The No. 43 Medallion Financial Ford should look right at home at Sonoma this weekend - weaving right and left as if it were navigating the streets of New York City. Behind the wheel of that taxi-themed Fusion, driver Aric Almirola will make his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career start at the 1.99-mile road course for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350.
The 350-kilometer race in California wine country marks the Sprint Cup Series' first of two road course races this season. The series will race at the higher-speed Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in August. Richard Petty Motorsports tested at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) last month to help Almirola and the team prepare their No. 43 Ford for the twists and turns of the Sonoma track.
Almirola has only one previous Cup start at Sonoma, finishing 28th on the course in 2008. He brings additional left-and-right-turn experience from his Nationwide Series career, in which he made four road/street-course starts and earned a top finish of eighth (Watkins Glen, 2011).
Comments from Medallion Financial Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"Road courses are fun but they're extremely challenging. It's just so different from oval racing. You're up on the wheel the entire time and shifting quite a bit. There's never any time that you get to take a breather unless you get a caution. Sonoma is probably one of the most physically demanding races we'll run all year. You definitely want to make sure you get all your upper-body strength training done in advance of this race.
"We also took a look at what Marcos (Ambrose) was doing. It's pretty amazing what he can do with a stock car at a road course. Having him as a teammate is great all the time, but having his help this weekend will be even better. I'm glad he's in my corner."
Comments from Crew Chief Mike Ford on Sonoma:
"Road courses are a whole different animal than the oval tracks that make up the bulk of our schedule. They present a lot of different elements that we don't see on the ovals. And only doing them twice a year makes it difficult to master those different characteristics. But Aric has some road-course experience under his belt, both in Cup and Nationwide, so that will definitely help us out going to Sonoma.
"We've got a road racer teammate in Marcos (Ambrose), so that will help, too. We always debrief with our teammates when we're at the track throughout the race weekend, and this is one place where Marcos' comments will probably carry a little extra weight. This is his kind of track."