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Almirola reflects on career, heritage as he makes 200th start
Aric Almirola insists he was absolutely prepared to climb into his No. 43 Smithfield Ford this Sunday for the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway completely focused on nothing other than scoring a victory and working toward earning a position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But his public relations team brought up an important milestone that even he conceded was definitely worth noting, if not celebrating. This Sunday's race marks the 32-year old Almirola's 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start -- a significant measure of his staying power and a testament to how far he's come. Literally. He is the son of a Cuban immigrant on his dad's side of the family and the grandson of one of Florida's most celebrated and accomplished racers -- Sam Rodriguez -- on his mom's side. That has created a unique background dynamic that gives Almirola motivation and pride. And makes this weekend a heartfelt measure of success. "I think here I am and my dad came over from Cuba and 50 years later I'm making my 200th start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Richard Petty," Almirola said. "It's so crazy to me, what living in this country affords you and allows you to be able to do, and my grandparents made that decision to come over here and take this chance." The sheer number of starts represents a mark of opportunity for Almirola. Making it into NASCAR's big league was always the harder path, the road less travelled. But he has made it. And that's only the beginning. "I don't think anybody dreams about running two hundred races, they dream about 'a' race," Almirola said. "So as a kid I dreamed about driving 'a' Cup car, running 'a' race. So, now the fact I've had the opportunity to do it two hundred times, when you realize that, and the marketing department brings to your attention that, 'Hey, Pocono is going to be your 200th start,' it really makes you kind of reflect on everything that's led up to this. "From being a kid racing go-karts all the way up to all the opportunities I've had. I realize by reflecting on all that stuff how fortunate and blessed I am." The thing is, Almirola could have just as easily been a star baseball player as a winning NASCAR driver. His native city of Tampa, Florida is a ballplayer's town. It produced Wade Boggs and Lou Piniella. Both Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield graduated from Almirola's Hillsborough High School. A calendar year in this part of the country has traditionally been delineated by baseball and football seasons. That just makes Almirola's success climbing the NASCAR ranks even more impressive. "I was in somewhat of a hot bed there for athletes," Almirola said smiling. "But I had a really strong passion for racing and I know that made me somewhat of an outsider at school growing up. When friends would ask, 'Hey what are you doing this weekend?' I'd say, I was going racing. "That kind of separated me from a lot of kids at school -- not in a bad way, I wasn't an outcast in a negative way, but I didn't have as close a relationship with kids at school because I didn't go parties at their house Friday night after football games. I was always working on my race cars or go-karts and racing on the weekends. "I wasn't looking for something to do on the weekend. I already had it." "I was always going to be a NASCAR guy. My grandfather raced sprint cars, so obviously the open wheel path was there, too. He'd race at East Bay every Saturday night and occasionally travel around the country going to races. But every Sunday it was normal, to get up, eat breakfast, hang around the house and then watch the Cup race. That was routine around my parents and my grandparents. We love NASCAR." The result for Almirola has been a starring role driving his sport's most iconic car -- the No. 43 -- for the sport's biggest legend, Petty. NASCAR's crown jewel, Daytona International Speedway, is also Almirola's "home track" and fittingly the venue he won his first Sprint Cup Series race in 2014, the Coke Zero 400 -- exactly 30 years after his boss Petty scored his historic 200th victory at the track. Consider this: Petty's win total would be equivalent to Almirola winning every start he's made. RELATED: Almirola's Darlington scheme honors Petty " Darlington schemes Though that remains the only Cup victory so far for Almirola, it was enough to propel him into the 2014 Chase and make him only more eager to return. His team's best finish this year is a 12th-place in the season-opening Daytona 500. He's had four top-15 showings -- three in the season's opening four races. He ranks 25th in points entering Pocono, hopeful to score a win in one of the remaining six races to set the 16-driver Chase field. "I think the reality is we have struggled this season and you can tell by watching the race and looking at our results," Almirola said. "This year has been a struggle and we can't really put our finger on what's wrong. People often ask what's wrong and it sounds like a smart-aleck answer, but if I knew, we'd fix it. "There are a couple places looking ahead that have been strong for us. Bristol comes to top of mind. We had a chance to win there a couple years ago battling with Carl Edwards. And then there's (regular season finale) Richmond. Last year we went there kinda do or die to make the Chase and finished fourth, but had a really strong car and a legitimate chance to win that race, too. Those are kind of top of mind to me where we might go in and get a win." Listening to Almirola reflect on his first 200 races, there is both a fond memory of what it took to get to this point and a distinct urgency in his voice to succeed in a way worthy of the hard work already put in. "Making my 200th start really forces me to reflect and when I do that and think about doing it for Richard Petty, who is very much an American icon. And I can't help but reflect on my family, which has done so much and sacrificed so much to get me where I'm at," Almirola said. "It really is amazing."
Final Laps: Bully Hill Vineyards 200
Kyle Busch blows by Ron Hornaday off the restart to capture his second straight CWTS victory at Nashville.
