Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Almirola Rides Home State Magic to Daytona Xfinity Win

By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor

For the second time in as many races at restrictor plate tracks, the finish to Friday night’s Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona came down to NASCAR analyzing the video replay due to a last lap caution and by the time all was said and done, Aric Almirola was scored as the race winner for his second win in his home state of Florida.

Almirola first visited victory lane at Daytona back in 2014 with a win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the rain shortened Coke Zero 400, which was his first win in NASCAR’s premier series. Though Almirola was credited with winning the 2007 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Milwaukee as a result of starting the race but giving way to Denny Hamlin, he had never won a complete Xfinity Series race on his own, until Friday night.

“I was an emotional last few laps. I thought I had a shot to win but wasn’t sure I would get it done. I got a big push from the 7 and then he pulled out and the 18 came and gave me a good push. I am really thankful for that. It is a huge night for me to get back to victory lane in the XFINITY Seires. I didn’t feel like I truly won in the XFINITY Series before but tonight was my night. Now I can truly say I have truly won in every series in NASCAR,” Almirola said.

“It is huge. What a night. I thought we had a good car all night. The car was running good. We had a good Mustang as soon as we got off the truck. It is the same Mustang we ran good with at Daytona in February. I am proud of all these guys. They gave me an awesome opportunity to drive this car for fun on certain weekends and I love it. It is so much fun, no pressure. I just get to go out and do my thing.

Driving the No. 98 for Biagi-DenBeste Racing, Almirola kept himself in position for the win throughout the night, and looked to be in prime position behind leader David Ragan just prior to the second to last caution of the race that came out with three laps to go. Once the race restarted, Almirola lined up on the outside of Ragan with Justin Allgaier behind him. Almirola continued to lead as the field stayed stacked up side by side through the first lap of overtime and down the backstretch before a multi-car crash broke out to bring out the final caution of the night to end the race.

Between the time that the wreck started and when the caution came out, Allgaier pulled alongside Almirola, with the two drivers jockeying back and forth to be the race leader when the caution finally came out. After reviewing video for several minutes after the race, Almirola was awarded the win by the slimmest of margins for his second win at Daytona.

In a little bit of foreshadowing prior to Friday night’s race at Daytona, Almirola made mention of just how special Daytona is to him.

“Daytona has always been a special place for me, long before I won my first Cup race here. When I was a kid, I grew up in Tampa, Florida, just two hours away. Coming here as a kid and watching races from the grandstands and we came over just about every summer. That was our vacation for the year. We would come over and spend a couple of days at Disney World across I-4 and then keep going on I-4 and come to Daytona and spend a couple days here and then return back to Tampa. That was our vacation for as many years as I could remember in the summer time when we were out of school,” said Almirola.

“I have a lot of good memories of coming here and racing here and racing go karts at Memorial Stadium over off LPGA Boulevard. I have always spent a lot of time around the Daytona area and when I first started racing stock cars I raced down the road and New Smyrna Beach quite a bit. I have a lot of childhood memories of racing around this area and always dreamed about racing one time at Daytona and I have gotten to do way more than that and won my first Sprint Cup race here. It is a really special place.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.

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