For Aric Almirola, 2009 was certainly a year to forget. The 25-year-old native of Tampa, Florida found himself out of a drive early in the season due to lack of sponsorship, then bounced between NASCAR’s Nationwide and Truck Series before ending the season on an unsure note. Last year, Almirola finished 20th overall in the Truck Series behind the wheel of Billy Ballew’s No. 15 Chevrolet Silverado, competing and placing in 16 out of 25 races as a part-time driver. He doesn’t have Kyle Busch’s numbers, but Almirola still managed seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes, with his best performance coming in Iowa where he finished second.
"I went into Homestead having no idea what I was going to do [in 2010]," Almirola said of the 2009 season finale.
This year, however, will be a different story. After a productive off-season, Almirola has secured driver spots in both the Cup and Truck Series. At the Cup level, he will be piloting the No.09 Chevrolet Impala fielded by Phoenix Racing. In the Truck Series, Almirola will once again be flying under Billy Ballew’s banner in the No.15 Silverado.
"I talked with James [Finch, owner of Phoenix Racing] about [doing the full Cup season]," Almirola said. "His plan is to go full time. We're still working on a lot of things. At this point, when I got off the phone with him just the other day, it was, 'We're going racing, and the rest will take care of itself.'"
Appreciative of his opportunities, Almirola also acknowledges he is part of the growing youth trend in NASCAR.
"At the same time, like I said, you're not going to stop having the next ‘American Idol,’ so to speak, in NASCAR. You're not going to stop having the next young guy coming up. It was Jeff Gordon a long time ago, today it's Joey Logano. Who knows what is going to be next?"
Almirola will be at Daytona Speedway when the 2010 NASCAR season starts up next month.
Image courtesy of Aric Almirola Racing.