NASCAR

Aric Almirola Continues To Surprise In NASCAR Standings

Jerome Miron-USA Today Sports

There was an unsuspected rumbling at the beginning of the year that Richard Petty Motorsports was due for a revival after nearly needing to cease operation during the beginning of 2012.

A majority of people who thought such a revival would occur in the form of much-improved driver Marcos Ambrose. However, with a quarter of the season gone, it’s been Aric Almirola who has taken control as the best driver on the team and is the one in charge of leading the revival of this once-dormant team.

Almirola has earned his spot and is a veteran in his own right, graduating through the NASCAR Nationwide Series before earning his chance at Richard Petty Motorsports. The former Joe Gibbs Racing prospect had multiple victories in the Camping World Truck Series, and is continuing his development at an incredible rate.

When Almirola arrived at Daytona International Speedway, nobody knew what to expect. Despite finishing 20th in the standings in 2012, Almirola was entering his sophomore year, a year where notable drivers such as Kasey Kahne have faltered.

Rather, Almirola left with an impressive top-15 finish and continued his strong run until Bristol Motor Speedway, where he experienced his only wreck of the still-young season. After another great run at Richmond International Raceway, Almirola looks to improve over the summer stretch.

Over the last three races, Almirola has reached the cusp of the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings. Crew Chief Todd Parrott has done a great job managing races and should continue to do so. Where Almirola lacks experience, Parrott has been able to provide it.

As the long season continues, it will be interesting to see how the young driver’s results fluctuate. Don’t count out Aric Almirola as a dark horse when the Sprint Cup Series returns to Richmond — he may be contending for not only his first career win, but a berth into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486