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Almirola's Cup ride hits bump

Joe Gibbs Racing will "re-evaluate" its part-time Nextel Cup program for Tampa native Aric Almirola before allowing the 23-year-old to attempt to qualify for a second race, JGR vice president and development head Steve De Souza said.

By BRANT JAMES
Published May 23, 2007


Joe Gibbs Racing will "re-evaluate" its part-time Nextel Cup program for Tampa native Aric Almirola before allowing the 23-year-old to attempt to qualify for a second race, JGR vice president and development head Steve De Souza said.

Almirola's No. 80 Chevrolet was removed on Monday from the entry list for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, De Souza said, because the team was not able to adequately prepare a replacement for the car he wrecked attempting to qualify for the Nextel Open at Lowe's Motor Speedway last weekend.

"We're not sure what happened, " De Souza said. "He's had a loose car all day and they thought they'd made some adjustments, but it didn't fix it. You could see from what happened it was nothing that would be a driver's fault."

De Souza said the team will do "due diligence" on Almirola's program, which currently includes part-time Busch and truck series racing, then huddle to reassess his schedule. He had been tentatively set to qualify for up to five Cup events. De Souza said the specialized speedway and research and development outfit that had prepared Almirola's Cup cars had not produced adequate race cars.

"We felt like we're not able to produce the effort we needed which would give him the opportunity to do the best he can, " De Souza said. "We want to do it properly. We'll look at everything involved, who's in charge, everything."

Almirola, sharing time in the No. 18 and No. 20 Gibbs Busch Series Chevrolets, won the pole for the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Two 19th-place finishes (Daytona and Nashville) are his best results. Almirola most recently finished 40th at Darlington, S.C., on May 11. He started 31st in his Nextel Cup debut at Las Vegas on March 11 and finished 41st after crashing 46 laps into the race.

COT gets full 2008 slate

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - NASCAR will use the Car of Tomorrow exclusively in 2008, a year earlier than planned.

The COT was scheduled to run 16 races this season and be phased into competition during the next two years. But costs skyrocketed while car owners tried to maintain two programs, the current car and the COT.

"The majority of car owners actually came to us and said, 'Now that we are up and running the car, it doesn't make sense to have two parallel programs moving forward, ' " competition director Robin Pemberton said.

The COT was a project by NASCAR to design a universal car that is safer, less expensive and better for racing. It has been used in five events this season.

Most drivers have been critical of the COT's handling, but they preferred going to one program.

"We're all struggling with it. We might as well get all the time we can with it week in and week out, even if it drives us all crazy, " Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.

DEI DROPS APPEAL: Dale Earnhardt Inc. dropped its appeal of penalties levied against Earnhardt Jr. and his crew chief for illegal modifications made to the COT. Earnhardt was docked 100 points and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. was fined $100, 000 and suspended six races after NASCAR discovered illegal brackets on the rear wing.