LONG POND, Pa — Aric Almirola’s 200th career NASCAR Sprint Cup start will have to wait a day after rain postponed Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway.
But that’s fine for the 32-year-old driver for Richard Petty Motorsports, who reflects upon his early goals in racing.
“When I dreamed about driving a race car I dreamed about racing in NASCAR, but I never really understood what that looked like and I never really thought about long-term and things like that,’’ Almirola said.
“You just dream about running a race and you dream about winning a race and things like that, but to actually have had the opportunities that I’ve had along the way that have got me to where I’m at today, when you get to this point and you sort of take the time to reflect back on what all has happened to get to where you’re at today, to make my 200th start this weekend, for me, it honestly just makes me realize how blessed I am.”
Almirola is among those who have won at least one race in each the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series.
He has one Cup victory (Daytona in July 2014), two Camping World Truck Series wins and officially two Xfinity victories — although he recognizes only his win at Daytona last month since he completed that race unlike the 2007 Milwaukee win he was replaced by Denny Hamlin but still credited with the win because he started the race.
“As a kid racing out of Tampa, Florida that just had high hopes and a lot of dreams, I never thought I would make it to this point, so I’m just really blessed and fortunate to be where I’m at today and grateful,’’ Almirola said.
Almirola’s 200th start, though, will come from the back. Almirola will relinquish his 27th starting spot and take the green flag at the back of the field because of a rear differential change before the race. The race has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN (Countdown to Green airs at 10:30 a.m. ET).
It has been a struggle this season for Almirola and his Richard Petty Motorsports team. He is 25th in the points and has yet to score his first top-10 of the season. His best finish this season is 12th in the Daytona 500.
“We still have an alliance with Roush (Fenway Racing), but it’s a little less this year than it’s been in year’s past,’’ Almirola said. “We’ve gotten a little more autonomous with building our own cars and hanging our own bodies and brought on some of our own engineering staff and things like that.
“To be honest with you, we knew that going into it was going to be a work in progress. We weren’t just going to be able to build from ground zero and come out of the box and be super-successful and ultra-competitive, but we did have a lot higher hopes for success than what we’ve seen this year.
“I realize that it is challenging to go out and start a whole program from scratch as far as building your own chassis and bringing on engineers to help develop that, especially now with the limited testing that we get to do. You end up testing at the race track on race weekends, which makes it even more difficult.’’