Post-Race Reactions: Bully Hill Vineyards 200
An excited Nelson Piquet Jr. and a disappointed Ron Hornaday comment on the race in Nashville, as well as the rest of the top finishers.
Results from Indianapolis heat races
Heat 1 Finish Car Driver Team 1 18 Kyle Busch (i) NOS Energy Drink Toyota 2 42 Kyle Larson (i) ParkerStore Chevrolet 3 22 Joey Logano (i) Discount Tire Ford 4 19 Daniel Suarez Juniper Networks Toyota 5 1 Elliott Sadler OneMain Chevrolet 6 98 Jeb Burton Estes Ford 7 33 Brandon Jones # Jeld-Wen/Menards Chevrolet 8 16 Ryan Reed Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford 9 11 Blake Koch LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet 10 51 Jeremy Clements RepairableVehicles.com/SDD Chevrolet 11 44 J.J. Yeley Zachry Toyota 12 14 Jeff Green Toyota 13 0 Garrett Smithley # teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet 14 01 Ryan Preece # teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet 15 13 Harrison Rhodes TredWear.com/Masters Properties Toyota 16 25 Stanton Barrett KeensBuildings.com Chevrolet 17 74 Mike Harmon truckersfinalmile.org Dodge 18 89 Morgan Shepherd Chevrolet 19 40 Timmy Hill (i) CrashClaimsR.Us/Icard Merrill Dodge 20 10 Matt DiBenedetto (i) Toyota * -- Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler are eligible to run for the Dash 4 Cash in the main race. Heat 2 Finish Car Driver Team 1 20 Erik Jones # Hisense USA Toyota 2 88 Kevin Harvick (i) Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet 3 7 Justin Allgaier BRANDT Chevrolet 4 2 Paul Menard (i) Richmond/Menards Chevrolet 5 48 Brennan Poole # DC Solar Chevrolet 6 3 Ty Dillon Rheem/Nidec/US Motors Chevrolet 7 6 Darrell Wallace Jr. Ford EcoBoost Ford 8 62 Brendan Gaughan South Point Chevrolet 9 39 Ryan Sieg NiceTargets Chevrolet 10 28 Dakoda Armstrong WinField Toyota 11 4 Ross Chastain Dream Water Chevrolet 12 07 Ray Black Jr. # Scuba Life Chevrolet 13 46 Brandon Gdovic TCC Culture of Good Chevrolet 14 78 BJ McLeod # Safecraft Safety Equipment Ford 15 93 David Starr Massimo Motors Chevrolet 16 90 Mario Gosselin BuckedUp Apparel Chevrolet 17 97 Ryan Ellis VroomBrands Chevrolet 18 70 Derrike Cope E-hydrate/Circle Track Warehouse Chevrolet 19 52 Joey Gase Donate Life Chevrolet 20 15 Todd Peck Carport Empire/Lilly Trucking Ford * -- Erik Jones and Justin Allgaier are eligible to run for the Dash 4 Cash in the main race.
John Wes Townley sitting out Eldora race with possible concussion
Concord, N.C. (July 18, 2016) – John Wes Townley remains under treatment for a possible concussion and will not compete in Wednesday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway. ARCA competitor Brady Boswell will drive the No. 05 Zaxby's/Jive Communications Chevrolet at Eldora for Townley. The 19-year-old Boswell, like Townley, is a resident of Watkinsville, Georgia. Both drivers are graduates of North Oconee High School in Bogart, Georgia. Veteran driver and NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman will substitute for Townley in Friday night's ARCA Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 presented by Jive at Lucas Oil Raceway. Townley is scheduled to be re-evaluated by his physician July 25, when he anticipates gaining medical clearance to return to competition in ARCA and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for events next week at Pocono Raceway.
Dale's call: Bowman misses FaceTime with boss
LOUDON, N.H. -- We found out earlier this weekend that Alex Bowman is prone to missing important phone calls, but you'd think when the boss man tries to FaceTime, he'd answer. Not quite. RELATED: Bowman gets call to jump in No. 88 -- sends it to voicemail After placing eighth in Saturday's AutoLotto 200 NASCAR XFINITY Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Bowman -- tapped to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Sunday's New Hampshire 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event -- mentioned in his post-race press conference that Junior "loves to FaceTime." But he's never answered the, for lack of a better term, Dale Call. "I don't think I've ever actually answered any type of video chat from him," Bowman said. "Definitely missed a few from him." Race weekends are busy, sure, but you'd think the 23-year-old would jump at the opportunity to take a video chat from the man for whom he's subbing, knowing Earnhardt is hanging around his house, bored and probably Netflixed-out as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms. "Dale's probably sitting at home, super bored, watching the TV," said Bowman, who will line up 20th in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. "He's probably criticizing what I did today, saying 'Why didn't you do a better job?.' I don't know; he's probably just really bored at home trying to talk to everybody last night. "I just know that everybody's phone kept ringing (Friday) night. I was in the shower, (spotter) TJ Majors told me that he was in the shower and his phone rang three times. So, Dale was just wanting to talk." </p>
Hill : 'It's been 35 years since I've been in the Garage'
Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Bruce Hill comments on being back at the track for the first time in 35 years.
