Sunday’s race at Talladega was something different
Hints of what we would see came from practice speeds. Kevin Harvick topped the charts at 204mph. These speeds came after a restrictor plate reduction back in April.
The combination of fast speeds and four Stewart-Haas Racing drivers that were determined to whoop the field created the scenario we saw on Sunday.
“I knew when we qualified that with all four of our cars starting up in the front. We kinda talked about it in our competition meeting,” Almirola discussed the pre-race plan.
“That we needed to be committed to each other. We needed to score as many stage points as we can. We needed to score more stage points than the #12, #42 and #88. Going into the weekend, that was our focus.”
Almirola and Clint Bowyer both needed a win at Talladega. Almirola came into the race minus 10 points to the cutoff line for the next round of the NASCAR Playoffs.
“Especially for Clint and myself, being the situation we were in. When we qualified together. I knew that all four of us were going to be tough to beat.”
In recent years, Ford’s have been the cars to beat on Superspeedway tracks. Keselowski will put that down to an overall lack of downforce that Ford’s have.
In 2017, Ford’s swept all four superspeedway races. They almost did it in 2016 as well. In 2016, they won three of them with Denny Hamlin winning the Daytona 500. Between 2016-2017, Ford won 7 of the 8 superspeedway events.
“We’ve been chasing Penske at the restrictor plate races. They’ve been able to do somewhat of what we did. Were they get out front and Brad, Joey, Paul and Blaney get organized and basically dominate the race,” Almirola continued.
At Talladega, the entire Stewart-Haas Racing camp worked together to control the front of the field. The second row starter would lift off the throttle to let their teammate slide from the top lane to the bottom lane. Then, they’d take off and leave the field.
“We were able to do that. We worked every restart out. It was us against the field. When we started to drive off in that first stage, I knew we had something special. I knew one of our four cars was going to win.”
“This race was a little bit less of a chess match and a little more of an organizational commitment. It started months ago. We have a group of guys, this is all they do, work on speedway cars. And like I said, we’ve been chasing Penske for years now!”
“We’ve tried a lot of different things. With aero and a lot of different stuff. We’ve not been able to hit on how to beat them.”
Stewart-Haas Racing dominated the day. Even on the laps led department: Kurt Busch (108); Kevin Harvick (46); Aric Almirola (1)
Almirola might have only led for one lap, technically it was just a half straight-away. But, he led the most important part and took home the win for SHR.
Why did the race break into multiple packs at Talladega?
“The cars are going so fast. The cars are a handful,” Almirola explained.
“When you get in a pack and you’re running 205mph. The cars are light on their feet. They’re dancing around. They are a handful.”
“As you get single file. It’s the shortest way around the track, on the bottom. We’re going so fast that the bottom lane just prevails. We saw that back in the Spring race.”
“It broke up in the Spring race. But, in the Spring race everybody wasn’t as organized. As far as the teams. It was kind of a free for all.”
“As long as we stayed together. Nobody could use that outside lane to challenge us. Everybody else would get two and three wide, stall their runs and we would be able to drive away.”