The crossed flags have been displayed on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and Aric Almirola is eager to begin the second half. With 18 races now under his belt in his first full-time Cup season, the driver of the No. 43 Medallion Financial Ford heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) this week feeling comfortable and confident.
The No. 43 team is coming off a strong run at Daytona International Speedway, where Almirola ran in the top 10 and top 15 and was looking at a solid finish before being collected in a last-lap multi-car wreck. He was credited with a 19th-place finish. At the half-way mark of the season, Almirola now has two top-10s, four top-15s, nine top-20s and a pole position in 18 starts.
Unlike some other tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule, the 1.058-mile oval in Loudon, N.H., is not a new venue for Almirola. Sunday's race will be his fourth Sprint Cup start at NHMS. His top finish is 18th (2008).
Comments from Medallion Financial Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"You have to go to Loudon with a good-handling car to start with, so it will be important to unload well. We also see fuel strategy and tire strategy play into races there, too. It's not always about the fastest car. Fortunately, I've got just the guy on top of the pit box for that. Mike Ford is a great race strategist. He's won at Loudon by making smart calls.
"As we get into the second half of the season, I'm feeling more and more comfortable. We're going to start going back to tracks we've been to as a team, where we have a notebook as a team that we can build off of. Loudon and Indianapolis will still be new, so to speak, for this team as a group, but after that we start hitting some places where we've already been this year. And also just having 10 or 12 races with Mike now, we're working together really well. He's been such an asset to this team, not just to the '43' team, but Richard Petty Motorsports as a whole."
Comments from Crew Chief Mike Ford on Loudon:
"Loudon is a fun track, but it's a place where track position is very important. It's one mile and it's flat, so you're not going to make up a bunch of positions passing people on track. So it will be important to qualify well, to have fast stops on pit road, and possibly make some strategic calls toward the end of the race to get us in good position.
"Aric has raced at Loudon a few times before, so we're fortunate that he brings some Cup car experience this weekend. With qualifying on Friday, we'll just have the one practice session Friday afternoon to see what we've got and get it dialed in as best we can to get us a good starting position."