Aric Almirola: “I really enjoy Kansas. Even though I broke my back there.”
Almirola: “Last year, to think about potentially my career ending. And never knowing if I was good or not. I always had equipment as an excuse. When I showed up to Stewart-Haas Racing, that was no longer the case. I’ve got the best team in the garage.”
Despite the fastest team in the garage area, Almirola has had a difficult season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Those struggles are compounded as his teammates go on to pick up win after win and dominate the year. Harvick alone has tallied 7 wins in 2018.
Until Talladega, Harvick’s teammate, Aric Almirola had only two top five runs. He ran 3rd at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and 5th at Richmond Raceway.
Now, Almirola is making the most of an expired clock…
Roval – Round of 16: Aric Almirola spun late in the race at the Roval after taking it easy to stay out of trouble. The trouble eventually found him regardless.
However, that didn’t matter. He caught a break of his own. In the final corner, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr spun out. That gave Blaney the win.
After that race, Almirola found himself in a three way tie for the final transfer spot into the round of 12. Almirola won that tie based on finishes from earlier in the round. If Jimmie didn’t spin, Almirola would have been bumped.
Dover – Round of 12: “I love Dover. I absolutely love going to that place. It’s one of my favorite race tracks,” Almirola commented.
Almirola was heading to the win at Dover. However, he his teammate Clint Bowyer brought out the caution and that threw a wrench in the whole strategy.
Almirola would head to Talladega, negative 10 points to the cut off line.
Talladega – Round of 12: He took the win!
“I enjoy and like coming to Talladega. I feel like it’s an opportunity for me to go win.”
Almirola was running 2nd off the final corner. Kurt Busch ran out of gas! He went on to take the win.
Almirola has capitalized on that opportunity to go win. He was nearly knocked out in the round of 12 at the Roval. With the win at Talladega, he will now advance into the Round of 8.
Next week, NASCAR returns to Kansas Speedway. It’s the final race in this playoff round. But, Almirola heads into the race, pressure free.
Almirola returns to Kansas Speedway
Last year, Aric Almirola was involved in a scary crash at Kansas Speedway. Brad Keselowski had a mechanical failure that turned him sideways before the corner. The #2 car then clipped Danica Patrick and sent her nose first into the wall.
Oil was spread all over the race track. Almirola came into the scene with no way to turn and no way to stop. Instead, he slid through the oil and collided with both Patrick and Keselowski.
He hit so hard that the back end of the car was lifted clear off the ground. The car came down violently on the frame. Almirola had to be cut from the race car that night. He suffered a broken back and was forced to sit out for several months.
He’s been back to the Kansas track since the crash. Almirola finished 9th there in May.
“I really enjoy Kansas. Even though I broke my back there,” Almirola states.
“I remember in 2012. Showing up there in October and dominating the beginning part of that race until I blew a right front. That was the first time I had led any laps to speak of.”
“I’ve always been excited about going to that race track since that day.”
Almirola led 69 laps on October 21st, 2012. He was involved in a crash that took him out of the race. Matt Kenseth went on to take the win.
“I’m fired about about going to Kansas next week. It’s going to be fun. No pressure, at all. One thing on out mind and that’s to go win,” Almirola continues.
That pressure has been lifted following the win at Talladega Superspeedway. Almirola was running 2nd off turn four on the final lap when his teammate abruptly ran out of gas. With the win, Almirola is on to the next round.
“That’s a really fun mindset that I have never experienced in my entire career,” Almirola continues.
After nail bitting through the round of 16 and again in the round of 12, he basically has an off week. Almirola could head to Kansas, finish last and he’d still be in the running for the championship.
“Last year, to think about potentially my career ending. And never knowing if I was good or not. I always had equipment as an excuse. When I showed up to Stewart-Haas Racing, that was no longer the case. I’ve got the best team in the garage.”
“It was time to go do my job and see if I’m good enough.”
“Coming close so many times this year, it’s made me think long and hard about myself. You know, ‘Am I good enough?’ and ‘Why do I keep losing?’ When I’ve been in position and had opportunities to win.”
“I’ve been hard on myself. To win, that was the most gratifying part.”
“All of my teammates have won, except me,” Almirola concluded.
Almirola will start 3rd in the race on Sunday.