colombian) Juan Pablo (Montoya). There's more guys now than ever that are not your traditional NASCAR driver (including Dario Franchitti of Scotland). I think NASCAR is doing a great job. Just the other day was the first I'd heard of that whole deal, so I don't know much about it, can't speak on behalf of anybody. As far as it goes for me, I've felt nothing but embraced and its been really good. … I've never experienced anything like what those allegations are all about.

Almirola waits for golden opportunity 06/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2008 7:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays call up Jose De Leon to add depth to bullpen tonight

    Blogs

    The Rays decided that after playing 15 innings Sunday they could use some depth and length in their bullpen after all and have decided to call up RHP Jose De Leon from Triple-A.

    RHP Erasmo Ramirez is still slated to start tonight, even after throwing 12 pitches to get the final three outs - and the save - in …

    The Rays have recalled Jose De Leon from Triple-A Durham.
  2. Tiger Woods arrested in Florida on DUI charge, released

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods was arrested early Monday on a DUI charge in Jupiter, Florida, and spent nearly four hours in a county jail before he was released.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.
  3. After state, academics will trump athletics for King ace Brian Lee

    Baseballpreps

    TAMPA — Brian Lee can still see himself on the pitcher's mound at Venice High School. Four years ago he was a freshman left-handed reliever just trying to keep King's state championship dreams alive.

    Pitcher Brian Lee participates in a practice at King High in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, May 26, 2017.
  4. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside

    Outdoors

    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)
  5. Rays morning after: A lot that went into a marathon win

    Blogs

    Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple strategy when Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry asked him how the team would move on from Sunday's marathon win and get ready to face the Rangers tonight in Texas:

    Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays celebrates as teammate Michael Martinez slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Minnesota Twins during the 14th inning.