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September 24, 2014

Aric Almirola

JENNIE LONG:テつ Good morning, everyone.テつ We're joined today by Aric Almirola, driver of the No.43 Nathan's Famous Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.テつ Thanks for joining us today.
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ Thanks for having me.
JENNIE LONG:テつ With your sixth place finish at New Hampshire last week, you're now back in the hunt for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.テつ What are your thoughts leading into this weekend at Dover knowing that the Chase field will be reduced from 16 to 12 contenders?
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ Well, obviously our goal is to transfer to that next round, but we can't really worry about what everybody else is doing.テつ All we can do is worry about ourselves.テつ That's kind of what's gotten us to this point is we've focused the last month and a half on doing the best job we can in scoring the maximum amount of points we can each weekend, and I think we've had three out of the last four races we've had top 10s, and at Chicago we were running sixth with 30 laps to go before our engine light goes.テつ We've been doing a really good job of running competitively, and so we've got to just continue that.テつ We've got to go to Dover and do the same thing.
I think if we run in the top 10, top 5, we're going to put a lot of pressure on those guys that are just in front of us on points, and hopefully we'll pressure them into making mistakes.

Q.テつ My question for you is is it pretty amazing to you that all 16 of you guys are still absolutely mathematically eligible to move on here with this third race?
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ Yeah.テつ I mean, you see a lot at the beginning of the year when the points are really close, and you'll see a lot of jumping around in points with guys having good runs or bad runs or whatever.テつ When that points system gets reset for the Chase and everybody is so close in points, you know that every week is going to be important.テつ Every point is going to be important.テつ Every spot on the racetrack, everything matters that much more.
Throughout the year, the points get spread out, and you kind of get those cushions, but when everything gets reset, it's so close, and just one point, meaning one spot on the racetrack, is a big deal.テつ Like we're 10 points out of 12th right now, so basically I just have to finish 10 spots ahead of everybody that's in front of me from 15th to 12th in points, which sounds easier than it really is.
But yeah, I'm glad for our sake that we're still in it.

Q.テつ Will you have somebody on your team kind of watching points as they run to help you out, or are there just too many people and variables that you're kind of racing against for the spot to really try to worry about it?
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ Yeah, I think there's just too many people, really.テつ I think there's too many people to focus all of our attention on that.テつ I think it would distract us from just doing our job and doing the best that we can.テつ So that's kind of been my thing to my guys in our competition meeting on Monday, was, hey, let's just do what we've done the last four weeks.テつ It's worked for us.テつ We've run competitive, we've ran in the top 10, and if we do that, if we run top 5 at Dover, we don't have anything to hang our heads about, and we can't control where everybody else runs.
I think if we're just racing one other guy, it would be easier to just race them heads up and try and constantly look at points and know what we have to do, but considering we've got to beat like four guys, I think that would be too chaotic for them to keep up.
I know that they'll have it on the pit box.テつ They'll have a points tracker as they run constantly, but I doubt‑‑ I hope that Trent doesn't get too worried about that, and we just do what we need to do and make the strategy calls that we need to make to get the best finish we can.

Q.テつ And then on another topic, how do you feel about the testing ban on all private tests?テつ I know you guys, at least from what I understand, have kind of had a little bit more R&D and stuff in the last couple of years.テつ Is this something you feel like will even the field, or is this something that will not even the field?
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ I honestly don't know.テつ I can't answer that question right yet.テつ You know, I think as we improve our simulation program and that gets better, I think it'll be okay that we don't get to test.テつ A lot of the teams, they go test and they use a lot of their testing to validate their simulation program and validate what they see through their sim models, more so than they just use it to go and get the perfect setup for Nashville Speedway because it doesn't matter what the perfect setup is for Nashville; we don't race there.テつ So a lot of that testing is just theory driven and then also to validate the stuff that they work on in their simulation.
So I think that will be hard on us because we're trying to develop a new simulation software, but it is what it is.テつ It's the same for everybody, so that's the good thing.テつ I still think that some teams are going to try and find a way around it and still get testing done, but I know that NASCAR has said that you don't want to get caught.テつ There's going to be a big penalty if you do get caught doing some testing.
But personally I think that some teams, not Richard Petty Motorsports, because we don't want to pay $250,000 and lose our guys for six weeks because we can't afford to do that, but personally I think that other teams will still try and figure out a way to go test.

