By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Aric Almirola is off to his best season start of his NASCAR Cup Series career following a sixth-place finish in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He’s the only driver to finish in the top-10 in all three races this year which puts him sixth in the championship standings.
In the closing laps, Almirola was barely hanging onto 10th place until the race went into overtime after Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace crashed on the frontstretch. When the race boiled down to a two-lap shootout, the Stewart-Haas Racing competitor restarted on the outside of Row 4 and wasted no time gaining a couple spots.
In the end, the man who’s competing in his final full-year in Cup mustered a P6 result.
“I just wanted to make sure I could get the car turning,” Almirola on the final restart. “I was able to get to a couple of those cars outside and be able to keep the throttle down and get by those guys, so things went our way. I picked the right lanes at the right time on restarts. Those last couple of restarts were crucial to get this good finish.”
Dating back to last year, Almirola has finished in the top-10 for the fifth consecutive race. He was also Ford’s main highlight on what was a rather rough day for the Blue Oval brand with nobody else finishing in the top-10. It symbolized the No. 10 team’s will of finding ways of making most out of the seventh-generation car.
“We fight. That’s the beauty of this race team. We’re still learning this car. There’s a lot to learn about it and we’re still trying to figure a lot of things out,” said Almirola.
“Practice is great, but we’ve got to make adjustments throughout the race and I feel like every race we’re learning more and more and more and we’re building a notebook. We’re making adjustments throughout the race and trying to figure it out. This team has so much fight in it and so much grit that it’s a lot of fun to race with these guys.
“We’ll keep digging and try and keep this streak alive of all these top 10 finishes. It’s a lot of fun when you run up front.”
Almirola specifically credited crew chief Drew Blickensderfer for making good adjustments that made his Mustang competitive throughout the day.
“We take the first half of the race and it’s really about learning. We make adjustments. If they’re no good, we go back on them and just keep fine-tuning on the car to get it to where we need to get it,” said Almirola.
“Usually, the last few weeks we’ve gotten the car where we needed to have it at the end of the race. It’s been nice. It’s so much fun to race with this group of guys and everybody that supports us – Mobil 1. Our Ford Mustang was fast.
“We’ve got some work to do to keep up with some of the other manufacturers. We’ve got to continue to do our homework, but, nonetheless, this is a great start to our season and a lot of fun.”
Almirola will hope to extend his streak to six straight top-10s at Phoenix Raceway Sunday, March 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.