Photo: Justin R. Noe/ASP, Inc.

Almirola: “We Just Have to Put a Whole Day Together” after 25th at Chicago

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

Disappointed.

One word summed up how the Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway wound up playing out for Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team.

After one of the best races in recent years for the newest member of the four-car organization, Almirola saw what could have been a race winning car dropped back to 25th place at the end of the race due to two unscheduled pit stops for loose wheels.

“Our car was super fast, especially out in clean air,” said Almirola. “It was incredibly fast. We just have to execute. We have to put a whole race together. That is the difference between being good and being great.

“We are capable of winning. We showed it today. We have speed, we are bringing incredible race cars to the race track and we just have to put a whole day together. We have to be flawless on pit road and I have to do my part too. Today we just had two loose wheels on two separate instances and you can’t have that, especially in races like this that go green forever.”

After starting back in sixth place, Almirola took over the lead for the first time near the end of the first stage at lap 60 and held on for the stage win, the first of his career.

Following a battle with his SHR teammate Kevin Harvick when the green flag flew for the start of the second stage, Almirola reclaimed the lead for another 35 laps out front. He would also take over the lead two more times in the second stage, bringing his laps led total to 70 laps on the day, but it was a pit stop under caution on lap 129 that would ultimately be his undoing.

Shortly after re-taking the lead following the caution, Almirola reported a bad vibration and had to make his first unscheduled pit stop at lap 141, dropping him to 26th, a lap off of the lead.

Despite the setback, he would get his lap back at the end of the stage with the free pass and eventually climbed back inside the top-10 as the laps wound down. However, disaster would strike again at lap 220 as a second loose wheel brought him back down pit road under green and erased all of the positions he had made up as he fell back to 27th, a lap down.

He would gain two spots over the final laps to finish 25th on the day, but the disappointing end to the race didn’t dampen Almirola’s belief that his team would win a race sooner rather than later.

“I am really frustrated but the good news is that our cars are fast,” Almirola added. “We can build on that. We are going to win a race. I guarantee you we are going to win a race. We have to be perfect to do it though.”

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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.