Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Air Force Ford team look to repeat last year's speed in the Coca-Cola 600. Almirola and team won the pole in last year's 600-mile event and finished 16th in his Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway debut. In just his second start at the 1.5-mile track, Almirola started 15th and drove to the 12th position.
The United States Air Force will adorn the hood of the No. 43 Ford this weekend. This will mark the 13th consecutive season the Air Force has been involved in NASCAR, five of which were with Richard Petty Motorsports. Charlotte Motor Speedway has many events that include the Air Force, as well as other branches of the military, as the sport works to give back during this patriotic weekend.
Fans will have many opportunities to meet and see Almirola this week. The Tampa, Fla., native will participate in the fifth annual King's Cup - Karting for A Cause to raise money for the Paralyzed Veterans of America tonight at Victory Lane Karting. Almirola will also participate in RPM Fan Appreciation Day Thursday, May 23 at the RPM shop. He will be on-hand to sign autographs from 11 a.m. until 12 p.m. Wrist bands will be distributed at 8 a.m. He will join Richard Petty and Dale Inman in a Q&A and autograph session for Smithfield at the Food Lion Speed Street Friday, May 24 at 1:15 p.m.
Comments from Air Force Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"I'm really looking forward to this weekend. We got the pole here last year, so we have high expectations for this weekend as well. The race is an extra 100 miles, and you can really feel it. When you would normally get ready to get after it with 50 to go there are still another 100 laps to go. It's hard on the engine shop. It's hard on the cars. You make a lot of pit stops during a 600 mile race too, so the pit crew has to stay focused all night as well.
"It will be a challenge racing from day to night. The track is so slick in the middle of the afternoon. You get really frustrated, and it's hard to figure out what your car is doing and what you want it to do. You can really adjust your way out of where you need to be. It's important to really have an understanding of what you want your car to be like in the middle of the day to know it's going to be good at nighttime.
"Memorial Day Weekend is a really special weekend. The Air Force will be on the car, and I couldn't be more proud to represent them this weekend. We are lucky to do what we love week in and week out, and if it wasn't for our military, we wouldn't have that opportunity. I'm glad that we can give back this weekend. I'd really like to get the Air Force in victory lane and be able to celebrate with them."
Comments from Air Force Ford Fusion Crew Chief Todd Parrott:
"We were disappointed last weekend with the Sprint Showdown. The car did not handle the way we would have liked. Unfortunately, we only had one opportunity to make a change. The 600 is a long race, so it is important that we stay focused and really work on the car to get a good handle into the night. Our team has done a great job all year adjusting the car throughout the race to finish well at the end. We need to keep doing what we have been doing, and I think we'll have a good finish Sunday."