1. Sports

Ask Aric Almirola: What’s been key to the best start of his NASCAR career?

The Hillsborough High alumnus has five consecutive top-10 finishes.
Aric Almirola races through Turn 4 during the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Auto Club Speedway, in Fontana, Calif., Sunday, March 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Rachel Luna)
Published Mar. 27

Tampa’s Aric Almirola added to the best stretch of his career last weekend with his ninth-place run at Martinsville.

It was his fifth consecutive top-10 finish in the Cup Series and puts him sixth in points entering Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Only Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have as many top 10s as Almirola does through the first six races.

The Tampa Bay Times asked the driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford about his strong start in Ask Aric — a periodic feature where the NASCAR playoff contender shares his thoughts on racing, the season and his hometown.

You’re in the middle of the most consistent stretch of your career with five straight top 10s. What do you attribute that to?

I think what I attribute to the great start to the season is really just having that year of working together with this team last year. Experience is key at this level. Everybody’s so good and so competitive that as you gain experience with each other and your team, you just become more confident, and you start to unload at the racetrack with a faster race car. And you have more ideas of what to expect week in and week out. That helps. That helps tremendously.

Our team is really young. We’ve got a lot of young guys, and they were in new positions and new roles last year — including myself being new to the team last year. So to take all of that newness and kind of work through that and work all the kinks out, and you saw the consistency in how well we performed the last half of the season in 2018.

I really feel like 2019 is just picking right up where we left off, and we’re continuing to grow and build on that experience. When you look at the great race teams in the garage area, the guys that typically have the most success in general have a lot of experience working together.


  1. The last time two times he's faced the Bucs on the turf at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Falcons receiver Julio Jones has a combined 22 catches for 397 yards. They meet again at 1 p.m. Sunday in Atlanta. Associated Press
    The ex-Bucs coach factor? Another Julio Jones jubilee? Can the Bucs offense keep up?
  2. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Louis Murphy Jr. is set for his first head coaching job at the high school level, taking over at Gibbs. Times
    The ex-Florida Gator national champion takes over a program that has had little stability in recent years.
  3. Head coach Charlie Strong and the USF Bulls face American Athletic Conference foe Memphis in a 4 p.m. game Saturday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Here are our picks for this week’s top college football games, including USF-Memphis and Ohio State-Penn State.
  4. Buccaneers fan Josh Cranor, center, 35, of Lakeland and his son Jake, 7, were disappointed after the last-minute loss to the Giants earlier this season. The Bucs are the only team in the NFC that have yet to reach the playoffs during Jake's lifetime. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    John Romano | They change coaches every few years. Overhaul the roster, too. But when the Bucs haven’t been to the playoffs in 12 years, the Glazer family has to accept the responsibility.
  5. 2 hours ago• Florida State Seminoles
    Penn State head coach James Franklin reacts to a call against Indiana in a game in State College, Pa., on Nov. 16. BARRY REEGER  |  AP
    Plus three coaches on the hot seat and a (semi) homecoming for the Miami Hurricanes.
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White (45) tackles New Orleans Saints fullback Zach Line (42) on a play during the fourth quarter last Sunday. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Linebacker Deion Jones was a force in his rookie season with the Falcons and is still a mentor of sorts for White.
  7. 4 hours ago• Florida State Seminoles
    Southern California head coach Clay Helton in the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Boulder, Colo. DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    If the USC Trojans fire Clay Helton after the UCLA game, FSU will no longer be the only marquee job on the market.
  8. USF defensive end Greg Reaves (4) celebrates a stop during the second half of the Bulls' 27-23 victory against BYU in October. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The former Bulls walk-on will make his 36th consecutive start on senior day against No. 18 Memphis
  9. Fans may see Lakeland running back Demarkcus Bowman playing for Clemson next year. ERNST PETERS  |  The Ledger
    Friday night’s playoff matchup is hyped for many reasons, most significantly the talent on both sidelines.
  10. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (1) waits for the snap during the first half against Rutgers last weekend in Piscataway, N.J. Ohio State won 56-21. ADAM HUNGER  |  AP
    NFL draft prospect Chase Young is back for the Buckeyes, which is bad news for Penn State.