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During this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Ford Racing will be posting blogs from a variety of people within the Ford community who will provide their perspective on this year's run to the championship.

This week we feature Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola currently sits 16th in the Chase standings, but is only 10 points behind the final 12th-place transfer spot after a sixth-place finish last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Almirola talked about his team's chances of advancing to the Contender Round at Dover to Ford Racing's Dan Zacharias.

When I walked into the race shop on Monday morning the first thing I noticed is how fired up everybody was after our sixth-place finish at New Hampshire. You can see it in everybody's eyes because we all know that we're capable of competing with the best. This is two weeks in a row where we've performed at a really high level with everybody bringing their best stuff to the race track at this time of year, so the whole team is really pumped up for this weekend's race at Dover.

I know a lot of people will probably want to know what kind of strategy we'll have, but honestly there is no strategy. This week is no different for us than any other week. We'll prepare for the week ahead and all we can do is go to Dover and try to run like we have the last few weeks. Would we like to go to Dover and win? Absolutely. But more importantly what we need to do is go there and concentrate on running top-five and hopefully the guys that we're racing with in points finish 15th or worse and the points take care of themselves.

We can't control what happens to the other cars and how they run. The guys who we're racing against in points might all run top-five at Dover and that's not in our control. We can't do anything about that, but we just have to focus on what we can control and how well we run is in our control, so we've got to do a good job this weekend of unloading a fast race car. We've got to make good adjustments on our car throughout practice and when the race starts we've got to execute and be solid on pit road. We've got to do all the things that we've been doing the last few weeks to run consistently in the top-10 and try to get a top-five at Dover. If we run in the top-five for the majority of the day and finish there, then we're gonna put a lot of pressure on those guys that are in front of us in points.

We are 100 percent committed to offense. We've got our heads down and we're gonna make it tough on them, that's for sure. We're not just gonna lay over and throw in the towel. We haven't done that all year and we're certainly not gonna start doing that now.

With what happened to us at Chicago, we don't have any other choice but to just go for it. I think myself and all the guys on the team are gonna sleep easy this weekend. We've got one mission and that's to go for it. We don't need to be lying in bed and worrying about things like, 'I hope we don't have this kind of problem that takes us out of it,' because we're out of it. Chicago happened and that took us out of it, but we've put ourselves back in a position to potentially get back in it and that's all we can do. So we're gonna go for it and let it all hang out and see what happens.

I can't say enough about my guys and the way they've worked all year long. I'm not surprised at how we've bounced back because Trent Owens, my crew chief, and all the guys on my team are a hard-nosed group of racers. Just about every single person on my race team grew up Saturday night short track racing and that's what I love about them. It's not a bunch of guys that just saw racing on TV and thought that they'd like to work in this sport. These guys have been doing it their whole life and it's so much fun to be a part of a race team like that. They get fired up and they enjoy being at the race track and enjoy building race cars the best that they can.

Trent has been doing a great job all season as well. It's only his first year in the Cup Series, so he doesn't have a notebook to look back on or anything like that, but I think he's been doing a fantastic job. I think what we've shown the last five weeks, where we've run in the Top 10 pretty regularly, and especially these first two weeks of the Chase, where everybody seems to really step up their game, really proves what kind of race team we have.

Even if we don't make it, it's not the end of the world. We still have to race all the way to Homestead for points. Realistically, we can still finish fifth in points and not make this first cut, with the way the points are structured, so we can't take a huge risk and try to do something silly like try to stretch our fuel by 10 laps and run out of gas and finish 35th. That would be really stupid on our part, so we still have to race with a bigger picture in mind, but at the end of the day the most important thing for us is to do everything we can to make it to the next round of the Chase.

I'll say this about the start to the Chase, it's definitely amped up. It just seems like everybody is on kill a little bit more because I think everybody has got a lot more riding on the line. The guys that aren't in the Chase feel like they don't have anything to lose, so they're letting it all hang out, and the guys that are in the Chase are doing everything they can to get good finishes and score max points, so it's intense. It's every bit as intense as I thought it was gonna be.

I'm sure that intensity will go up another notch this weekend at Dover, which is one of my favorite tracks. Dover typically changes a lot as rubber goes down on the race track, so that's something we've got to keep in mind. The race track is gonna be a lot different for the race than it is on Friday, so maybe we'll make a few race runs to get an idea of where our car is at and how our car is driving, and then switch over pretty quickly to qualifying trim. We've just got to be mindful of that, but qualifying is gonna be extremely important this weekend.
The job I don't envy is Trent's. That's certainly a hot seat he's going to be sitting in for sure. At least from my seat I'm a little bit more in control and I can drive my race car and position myself in situations, but Trent has a lot more decision-making going on. Mine is just instincts more than methodical decisions, but I've got great confidence in him and we'll do whatever gives us the best chance to make it to the next round.

Of all the race tracks on the circuit, Dover and Homestead are probably my two favorites, so I couldn't pick a better place for me as a driver to be going to this week. Nobody really knows how this is going to end up, especially if it comes down to the final couple of laps, but what I do know right now is that I'm ready and our team is ready.

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