NASCAR Next's Austin Hill snags part-time Truck ride
NASCAR Next driver Austin Hill is set for a part-time schedule this season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The 21-year-old Georgia native will compete in the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 (Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN/SiriusXM) at Daytona International Speedway , driving a Ford for Empire Racing Group. Hill will then shift to his family team of Austin Hill Racing for the rest of the season, according to a release provided Monday by his representatives. Hill competed in six Camping World Truck Series events the last two seasons. He also has five victories in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he finished third in the driver standings last year. "We're just trying to step up the ranks," Hill said. "I feel like this move will be a good stepping stone for us as a team, and I want to go out there and prove that we belong in this series." The release indicated that Atlanta, Dover, Kentucky, Bristol, Texas were among the tracks on Hill's partial slate, which is scheduled to span more than half of the season's 23 races. Doug Chouinard, who has worked with Hill in the K&N ranks, will serve as the team's crew chief.
Crown Royal Heroes: Piper Hill
Check out Crown Royal Heroes nominee Piper Hill . One of these five finalists will receive naming rights to the 2016 Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard.
Full schedule for New Hampshire
RELATED: Find NBCSN in your area " Watch live online at NBCSports.com The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series will gather for a doubleheader weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this week. Check out the full weekend schedule below. Note: All times are ET SUNDAY, JULY 17: PRE-RACE SCHEDULE 11:30:00 a.m.: NSCS Driver/Crew Chief Meeting (NXS Garage) 12:55:00 p.m.: NSCS Drivers Introductions with NASCAR Special Awards 1:23:15 p.m.: Canadian National Anthem by: Kirk Young, Tilton, NH Resident 1:25:00 p.m.: Moment of Silence 1:25:15 p.m.: Presentation of Colors by: Combined Services Color Guard 1:25:35 p.m.: Invocation by: Joshua Johnson 1:26:15 p.m.: National Anthem: Caroline Burns, NBC's The Voice Contestant 1:32:15 p.m.: "Drivers, Start Your Engines" by: New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan 1:39:45 p.m.: Start of the New Hampshire 301 (301 laps, 318.46 miles) ON TRACK -- 1:30 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series New Hampshire 301 (301 laps, 318.46 miles), NBCSN ( Results ) PRESS CONFERENCE ( Watch live ) -- 4:30 p.m. (approx.): Post-NSCS race DAILY ROUNDUP -- Bowman keeps missing Dale's call -- NASCAR offers review of pit-road rule -- Report: Lorenzen joins brain pledge -- Bowman gains confidence behind wheel of No. 88 -- Kenseth surges late for New Hampshire win -- Ky. Busch, Edwards sew up Chase berths -- Kenseth's No. 20 Toyota fails post-race inspection -- Stewart proves what 'Smoke will rise' means FRIDAY, JULY 15: -- 11:30 a.m.-12:55 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first practice, NBCSN ( Results ) -- 1-1:55 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series first practice, NBCSN ( Results ) -- 3-4:25 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series second practice, NBCSN ( Results ) -- 4:45 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, NBCSN ( Results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 9:30 a.m.: Hendrick Motorsports general manager Doug Duchardt, Sprint Cup Series No. 88 crew chief Greg Ives and driver Alex Bowman (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) -- 10:15 a.m.: Ty Dillon -- 10:30 a.m.: Ryan Newman -- 10:45 a.m.: Kyle Busch -- 1 p.m.: Carl Edwards -- 1:20 p.m.: Kyle Larson -- 1:50 p.m.: Joey Logano -- 6 p.m. (approx.): Brad Keselowski , Post-NSCS qualifying GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 11 a.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series -- 2:30 p.m: NASCAR XFINITY Series DAILY ROUNDUP -- Dale Jr. to miss New Hampshire race, Bowman filling in -- Reaction to Junior's concussion news -- What drivers are saying about Dale Jr. missing race -- Gordon to drive No. 88 at Indy if Junior can't -- Chase clinching scenarios for New Hampshire -- See Bowman in the No. 88 Chevrolet -- Bowman looks to make most of opportunity -- Junior's health news unexpected, Hendrick official says -- Truex fastest in Friday's first practice -- At-track photos from Friday at New Hampshire SATURDAY, JULY 16: -- 10-10:55 a.m: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series second practice, CNBC ( Results ) -- 11:15 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, CNBC (NBCSN will pick up coverage at noon ET) ( Results ) -- 12:30-1:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN ( Results ) -- 4 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series AutoLotto 200 ( 200 laps, 211.6 miles), NBCSN ( Results ) PRESS CONFERENCE ( Watch live ) -- 6 p.m. (approx.): Post-NXS race DAILY ROUNDUP -- Cain: Junior's decision to sit out is absolutely right -- Elliott, Edwards top Saturday practices -- What was the secret to Jimmie's pole-winning run? -- At-track photos from New Hampshire -- Ky. Busch wins XFINITY race at New Hampshire -- Dillon calls wreck by Bowman 'on purpose' -- Watch Busch hold off Jones in final laps &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;