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Despite team change, Martin will still be there for Almirola

DAYTONA BEACH — Aric Almirola learned how to be a Sprint Cup driver by sharing the No. 8 Chevrolet at Dale Earnhardt Inc. with veteran Mark Martin the past year. The 24-year-old Tampa product is confident the education will continue even though they won't be together next season.

"He's going to be at the race track, and if anything, it almost might be better now," Almirola said, alluding to the expected announcement today that Martin, 49, will return full time to racing in the No. 5 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports.

"Weekends that I'm in the race car, he's going to be in a race car, too, so I can walk over and grab him and speak with him for a second, ask him, 'Hey, is you car doing this, this, or whatever?' I think he'll be just as much a help to me for the rest of my career."

Almirola's Sprint Cup rookie campaign will be his first full-time schedule in a car since making his Nationwide series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2006. He was credited with a win at Milwaukee in June 2007, although Denny Hamlin finished the race. Almirola left JGR weeks later for a shared ride with Martin at Ginn Racing, then came to DEI with Martin to eventually share the No. 8 when that company's assets were sold to DEI.

"To actually walk into the race car shop and have all the cars that have number 8s on them have my name on the roof and to work with my guys every single weekend and they not have to work with Mark one weekend and me the next, it will be a big help," he said.

FEELING RANDY: Although a litany for former athletes in general and NFL players in particular have hoped big but ultimately failed in owning NASCAR teams, Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss vowed he has the country boy love and the All-Pro financial wherewithal to make his 50-percent partnership with the former Morgan-Dollar Motorsports truck team work.

"I'm not going into this with my blinders on," said Moss, who aspires to Sprint Cup ownership and building a race track back home in West Virginia. "I know there is a chance it could (fail), don't get me wrong, but I don't think it will."

The new Randy Moss Motorsports No. 81 Chevrolet will debut at Kentucky on July 19 with Willie Allen driving.

WELCOME: Andretti Green Racing co-owner Kim Green said that if former driver Dario Franchitti is interested in returning to AGR's American Le Mans series sports car team after the collapse of his NASCAR Sprint Cup program at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates they would absolutely talk about it.

Franchitti, 35, had his No. 40 Dodge program shut down, and 71 employees laid off, because of lack of sponsorship in a surprise announcement Tuesday. The rookie was 41st in points with a best finish of 22nd and nine others of 32nd or worse. Franchitti is to decide in a week if he wants to race in the Nationwide series for Ganassi. Ganassi said on Thursday the situation "is not about Dario" but a sponsor issue. Standard driver contracts can be voided if sponsorship is lost.

SPARK PLUGS: Kurt Busch will qualify a backup car after his No. 2 Dodge went hard into the Turn 2 wall after a tire blew. … NASCAR confiscated Martin Truex's No. 1 Chevrolet after it failed an initial template inspection. Truex missed practice as the backup was inspected. … Tony Stewart has reached a deal that would make Office Depot a primary sponsor on his car if he reaches a deal with Haas CNC Racing, ESPN.com reported.

FORMULA ONE: David Coulthard, 37, will retire after the season, ending a career in which he won 13 races.

NHRA: The death of Palmetto resident Scott Kalitta has caused the organization to create a task force to study safety and competition, Graham Light, senior vice president of racing operations, told the Associated Press.

Information from Times wires was used to this report.

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Despite team change, Martin will still be there for Almirola 07/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 3, 2008 11:29pm]
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