Almirola ‘Doesn’t Want To Be The Weak Link’ at Stewart-Haas Racing

(Matthew T. Thacker NKP)

By Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

Though he’s been in the sport for more than 10 years, the last eight months have blossomed a new Aric Almirola.

Following his accident last May at Kansas Speedway that fractured his back, the 33-year-old Floridian grew perspective when he returned to his Richard Petty Motorsports seat nearly two months later. Now, he enters the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season with a new team in Stewart-Haas Racing, driving the No. 10 Ford.

More than anything, a spot on a championship-winning organization has given Almirola a more modernized look come Speedweeks in February.

“Everything is new, it’s a breath of fresh air, re-invigorating,” Almirola said Tuesday at the NASCAR Media Tour. “I just feel I have more motivation. I’ve got that carrot dangling in front of me with this opportunity.”

Joining teammates Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch, who combined to score 26 top-five finishes last year, Almirola has fire on his feet to reach that same level.

“I don’t want to be the weak link,” he said. “It pushes me harder through my training and rehab I’ve done. Everything has gotten me in a position to where I have an incredible opportunity in front of me. That fire deep in me burns hotter. It elevates every aspect of my life: I’m more energetic, more excited, more happy and my work-outs are more kick-ass.

Entering his seventh season in Cup, Almirola has only one win to his record, a rain-shortened victory in 2014. Just two years ago, he managed only one top-10 finish in a whole season with RPM.

Now, the excitement to run up front will start even before he reaches the track.

“For the last six seasons I’ve gotten on an airplane and I’ve went to the track thinking, ‘Man, if we run top-15 this weekend, it will be good,'” he said. “That is a complete shift in mindset when you go to the airplane on Thursday now saying, ‘Man, if we win this weekend, it’s a possibility. We can go win this weekend.’ That has me more fired-up than ever. That’s what we all want to do.”

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