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Almirola knows slow path is best
By BRANT JAMES
Published October 3, 2006
Tampa native Aric Almirola, 21, has a patient attitude for a young driver. That's because he has a grasp of how important it is for someone with a chance such as his - a job in Joe Gibbs Racing's developmental program - to do well quickly. Fair or not, early failure in the current NASCAR climate often means early retirement. Ask Casey Atwood or Jason Leffler.
So Almirola is content to undertake another full season in the truck series (with Spears Racing because JGR does not field any entries in the series) and wait for a full-time ride in the Busch Series. Steve deSouza, who oversees the JGR development program said that could come in 2008 if Almirola continues to progress.
"I want to make sure I'm here to stay," said Almirola, who has made 19 truck and seven Busch starts this year.
"Why jump to a bigger series when you haven't done so well in the lower one?"
WILD WEEKEND: Any race at Talladega Superspeedway is sure to be defined by some degree of weirdness. Perhaps the most unique stop on the NASCAR circuit, the massive track in a heavily wooded rural Alabama valley provides the setting for a happening as much as a race, equal parts Woodstock and stock car racing.
There is all-night debauchery, 30-foot-high bonfires fed by anything that can't defend itself. And there is the morbid understanding that very bad things could happen on a track where cars race inches apart at nearly 200 mph.
This weekend portends the possibility of greater oddities. First, the surface was repaved this year, prompting Nextel Cup driver Brian Vickers to say after a testing that "It'll be five-wide all day until half the field gets wiped out in the big wreck."
Also, former open wheel star Juan Pablo Montoya will make his stock car debut Friday in the ARCA series, where inexperience or finite talent often makes for a busy night for the wrecker.
Then the NASCAR truck series will race at the 2.66-mile tri-oval for the first time. The trucks' propensity for flight begs the question as to whether the catch fences are high enough.
Not immune from the mayhem, the Cup series races Sunday in the fourth event of the Chase for the Championship. At last season's fall race, Jimmie Johnson's aggressive move 18 laps in produced a metal-bender that ended Mark Martin's championship hopes.
This season, several drivers who have done well there - Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon - desperately need a good day.
MEASURE UP: Teams use a low-tech method of gauging fuel mileage: Weighing the amount that is poured into the car, catching and accounting for spillage and determining during practice runs how many miles it will last. Then they plot their calculations during the race on a laptop computer.
But it still doesn't always assure the desired result.
"We have been doing it forever and you just get used to it," crew chief Greg Zipadelli said after Tony Stewart coasted over the finish line at Kansas on Sunday to win on empty.
"Don't let him fool you, he just guesses," Stewart retorted.
"Well, there is a little of that going on too," Zipadelli conceded.
MIX IT UP: Greg Biffle said he thinks and hopes he will remain paired with crew chief Doug Richert after what appears to be an upcoming reorganization at Roush Racing. Team owner Jack Roush told NASCAR Scene at Kansas City that he is still determining his moves.
"I know that we're making some pretty major changes in our organization throughout," Biffle told the magazine. "Kind of reorganizing a lot of stuff and ... try and re-energize what we did in 2005, sharing a lot of information. Not saying we're not now, but trying to focus on that better and find out what works really good and then spread it companywide and then try to get everybody going that way."
Biffle's career blossomed after he paired with Richert in August of 2003. He has earned nine of his 10 career Cup victories with him and finished tied for second in points last season when Roush qualified all five cars for the Chase. Just two - Martin and Matt Kenseth - qualified this year.