Winning a race is hard to do at any level, let alone the NASCAR Cup Series. It’s an unforgettable experience for a driver. Just search #MyTrackMyRoots on social media — an NBC promotion for racing’s grassroots — to see some reactions.
With that in mind, the Tampa Bay Times asked Tampa’s Aric Almirola about the first race he remembers winning in our periodic feature, Ask Aric.
What’s the first racing victory that you remember, at any level?
The first race and victory that I remember was at a little, small go-kart track in Lakeland. It was called Lakeland Tri-Oval Kartway. That is where I had my first race.
And I remember that weekend in practice and the heat race, I was terrible. Just really, really, really bad. I was trying to hold it wide open. In practice, I hit the hay bales. My grandfather’s good friend, Johnny, nicknamed me Hay Bale Harry. Thankfully that nickname did not stick. It was not good.
I think either that night or the very next week, I won my first go-kart race and was just elated. I still have the picture. You can see the smile in my eyes, looking through the shield of my helmet from that night.
It was just a really cool night and cool experience for me because I had watched my grandfather race for the previous eight years. He always was successful. I remember the feeling of joy and excitement when he would win and I could get to go to victory lane and get the picture taken with him and the checkered flag. And here I was at 8 years old, and I had won my first go-kart race, and the flag man at the end of the race gave me the checkered flag, and I got to make a victory lap carrying the checkered flag around the racetrack. It was really cool.