Aric Almirola is likely going to be thinking about the number 17 for quite some time after Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond.
No, he won’t be thinking of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s car number, but rather the 17 points Almirola fell short of making his second consecutive Chase for the Sprint Cup – the difference between Almirola and Paul Menard, who clinched the 16th and final Chase spot.
Almirola gave it his all Saturday’s race, roaring into the top five in the latter half of the event, but would finish no higher than fourth place.
A win would have locked him in, much like last year’s summer race victory at Daytona put him in the 2014 Chase, but it was not to be this time.
“It is tough,” Almirola said after the race. “This is what we race for. We race to win races. We race to run for a championship. This race team, we got to do it last year and we had an engine failure at Chicago and feel like we had a lot more to show in the Chase last year.
“We wanted another shot at it really bad. We have a really, really good race team and am disappointed we didn’t get Smithfield and Ford into the Chase again.”
Almirola could take some consolation in the fact his showing at Richmond was his best finish this season – and the best overall finish since his win at Daytona – but he didn’t.
“I am disappointed for sure,” he said. “We have a really great race team at Richard Petty Motorsports and great sponsors. … I am really proud of all my guys. We worked our guts out all year long and tonight was no different.
“I feel we have overachieved this year and really maximized our results week in and week out. I am disappointed to come up a few spots short but we gave it all we had and that is all we can do.”
In missing the Chase, the highest Almirola can finish this season is – here comes that number again – 17th. But he’s going to race in the remaining 10 races as if he’s still going for No. 1.
“We will go race these last 10 races and try to get a victory,” he said. “Winning is good no matter when it is. Regardless of the Chase or not, we will try to … get some wins in the last 10 races.”