DARLINGTON — The driver sitting in eighth place in the Sprint Cup standings this year thought he was out of a job last year.
“You guys wrote about it every week: I was the guy that was the odd man out,” said Aric Amirola, who drives the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports. “Then I started working with Todd Parrott (crew chief for 1999 series championship winner Dale Jarrett), and we started running really well. … We didn’t want the season to end.”
Then he was among the fastest in preseason tests of the new Gen-6 car, which has translated into four straight top-10 finishes. Another top-10 at Darlington Raceway in Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 would tie a 30-year mark for a Petty-owned No. 43 car.
“I’m not overly surprised at how well we’ve run this year,” he said. “You’ve got to have everything clicking on all eight cylinders. Right now, we have that.”
The key has been Parrott, an 18-year veteran crew chief who took over during last year’s Chase. He led Amirola to two top-seven finishes and developed a trusting relationship with the driver who has 81 Sprint Cup starts in six seasons.
“He didn’t treat me like a veteran crew chief, and I was a rookie driver,” Amirola said. “That was the first crew chief I’ve ever had that, when I told him something was wrong with the car, he went to work on it and tried to fix it and didn’t try to fix my driving.”
Amirola is getting used to life on the media center podium — and the pressure that comes with it.
“I don’t want to go back to the lows I had of last year, where it was a great day for us when we ran in the top 20. That was no fun,” he said. “I was getting on the airplane on Thursday afternoons not even looking forward to going to race. Now, every single week, I can’t wait to get to the airplane and go to the race track.”