Things are looking up for Aric Almirola after only four races behind the wheel of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10 Ford.
Almirola is 10th in the point standings after earning his first top 10 on Sunday at ISM Raceway.
NASCAR America’s Mary Snider met with Almirola to discuss how his tenure with SHR is going so far.
“It’s been exactly what I imagined,” Almirola said. “I thought we’d get off to a good start and be competitive and that’s been my main focus and (crew chief) Johnny (Klausmeier’s) focus. We really wanted to get through this first stretch of races and run top 15. That was our goal, to go out and finish on the lead lap, run in the top 15 and be in the hunt. We’ve done exactly that and we’re putting ourself in position in the points to make a run at making the playoffs.”
Almirola, who spent the last six years driving the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports, credited being able to see driver data from his teammates for helping speed his progress.
“It’s changed everything for me,” Almirola said. “I now get to look at driver data from other drivers and really talented drivers at that. Their cars are driving good and they’re fast and you get to talk to them after practice and really understand what it is they’re looking for in their car to drive like on Saturday to be good on Sunday.”
Almirola, who has one Cup win, said the four races so far have been “very validating” for him after being “average at best” the last six years.
“As a race car driver, you never know where you stack up,” Almirola said. “Because so much of it is driven on equipment and team. For me, for the last six years I’ve really never known, because you feel like you’ve got an excuse. ‘Well, we’re an underfunded team,’ or ‘our equipment is not where it needs to be.’ So you feel like you have that as an excuse. But you come here to Stewart-Haas Racing, there’s no excuse, right?”
Smith, Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, who placed sixth, and Sam Mayer, who finished seventh, will be eligible for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash next weeked at Richmond after being the top four full-time Xfinity finishers Saturday.
Smith, Allgaier, sixth-place finisher Daniel Hemric and seventh-place finisher Sam Mayer — the top four full-time Xfinity drivers — will be eligible for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus next week at Richmond Raceway.
Allmendinger won the first stage and then pitted. When a caution came out shortly, it put him 21st in the field. On the Lap 20 restart, his car suffered damage when he was hit going into Turn 1.
Allmendinger worked his way through the field and took the lead from Sheldon Creed on Lap 33 when they made contact and Creed spun. Creed fell back to 23rd and finished the 46-lap race in ninth.
Stage 1 winner: AJ Allmendinger
Stage 2 winner: Sheldon Creed
Who had a bad race: Austin Hill, who had won three of the first five races this season, had mechanical issues early and finished 37th in the 38-car field.
Next: The series races April 1 at Richmond Raceway (1 p.m. ET on FS1)
The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.
Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.
Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.
Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.
Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.
Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).