Aric Almirola made his first visit to Victory Lane in NASCAR's Truck series last weekend at Dover, Del.
But it was not his first win in one of NASCAR’s three national series.
Almirola officially owns a victory in the Nationwide Series, from a race in 2007 at Milwaukee. Almirola, then working for Joe Gibbs Racing, practiced and qualified a car for Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was in Sonoma, Calif., for a Sprint Cup race that weekend.
Hamlin missed the start of the race so Almirola started. Once Hamlin arrived, he wanted the car and Almirola got out under caution. Hamlin went on to win.
Under NASCAR rules, the driver who starts the race is credited with the result, so Almirola officially got the victory, points and prize money.
However, by the time Hamlin finished the race, Almirola had left the track and never took part in the win.
So last Saturday’s win cleaned a slate, so to speak.
“I didn’t like to take credit for it. Some people would like to introduce me as a Nationwide Series winner, but it wasn’t something I wanted,” said Almirola, who now drives the No. 51 Truck for Billy Ballew Motorsports.
“I’m glad I’ve won a race on my own. I’ve got my own trophy at home – something I’m very proud of.”
Almirola said his lack of a “true” NASCAR win has weighed on him, particularly as he has tried to establish a permanent home with a top-notch organization.
Kyle Busch had driven the No. 51 pat-time for several seasons, but started his own Truck team this year. That opened the seat for Almirola, who took the job full time.
He hasn’t finished worse than seventh in the season’s first six races entering.
“I know what we are capable of as a team – running up front and winning races,” Almirola said. “If we can continue to do what we have been doing, hopefully, we will be in a legitimate position to win a championship.”
After some tough experiences in NASCAR’s Cup and Nationwide series, Almirola is enjoying being part of a team that is a weekly contender for race wins.
He also rolls into Friday night’s N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as the series points leader.
“I try not to put a lot of thought into it being that it’s so early in the season,” Almirola said. “If I stick to what I’m doing now, I think I have a legitimate shot to run for a championship. If people on the outside see that, I don’t see why, at 26 years-old, I couldn’t go back up the ladder.
“I’m perfectly content doing what I’m doing now. I feel very blessed and fortunate that I still have a job. I don’t take anything I got for granted.”