Q.テつ Following up on what you talked about, how you have to race at Dover, it seems to me that the problem is you want to continue to be aggressive but also be smart.テつ How do you handle that?テつ I guess you just go out and race the way you normally would, right?
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ Yeah, I mean, that's all we can do.テつ It's not going to do me any good to try harder or anything like that.テつ I try as hard as I possibly can every week.
Maybe take a little more risk on like restarts and stuff.テつ I did that at Loudon when it got close to the end.テつ I took a couple risks on some restarts and went on the outside.テつ I think one time I was outside of four wide and made a few passes that way.テつ There's times when you realize, hey, I need to be aggressive if I'm going to get some spots here and get a good finish, and I think the same will hold true at Dover.
But we can't lose sight of the fact that even if we don't transfer to the next round, we still can race for fifth in points, and we have to keep that in mind.テつ We can't just go to Dover and throw a Hail Mary and it's either win or finish 43rd because that's not going to‑‑ if we don't win and we finish 43rd, then we're pretty much going to guarantee that we're going to finish 16th in points, and we don't want to do that.テつ We still have the capability of going up in points from where we're at, all the way up to fifth in points.テつ There's still a bigger picture in mind even if we don't transfer, but we do desperately want to transfer.
So we'll take necessary risk, but we're not going to take crazy risk just to try and transfer to the next round if the reward is not there.

Q.テつ Regardless of what happens this weekend, whether you advance or not, obviously this is your first year with Trent and with this group, what have you guys learned?テつ What do you want to have in terms of progression to help you be stronger beyond this season into next year?テつ What are the lessons you guys hope you learned and how you move forward from this experience because there's still some relative newness to this group.
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ Yeah, there's a lot of newness to our race team.テつ Me and Trent have continually gotten better at working together throughout the year.テつ I think when we started the Chase, we knew that it was go time, and we all‑‑ all the guys on the team and everybody had to step up.テつ We were working our guys more hours.テつ We were bringing the best race cars we could to the racetrack.テつ We spent extra time prepping our race cars to get them ready for the Chase.
I think that that's been a big eye‑opener for us in understanding what it takes to compete at this level.テつ We know that all year long, but it's hard to do that when you have a small race team.テつ You wear your guys out so easy.テつ We're talking about a race team that Richard Petty Motorsports that has about 50 employees racing against the Penske and Hendricks and Gibbs teams that have 300 employees.
We have to be mindful of that throughout the season.テつ We can't just beat our guys down all year long and then expect them to perform when it comes to September.
We have to juggle that, but I feel like working with Trent and through this‑‑ I mean, it's a stressful time in the Chase.テつ There's a lot riding on the line, and everybody knows‑‑ all the guys on the team know the implications, myself, Trent, the engineers.テつ We all know what's at stake, so to be able to show up to the racetrack, bring the cars that we've been bringing to the racetrack and performing at the level that we've been performing at is really encouraging for me.テつ I think that this has been great for our race team to be able to go through this together, and regardless of what happens, I think we're going to be a much better race team next year because of it.

Q.テつ Because it's your first Chase experience and we hear the drivers and teams talk about things step up, hey, we think we were running hard early in the season but then when the Chase starts, it's another level.テつ Have you noticed that and can you kind of explain or define what's so different to somebody like myself or others who aren't in the car, don't have that experience that you do?
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ Yeah, I think it starts well before we even get in the race car.テつ It starts at the shop.テつ I mean, the hours that our shop guys have been putting in, the attention to detail that our guys have been trying to pay attention to at every level on the race car has been phenomenal.テつ We realize that that's what it takes week in and week out to be this competitive.
But we can't do that all year long because we don't have the manpower and the resources to be able to do that, but we've taken and been putting a lot of effort.テつ Once we knew we won Daytona and we knew we were pretty much going to be in the Chase, a lot of attention focused back in July to get ready for September.テつ And I think that that's the advantage that a lot of the other race teams have, like the Hendricks and stuff like that.テつ Jimmie Johnson knows before they ever go to Daytona that they're pretty much going to make the Chase.テつ Their attention is to get through the regular part of the season, but right from the beginning of the year they're focused on September.テつ They're trying to do everything they can and thinking about the Chase.テつ They save all their tests for the Chase; they work throughout the year to try and learn setups and stuff like that to be able to apply them in the Chase, and that's something that we haven't been able to do.
But starting in July we started doing that.テつ After we won Daytona, we started experimenting with setups and stuff like that, and we kind of hit on a package that's worked for us, and we went to Atlanta and Richmond and ran in the top 10, went to Chicago and was running really strong and had our issue there, and went to Loudon and ran sixth.
I feel like that attention to detail and how much everybody steps up at the shop is really the difference maker.テつ The drivers‑‑ I give all I can.テつ I got 100 percent.テつ Everybody says 110 percent and all that stuff.テつ I've got 100 percent to give, and I give all 100 of it every weekend.テつ Now, in the Chase do I take a little more risk like on restarts and stuff like that?テつ Absolutely, because there's a lot to be had in this Chase, and we're going for it.テつ We feel like we don't have anything to lose, so we've just kind of been letting it all hang out.

