After arguably the most disappointing final 10 laps of his Cup career last weekend at Dover, Aric Almirola has reason to be positive.
He’s heading to Talladega.
Like Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Almirola is one of the few drivers who can claim the chaotic 2.66-mile track as one of his best in the last few years.
Before the fall 2016 race there, Almirola had never finished better than 10th in 13th Talladega starts.
In the four races since, he’s finished eighth or better each time.
Talladega now represents his fourth best average finish (17.2) behind Richmond, Dover and Phoenix.
Almirola’s four race top-10 streak is the longest active at Talladega. David Ragan‘s three-race streak is second best.
In April, six Fords finished in the top seven, with Almirola bringing up the rear of that group in seventh.
“The Fords typically run well at Talladega and up front,” Almirola said in a press release. “I think Stewart-Haas Racing has been right on the heels of Team Penske and their success at Talladega. So as much as Talladega is a wild card, I think it kind of plays into our favor given that our cars are so fast.”
Almirola, who has one Xfinity win at Talladega and one Daytona win in both Cup and Xfinity, is looking to catapult into the third round of the playoffs to further the best season of his career.
Following a flirtation with his first Cup win since 2014 and finishing 13th at Dover, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is ninth on the playoff grid. Almirola is 10 points behind the cutoff spot.
Knowing his No. 10 team has shown speed at plate races and on 1.5-mile tracks does not ease Almirola’s nerves.
“It’s that part of the year and we’re all racing for a championship and it’s really high stakes,” Almirola said. “Everybody is on edge, everyone wants to be aggressive and score all the points they can. We saw at the end of Charlotte (Roval) that every point and position matters.”
Almirola, who has only one playoff point, secured a spot in the second round of the playoffs after passing enough cars in the final three laps on the Roval.
“Talladega is going to be no different,” Almirola said. “It has been a good place for me, but it’s still the unknown. You can get caught up in a wreck that had nothing to do with you, or you could be the cause of the wreck. Things just happen when you’re running 200 mph and an inch apart from each other for three hours. One mistake and it usually collects a lot of people. You just have to hope you’re in the right place at the right time. If we are, it could be a good day for us.”