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NASCAR: Aric Almirola puts Chicagoland Speedway track to the test

Aric Almiroldriver #43 RainEater Wiper Blades Ford looks garage areduring practice for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race

Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 RainEater Wiper Blades Ford, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. | Getty Images

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Updated: September 29, 2013 6:29AM



With fewer than 20 days to go before the green flag drops on the GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup driver can give fans a scouting report on how the track has been holding up.

“I haven’t been to this track since last September and the track seems a little rougher and worn out,” Aric Almirola said Monday. “It’s not really a concern, but it is going to be something that everyone is going to have to deal with.”

Almirola joined his Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Marcos Ambrose and eight other drivers for a testing session Monday at the Speedway. Testing is expected to continue into Tuesday, with Ambrose, Almirola, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski.

Almirola, for one, wants to use information gathered at the testing sessions for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race in Atlanta.

“It’s been going really good and we’ve been running really well here in testing,” Almirola said. “We’ve been learning about some new things for Atlanta and that we can be really fast. We had some pretty good speed (Monday) morning.”

Almirola is 18th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings with one top-five finish and five finishes in the top 10.

“Our year has been going good,” Almirola said. “You can’t win every race, but all in all we have seen improvement.”

Barring a major shakeup in the points standings, Almirola is pretty sure he won’t be making the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship as a wild card.

The top-10 drivers in the points standings automatically make the Chase, along with the two drivers who have the most wins of the remaining field — 12 drivers in all. The GEICO 400, scheduled for Sept. 15, kicks off NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“There are things that happened that have been out of our control,” Almirola said. “I feel like six or seven races ago we were a solid contender (for a wild-card spot), but we had some tire and mechanical failures.

“All we want to do is get to Victory Lane.”

If Almirola can learn from anyone about getting into Victory Lane, it’s his boss. Petty, known as “The King,” has 200 career wins. And Almirola drives Petty’s old No. 43.

“It’s an honor to drive the No. 43, and he’s called ‘The King’ for a reason,” Almirola said. “It’s really cool to have Richard Petty (as a boss.)”



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