CONCORD, N.C. — A year after late-race dramatics sent Aric Almirola to the second round of the playoffs, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver experienced the opposite side of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval elimination race.
Almirola placed 14th in Sunday’s race and missed the cutoff spot by five points.
Almirola’s departure from the postseason can be traced back to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s spin on Lap 89. Almirola’s crew chief, Johnny Klausmeier, made the decision not to pit.
“We were basically set up for a one stop race and we elected when the yellow came out there for the 17, we were going to be seventh on the inside so we stayed out,” Klausmeier told NBC Sports. “Some guys pitted from 10th on back and simple enough we went from seventh to 13th on the restart. The car didn’t fire off on the tires as good and then you’re in the clutches of guys with fresher tires and you just have to put tires on and get back on an even playing field.”
But it never worked out for Almirola.
Over the last 17 laps and three more restarts, Almirola struggled to make up ground as his rival to make the second round, Alex Bowman, charged to an eventual second-place finish and Almirola battled Ryan Newman.
“We just didn’t have enough laps left to make any headway with,” Klausmeier said.
Almirola will now try race for points and wins over the last seven races of the season. He has yet to win this year.
“It stinks for sure,” Almirola told NBCSN. “The sun’s going to come out tomorrow and I’m still going to be Aric Almirola and they’re not going to take my birthday (March 14) away. But it’s going to sting. Last year we came out on the good side leaving the Roval and went on to have a great rest of the playoffs and finished fifth in points. I’m still really proud of this race team.”