SPEED.com has selected NASCAR’s top 10 drivers – across the three major national series – in 2010 and will spotlight them for two weeks. Today: Driver No. 9 – Camping World Truck Series star Aric Almirola.
Aric Almirola has traveled a long and winding road to get to his current spot.
Almirola’s NASCAR career has gone like this: Green flag, red flag, green flag, red flag, detour, detour, green flag.
He has moved from team to team, seeing promising situations dissolve through no fault of his own. After landing rides in seemingly positive scenarios at Joe Gibbs Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc., he found himself looking again and wound up in a full-time Camping World Truck Series ride with Billy Ballew Motorsports in 2010.
It turned out to be the kick-start Almirola’s career needed.
Almirola had a remarkably successful season in trucks and would have won the series championship if not for the even more remarkable year posted by champion Todd Bodine. Almirola won twice, had 11 top fives and, showing great consistency, scored 21 top 10s in 25 races.
He also did well in eight Nationwide Series starts for JR Motorsports, the team that will field cars for him full time in 2011.
Almirola capped his year in the Sprint Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a fourth-place run.
The season established Almirola as one of NASCAR’s rising stars.
And there could have been more. Although the official statistics list Almirola with two Truck wins, he will tell you that three is the more accurate number.
Almirola and Kyle Busch waged a hot battle for the win at Talladega Superspeedway in October, and the fight ended in a photo finish, Busch edging Almirola by a series-record tight margin of .002 of a second. But Almirola argued that Busch drove below the inside yellow line – a no-no – to make the winning pass.
NASCAR stood by the Busch victory.
Almirola won Truck events at Dover and Michigan.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.