Aric Almirola won Saturday's Busch race in Milwaukee and wasn't even in the car to drive it to Victory Lane, Denny Hamlin was. In fact, Aric wasn't even at the track when he won his first ever Busch race.
How is this possible? Easy, Denny Hamlin was late for qualifying and the start of the race which followed. In Denny's place Aric qualified the car on the pole and was running in 3rd when, 44 laps into the race, he got the word that Denny was finally at the track and that it was decided that Denny was going to finish the race. Then 15 laps later during a caution period Aric pitted and handed the keys over to Denny.
"I didn't want to do it, I knew he would be really upset," Hamlin said in Victory Lane.
Initially it was instantly speculated that what happened to Aric was a case of sponsorship - the sponsor, Rockwell Automation, wanted Hamlin in that car since they were racing at their 'home' track, the Milwaukee Mile., but that wasn't the case as J.D. Gibbs, Joe Gibbs Racing President, said neither Hamlin nor Rockwell made a demand that Hamlin get in the car.
So what exactly happened? The Cost of Winning - winning a race to win a sponsor - that's what.
"What I told those guys as a group, 'Look, if you think Denny can get in the car and win the race, let's go, let's do that, If you don't think he can do that, let Aric run it out,' " said J.D. Gibbs. "Well our guys kind of thought about that as a group and said, ... 'We're fast enough to win the race.'
"I'm watching myself thinking that, 'OK, Aric is going to run the race,' " Gibbs said. "Then we've got a shot, those guys get together and Denny gets in the car and I'm thinking to myself, 'We've got to win this thing.' It was a hard decision for us."
Rockwell Automation sold off part of its company earlier this year, Gibbs said, and is considering whether to renew for next season.
"They're kind of evaluating where they go next year," Gibbs said. "This helps some of the guys who might have not been involved before. To go up and win in their back yard, you've got Aric doing a great job for you and doing a great job in hospitality, you have Denny - going forward, the hope is to get them to say, 'Let's check this out and do some more.' "
"Those guys could easily give Aric a chance to run for years to come," Gibbs said. "And they've also given him a chance for this year." - source: Bob Pockrass scenedaily.com
So I guess that makes it alright then. Not to me though.
What a way to get your first win.