The last time Aric Almirola left Kansas Speedway, it was in an ambulance after being involved in the hardest wreck of his racing career.
That three-car wreck on May 13th – which also involved Joey Logano and Danica Patrick – fractured the Tampa native’s back and sidelined him for two months. Almirola missed seven NASCAR Cup races in the process.
He climbed back behind the wheel for the first time after the wreck on July 16 at New Hampshire, where he qualified 21st and finished 24th.
Almirola returns this weekend to Kansas Speedway with confidence and some unfinished business in the race.
“I have no hesitation heading back after the accident there in the spring,” Almirola said in a team media release. “It had nothing to do with the track and was just a product of hard racing.
“I’m fully healed and ready to head back out there. We had a good week last week (fifth at Talladega) and really fought for a top-five finish. We’ll try to use that momentum this week to get a good finish as we near the end of the season.”
Where Almirola goes after this season remains a question mark. Almirola has already announced he will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports next season.
So for the remaining five races of the season, Almirola will continue to give a best effort and keep talking with other teams for a potential ride next season.
“I always like going to Kansas,” he said. “It’s a track where we’ve been able to compete up front in the past, so we are always excited to see if we can improve on that.”
Kevin Harvick penalized time in final Cup practice
The biggest disappointment of Justin Allgaier‘s NASCAR career has turned into “the best thing that’s ever happened” to it.
It only took “about a week” for the 31-year-old driver to accept that.
The JR Motorsports’ driver is one of the four competing for the Xfinity Series title in today’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
It was in this race a year ago that Allgaier was within arm’s reach of a possible championship, his first in NASCAR.
But it was snatched away on the final restart.
With three laps to go, Allgaier restarted in the third row on the outside. In front of him was fellow championship driver Erik Jones. In front of Jones was Cole Whitt in a car normally found toward the back of the pack. Whitt had not pit under the caution because his team had used up its tire allotment.
At the green flag, Whitt spun his tires and backed-up the outside lane. That allowed Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez to get separation from Allgaier and Jones and race each other for the win and championship, which Suarez claimed.
Before Allgaier could come to terms with anything positive from the experience, he spent the following week just wanting to be left alone.
“If I could have locked myself in a dark room and not talk(ed) to anyone, I’d have been perfectly okay with that,” Allgaier said Thursday during the NASCAR championship media day in Miami Beach, Florida.
Allgaier got back in touch with those year-old feelings this week when he watched a replay of the race while flying to Florida.
“It still bugs me that we didn’t have a shot because of somebody else’s decision,” Allgaier said.
But Allgaier views the end of the 2016 race through a wiser lens. One where he accepts there’s only so much he can do in a 200-lap race against 39 other drivers.
“What if I had broken a transmission or run into the wall a little bit too hard on one of those times that I got (into) the wall like 37 times in the race last year and cut a tire?” Allgaier said. “What if a meteor fell out of the sky? … There’s so many things that, when you have 40 competitors on the racetrack every week, there’s so many things that can happen that are out of your control.”
His attitude has been helped by the best year of his career. Allgaier enters the championship race with a career-best two wins – including at his home track Chicagoland Speedway.
Allgaier also leads all Xfinity regulars with 497 laps led.
“I look at 2017 as we have done everything we can do up to this point,” Allgaier said. “We’ve had the best race cars I’ve ever had. We’ve had great pit stops. We’ve got guys that work together on the race team that are incredible. I feel like for me personally I’m in the best shape of my life, on and off the track. I’m in the best place mentally.
“And at the end of the day, no matter what happens on Saturday night, I know that we have the best product on the racetrack and we’re in the best position we can be. And if it doesn’t work, it’s not because we weren’t in the right spot or because we didn’t do things right. It’s because circumstances are out of our control. And that’s taken so much pressure off of me this year.”
HOMESTEAD, Florida — NASCAR announced Saturday a multi-year renewal with Goodyear for the company to be the series’ sole tire supplier. The deal goes through the 2022 season.
The move wasn’t in doubt with NASCAR and Goodyear having previously done tests for the 2018 season. Goodyear has been the exclusive tire supplier for all three of NASCAR’s top series since 1997. Goodyear has been a race tire supplier for NASCAR since 1954.
“We proudly join Goodyear in celebrating our renewed and longstanding partnership,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR president, in a statement. “For more than half a century, NASCAR and our teams have trusted Goodyear tires. Our partners’ commitment to innovation and excellence plays a key role in our unyielding pursuit to deliver the best racing product in the world.”
Goodyear’s current five-year deal was set to expire after this season.
Below is all the vital info you need prior to the race.
(All times are Eastern)
START: Wild Bill Wichrowski from Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” will give the command to start engines at 3:37 p.m. Green flag is scheduled for 3:45 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile oval.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 90.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7:30 a.m.Qualifying is slated for 11:15 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is 12:45 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3:05 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Jacqie Rivers wil perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Countdown to Green begins at 3 p.m. on NBCSN. NBCSN will air the race at 3:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com, starting with its pre-race show at 3 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.
FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts a temperature of 79 degrees and a four percent chance of rain at race time.
LAST TIME: Daniel Suarez won the race and clinched the series title, beating Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler. Suarez led 133 laps from the pole to become the first foreign-born driver to win a national NASCAR title.
STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is scheduled for 11:15 a.m.