Climbing through the late model ranks is not glamorous, but no matter how humble the origin, a true racer knows early that is what they want to do for the rest of their life.
For Aric Almirola, it was a $400-a-week paycheck and a percentage of the prize money that set him on the path to becoming a NASCAR Cup driver.
“When I finally got that call to move to North Carolina and go drive for Joe Gibbs – I got paid $400 a week to drive racecars and I got to keep half of whatever I won, driving a late model. … I made $26-$30,000 that year and I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome,’ ” he said on Wednesday’s NASCAR America.
“From that day forward, I was like this is what I want to do forever. I want to make a living. I don’t care how small, how big – I want to work on racecars. I want to drive racecars and so far, it’s worked out.”
While driving for Gibbs, Almirola got the opportunity to participate in a contest to drive a team truck for Dennis Setzer in 2005. Everyone ran 10 laps, came in and told the crew chief what they would like to see changed, then run 25 laps on a fresh set of tires.
“Whoever won this combine was going to get to run four non-companion Truck races,” Almirola said.
He won by having the quickest time, but might also have scored points with the crew chief by not asking for any changes.
In his first Truck race after the combine, Almirola was running in the top five with 40 laps remaining when he got into a wreck with Mike Skinner. He finished 30th in the 36-truck field.
His next outing was much better. Starting 31st at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Almirola finished 10th the following week.
For more, watch the video above.