Birthdate: March 14, 1984 (on Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida) Hometown: Tampa, Florida Current Residence: Mooresville, North Carolina Family: wife; Janice and children; Alex and Abby
Career Highlights –
- Took the famed No.43 Richard Petty Motorsports car back to victory lane by winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway in July 2014.
- Competed in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ and finished 16th in championship point standings for Richard Petty Motorsports.
- Finished fourth in 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series driver point standings for JR Motorsports
- Won two races and finished in the runner-up spot in the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series campaign for Billy Ballew Motorsports
- Cup Series career-best finish of fourth place; 2010 in the No. 9 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Ford in Homestead-Miami Speedway and 2012 in the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford at Martinsville Speedway.
- Made first NASCAR Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2007 for Joe Gibbs Racing
Almirola’s journey to racing’s limelight began in 1992, when he began go-kart racing at the age of eight. He quickly collected championships at both the state and local levels, and advanced to national competition in 1998. Almirola solidified his racing talents in the World Karting Association when he earned the pole for the series’ prestigious Grand National event in Daytona. He finished the year fourth in the national standings.
In 2000 after climbing behind the wheel of an open-wheel modified, Almirola earned Rookie of the Year honors in the Florida Modified division and the Southern Automobile Racing Association. Almirola then took his racing smarts to the Florida Sunbelt Series, the most competitive super late model series in the state, where he finished runner-up in the Rookie of the Year standings. He followed suit with more success the following year, winning a series-high six poles.
The Chance of a Lifetime
The 2003 racing season was a turning point for Almirola, who became one of the original members of the Joe Gibbs Racing/Reggie White Driver Diversity Program. Almirola took his first step into NASCAR competition in 2004, piloting late models at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C., collecting two wins, six top-fives and 15 top-10 finishes.
Continuing to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005, Almirola took his skills to the southeast, racing in several esteemed late model events. Almirola went on to win seven races and notched 11 poles that year. His performance behind the wheel of late models earned him a chance in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Morgan-Dollar Motorsports. Almirola piloted the team’s No. 47 Silverado for four races; scoring two top-10 finishes.
In 2006-2007, he competed in the Nationwide Series, earning three poles and six top-10s. Almirola is credited with one victory—the June 23, 2007, race at Milwaukee Mile—in which he and Denny Hamlin shared seat time in the victorious No. 20 car. That performance was part of a successful 2007 campaign, which opened doors to a lifelong dream of racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Dale Earnhardt Inc. signed Almirola to a part-time driving deal in 2008 with the unique task of splitting seat time with one of NASCAR’s all-time greats, Mark Martin. Most of Almirola’s Sprint Cup starts came with DEI (later to become Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing).
Almirola continued racing in sporadic Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races in 2009 and 2010, but the opportunity to compete full-time this year with Billy Ballew Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series was too good to pass up. Almirola earned two wins on the season, and finished second in the championship point standings.
Journey To The Top
In 2010 at O’Reilly Raceway Park, Almirola joined JRM’s heralded No. 88 team, in what was at the time, a one-race stint. He started the Kroger 200 in sixth position, led one lap, ran among the top-five all night, and finished third in his debut in the No. 88 GT Vodka Chevrolet. A month later, JR Motorsports cemented an integral part of its future by signing Almirola to drive the company’s flagship No. 88 NASCAR Nationwide Series entry fulltime starting in 2011. However, before the 2010 season concluded, Almirola drove the No. 88 in six more races. He earned three top-10 finishes and led 15 laps before the season’s end.
Paired with crew chief Tony “Pops” Eury Sr., Almirola embarked on a full-time season in the No. 88 banner car for JR Motorsports in 2011. Finishing out the season fourth in the Championship points standings, Almirola drove to seven top-five, 18 top-10 finishes and earned one pole position. All was set to compete again in the No. 88 for the 2012 season, until late December when Almirola received a call from the legendary King of NASCAR to take the wheel of the No. 43 Sprint Cup Series car.
Racing The Famed 43
In 2012, Almirola joined Richard Petty Motorsports. He won his first Sprint Cup Series Pole at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the team hit their stride in 2013 with six Top-10 finishes, including four in a row. The 2014 season was a breakthrough one for Almirola. He won his first Sprint Cup race at the Daytona International Speedway on the same weekend that Petty won his 200th 30 years prior. Celebrating in Victory Lane, Almirola participated in his first Chase for The Sprint Cup. He posted two Top-Five and seven Top-10 finishes enroute to a 16th-place finish in the point standings. The success of the 2014 season earned Almirola a spot in the Top-25 Latino Athletes in ESPN Deportes The Magazine.
With a goal of gaining consistency, Almirola and the No. 43 team did just that. Posting three Top-Five, six Top-10 and 18 Top-15 finishes, the team narrowly missed The Chase and scored the 17th spot in the Championship Point Standings, the top non-Chase spot.
Almirola and the No. 43 Ford team are now back again for their four season together. With a winning confidence, expect Almirola to once again be one running up front and competing for a championship in 2016.