Almirola to Make Debut Aric Almirola will make his debut in the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet in Saturday night’s Nextel Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. It will be the second career Cup race for the 23-year-old driver and his first with Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Almirola joined DEI after a whirlwind week in mid July. In a matter of a few days after leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to sign with Ginn Racing, he found himself headed to DEI when the company merged with Ginn.
The Tampa, Fla. native will share the 01 Army ride with veteran Mark Martin in selected races of the current season and also during the 2008 campaign.
"In less than a week, I went from Joe Gibbs Racing to Ginn Racing to DEI," said Almirola. "Everything is great and I'm excited to get strapped into the Army Chevy and do battle at Bristol. It's an awesome track and it's important for me to show our soldiers and DEI that I am capable of doing a good job for them."
Bristol's famed half-mile bullring, which usually produces more sheet metal carnage than any other track on the NASCAR circuit, is obviously not the ideal place for making a driving debut.
"I might be a Cup rookie, but I know all about the pitfalls of the Bristol track," offered Almirola, who has competed in two previous Busch races at Bristol. "It's a demanding track, but luck is also a big factor there. I don't plan on finishing with a clean car, but I do plan on finishing all the laps. My goal is to be competitive and run strong."
Almirola is also scheduled to compete in Friday night's Busch race at Bristol for Joe Gibbs Racing. In his two previous Busch races at the high-banked short track -- August 2006 and March 2007 -- he qualified 15th in both events. He finished 20th in last year’s race and was involved in an accident in the March race.
"I don't have a lot of experience at Bristol, but I have had enough to know that you have to be patient and totally focused," noted Almirola. “It’s a demanding track and you can’t ever let your guard down.”
Ryan Pemberton, crew chief for the 01 Army Chevy, said the goal is simple for Saturday night’s race.
“Aric is a talented driver and I don’t have to tell him that patience is golden at Bristol,” said Pemberton. “He knows what it takes to get the job done. We just want to put a whole race together and run every lap. This is without a doubt the toughest race and toughest track to make your first start.”
In the March race at Bristol, Pemberton also assisted a rookie driver when Regan Smith made his debut after Martin drove the 01 car in the first four races.
“This race is equally different, but equally as important,” added Pemberton. “In March we went into Bristol leading the driver points. Now, we go into Bristol hoping to maintain our top-12 spot of making the Chase for the owner’s championship.”
In Almirola’s first Cup race – at Las Vegas in March – he retired from the event early after being involved in an accident.
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