|Aric Almirola is 60/1 to win Sunday at Martinsville.|
How much are you looking forward to going to Martinsville, the first real short track of the season?
“I really look forward to going to Martinsville. Every time we go there, it’s just fun racing. It’s a love-hate relationship with Martinsville Speedway because it’s tight quarters and it’s easy to get frustrated. You kind of beat and bang with all of your competitors but it’s so cool. It’s one of the coolest places to watch a race, as well. I’m excited, it’s my 250th Cup start. Who would’ve ever thought I’d actually be in the series that long? I know I didn’t. It’s going to be a fun weekend.”
What do you have to get right at Martinsville to be successful?
“Martinsville is no different than any other racetrack. You’ve got to have a good car, good brakes, good pit stops, you’ve got to have everything. You can’t win at this level in the Cup Series and have a weak link. Martinsville just really exposes a few of those areas more than others. You’ve got to have a good-turning car and good mechanical grip because the tires wear out so fast. Aerodynamics is not overly important, but aerodynamics are still important. We show up to Martinsville and guys still get tight behind other cars and, if your spoiler falls off, you’ll still spin out and wreck.”
Can you describe how difficult pit road is at Martinsville, especially coming off of pit road when drivers are playing games with each other?
“Martinsville’s pit road is probably the most treacherous pit road of any track we go to. It’s very, very tight quarters. You don’t have a lot of room to work and the pit crews don’t have a lot of room to work. Then, leaving pit road is very narrow, so you run into issues with guys pulling out of their box and you’re already two-wide and you either have to give way to them, or you run the risk of getting your left-front fender cleaned off. You see wrecks on pit road a lot at Martinsville Speedway, and then the games everyone plays at the end of pit road. They’re checking up to try and make sure that they’re going to restart on the inside lane, because the inside lane is usually – nine out of 10 times – the preferred lane at Martinsville.”
When you were growing up, did you ever think you’d be at this point in your career with 250 Cup Series starts?
“I wanted to be dirty and work on racecars. I didn’t care if I made $200 a week, or $200,000 a week. It honestly made no difference to me, I didn’t care. I just wanted to make a living, to be able to wake up in the morning and be a racer. To be able to do it at this level, and to have stayed in the Cup Series for this amount of time and have this opportunity in front of me, it’s incredible to think about my 250th start. I now realize when I look in the mirror and I see the gray hair in my sideburns and in my beard, it all makes sense.”