Q.テつ Do you think your success in making the Chase this year can help Richard Petty Motorsports find long‑term sponsorship for the 9 car since you guys have locked in your deal this year already?
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ I think it really can.テつ I think that what we've accomplished this year proves how strong of a race team that Richard Petty Motorsports is and how competitive we can be, and it's not just the 43 car.テつ The 9 car can do it, too.テつ I think throughout the summer months, Marcos was on fire.テつ He ran in the top 15 just about every weekend and went to Watkins Glen and had a really good shot to win there, which we know he always does, but still, that takes equipment to do that.テつ I mean, you can give Marcos a bad race car at Watkins Glen, and he's going to run 15th with it.テつ It takes good equipment to perform the way we perform week in and week out.
I think that it's certainly going to help going to the tables and meetings and stuff and saying, hey, we are a Chase capable race team, and this is what we're capable of, and if you come and sponsor a race car at our race team, we're not guaranteeing you that we can make the Chase because that's no guarantee for anybody, but we certainly can compete at that level and have proven it.
So I think it's certainly going to help with selling sponsorship on the 9 car.

Q.テつ Speaking along those lines, are you going to have any input as far as a driver for 2015, or is that left up to the team?
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ I think it's both.テつ I've been involved on really all the discussions, and Brian Moffitt and Richard Petty and Sammy Johns, our competition director, has kept me up to speed on where we're at with the replacement driver.テつ I've been involved.テつ I've been asked my opinion on all of it.
I'm excited about the opportunities ahead for us.テつ We want to make this race team stronger.テつ We're sad to see Marcos leave.テつ I'm excited that now when I take vacation in Australia, I'll have a place to stay, and Marcos has been a phenomenal teammate, but on the other side of that, he's chosen to go back home, and I'm happy for him and his family to be able to go back to Australia.
We've got a lot to focus on here at Richard Petty Motorsports, and whoever we get to replace him, we want to make sure that it just continues to make our race team stronger.

Q.テつ Regardless if you guys advance to the next round or not, how strong do you think your team will perform over the next three races and for the rest of the post‑season?
ARIC ALMIROLA:テつ I mean, I don't see any reason for us to not continue to perform the way we have the last four weeks, really.テつ I don't see us falling off the wagon.テつ It may happen, but I don't think so.テつ You know, Dover is one of my favorite racetracks.テつ I think we ran 12th there earlier this year, so if we can get a little bit better there, I think that it's very reasonable to expect to go run in the top 10 there.テつ Kansas is coming up.テつ I think we ran sixth or seventh there earlier this year, ran in the top 5 a lot during the race, so that's going to be a great racetrack for us.テつ Charlotte we finished 11th earlier this year, ran in the top 10 a lot during the race, and going to Talladega, we won the last restrictor plate race, so I have a lot of confidence going there.テつ We're going to take the same car that we won Daytona with that was really fast.
Looking ahead at least at the next four weeks, I feel really good.テつ I feel confident.テつ We'll see what happens.テつ I can't predict the future.テつ But I feel confident, and my race team feels confident that we can go these next seven weeks and finish out the year really strong, and whatever happens happens.テつ We can't control everybody else and what happens to everybody else.テつ All we can control is what happens on the 43 car and trying to make it as fast as we can during practice and then work on it during the race, and then the rest is up to me on restarts and racing.
I'm excited about the rest of the year and finishing out strong, regardless if we make the next round.
JENNIE LONG:テつ Aric, thanks so much for joining us today, and good luck this weekend at Dover.

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