Aric Almirola looks for another top-10 finish

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - It’s been 30 years since the No. 43 car put together more than a handful of consecutive top-10 finishes.

Aric Almirola has a chance this weekend at Darlington Raceway to end the drought.

Almirola goes into Saturday night’s race with four consecutive top-10 finishes. Should he knock down another one at Darlington, it would be the mark most consecutive top-10 finishes for the Petty-owned No. 43 since Richard Petty had seven in a row in 1983.

“We sure are on a roll lately,” said Almirola, who began this streak with a seventh-place finish at Texas last month. He then added a pair of eighth-place finishes at Kansas and Richmond.

Now Almirola is a surprising seventh in the Sprint Cup in the standings _ the highest any Richard Petty Motorsports team has ranked after 10 races. Petty won his seven titles when the team operated as Petty Enterprises.

Almirola said he believes he and crew chief Todd Parrott have seen this surge in performance coming since a strong close to the 2012 season that began with a fourth-place finish at Martinsville. From there, Almirola didn’t finish lower than 16th.

“I think we are the only people that aren’t surprised we are seventh in points and have the longest current top-10 streak in the series,” said Almirola. “Todd, the guys and I are really clicking. We worked hard over the offseason to maintain our momentum, and it worked. We just need to keep it up and start moving to top-fives and hopefully a win soon.”

Almirola was 19th last year at Darlington in his first visit to the South Carolina track with RPM, and acknowledged NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway is one of the toughest he’s raced.

“Last year, I felt like I learned a lot during the race and got into a good rhythm by the end,” he said. “We had a decent finish for my first time out and only a few `Darlington stripes.’ Todd has a great track record here, so I should be able to feed off of his experience. Obviously, our goal is to get another top-10 finish, but we are really eyeing Victory Lane.

“I think if we can put ourselves in a good position during the majority of the race, we can have a good shot at getting the 43 its first win since 1999.”

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AIR TITAN: NASCAR chairman Brian France last year asked his engineers to develop a faster system for drying tracks.

The result was the Air Titan, which was used widely for the first time last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. It rained Saturday before the start of the Nationwide Series race and midway through the Sprint Cup race on Sunday.

“We’re pleased with the Air Titan’s first official on-track results,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “This was a great collaboration between NASCAR, our top-tier vendors and the Talladega track services staff.”

O’Donnell estimated Air Titan shaved off a minimum of one hour of drying time both days.

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