Aric Almirola Wins Pole for Coca-Cola 600
Driving the iconic No. 43, Aric Almirola earned his first career pole in his debut NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway by outpacing teammate Marcos Ambrose Thursday during LiftMaster Pole Night for a Richard Petty Motorsports front row sweep.
Almirola won the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 by turning a lap of 192.940 mph around the 1.5-mile superspeedway. Ambrose, who topped the practice chart earlier in the day, filled out the front row with a lap of 191.598 mph.
“My first lap on track today, I ran kind of conservative, and we had a lot of speed in the car,” Almirola said. “In Victory Lane, (team owner) Richard (Petty) asked, ‘Well, did you scare yourself?’ and the answer was ‘no.’ When they drive well, it’s not scary. I knew it was fast, but I didn’t know it was gonna be that fast. We’re looking forward to Sunday.”
Ambrose was forced to second-guess his lap after losing the pole to his teammate.
“You could always want more,” Ambrose said. “But I was happy with my lap, it just wasn’t quite enough to catch my teammate.”
Perhaps the happiest guy in the joint was Petty, who walked into the media center with a little more swagger, announcing his arrival by drawling, “Hey, y’all.” He then commandeered the post-qualifying interview, and as Almirola tried to protest, The King responded with a chuckling jab: “It’s my turn – we’ve just got you along for the ride.”
“These guys have been working hard for a long time,” Petty said. “We finally got a little recognition tonight with both cars. Big deal, we got bragging rights for a couple of days here anyway.”
Jimmie Johnson, winner of last weekend’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, will start third.
RICHARD PETTY (Team owner, No. 43 US Air Force Ford) – “This really makes me feel good, that hey, our guys been working hard a long time and finally got some recognition. Tonight the circumstances are right, had everything lined up. It’s a confidence-builder. They thought they were getting the job done, tonight they did. Hey, it makes me feel good. These guys have been working hard for a long time. We finally got a little recognition tonight with both cars. Big deal,
we got bragging rights, for a couple of days here anyway. (It’s been 13 years since the 43 was last in Victory Lane) I’ve been here a lot of years, and they all run together. In that standpoint, it feels like last week.”
ARIC ALMIROLA (POLE SITTER, No. 43 US Air Force Ford) – “My first lap on track today, I ran kind of conservative, and we had a lot of speed in the car. In Victory Lane, Richard asked, ‘Well, did you scare yourself?’ and the answer was ‘no.’ When they drive well, it’s not scary. I knew it was fast, but I didn’t know it was gonna be that fast. We’re looking forward to Sunday. We get a whole day to soak this in. It’s been a huge honor for me from day one to come to this organization. I’m driving the 43 car, probably the most iconic car in the history of the sport. It’s a huge honor I know it’s only qualifying, but that’s a start. (Is this a surprise?) I think it’s been possible. We showed speed, it’s just about executing. Our competition is so tough, that if you don’t execute all the small things, they’ll come up and bite you.”
MIKE FORD (Crew chief, No. 43 US Air Force Ford) – “You know, I’ve got a short time working with these cars, but I came in for a couple weeks and observed, and these cars have speed. Took me a couple weeks to figure out how to tune them, and for the Open, we kind of embarrassed ourselves in running seventh... It’s a testament to these guys. They’ve been beat down… these guys just executed the plan we put out, and it’s time to look forward to Sunday.”
SAMMY JOHNS (Director of Operations, No. 43 US Air Force Ford) – “Not only did we win the pole, we got the front row. So we’re bragging real hard. It just feels like our organization is really communicating real well. I think that showed tonight. It’s going to be real fun come Sunday.”
MARCOS AMBROSE (Second fastest, No. 9 DeWalt Ford) – “What a great day for Richard Petty and Richard Petty Motorsports. We’re a two-car team trying to take on the super teams. Congratulations to Aric on a great lap. My DeWalt car was really hooked up. Wish we’d won the pole, but happy to be on the front row. Great day for us. (Did you get everything out of the lap?) You could always want more. But I was happy with my lap, just wasn’t quite enough to catch my teammate. (Mike Ford addition) Absolutely no doubt our team continues to try to become better. I wouldn’t attribute the pole to him entirely, but we are a team always evolving and searching for our performance, and he’s a part of that. (What does it mean to do this for Richard Petty?) Nothing would make me happier than to see The King smile in Victory Lane. I’m proud to represent him and to run well for him. He should feel good about what we did today. He is still steering the ship for us. He is the greatest racer ever. (Neither Almirola nor Ambrose had a pole before) He pretty much took my first pole away from me. I’m joking, I’m really proud of him. He got his out of the way, I’m still looking for mine.”