Aric Almirola is officially clear to race at New Hampshire after being away from the sport for over a month with a compression fracture in his verdabre and while on track return is still a few days away, he has already embroiled himself in controversy by releasing a statement to fans that basically says he was “complacent and took his Cup ride for granted.”
That’s not to say Aric Almirola is a bad guy or even undeserving of the ride he currently has with Richard Petty Racing. In all honesty, he’s probably as hungry for success as any other Cup Series driver, but to make a statement like this after Darrel Wallace JR, who subbed for him multiple times, is in danger of being without a ride for the rest of the season and next just seems like a slap in the face.
“It felt great to be back in the race car yesterday,” Almirola said in a team release. “After racing in the Monster Energy Series for five and a half years, it got to be routine, and I took it for granted. When something gets taken away from you at a moment’s notice like that, it has certainly made me appreciate my passion for racing and my desire to compete at this level. The thrill of running 200 miles per hour in a stock car was something that I had honestly lost a little bit. After being out of the car for eight weeks, the passion is back, now more than ever.”
All of this might look like nitpicking, but try this. Compare the statement that Aric Almirola and his team released to the statement that Darrel Wallace JR made after finishing in the top-25 at Kentucky and you’ll see a start difference in their words.
“Just trying to take it all in stride, it’s been bittersweet,” he said later. “The four races that we had, I really enjoyed working with them and can’t thank Richard Petty enough, Ford enough, for the opportunity. Just wishing we could go longer.”
That ride should be Darrell Wallace JR’s and everyone knows it! Sure, it wasn’t perfect and Wallace JR failed to finish in the top-ten once during his four race stint with RPM, but that was actually his first time stepping into a Cup car in his career. Just imagine what the kid could do if RPM put him in the car full time and he actually had a chance to grow his skills?
Hopefully Aric Almirola will put all this behind him and be able to will his team on to the playoffs. Maybe he’ll even make it past the first round and go on to win once or twice this season, but every time he doesn’t, fans are going to wonder what Wallace JR could do if he was behind the wheel of that car. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below and tell us who you think deserves the ride!