Aric Almriola, Daniel Suarez have much needed ‘fun’ in Texas

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Aric Almirola‘s and Daniel Suarez‘s answers after their top-three finishes Sunday shared a few noticeable words in describing their runs at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Fun” and “finally.”

The Stewart-Haas Racing drivers helped deliver the team its second 1-2-3 finish in the organization’s history, following the first at Michigan in June 2018.

Almirola finished second to Kevin Harvick, claiming his third top five of the year. Two have come in the playoffs.

Almirola was in the top five almost all evening, including leading 45 laps and winning Stage 2. Almirola, who was eliminated from the playoffs after the first round, lost the lead to Harvick for good with 79 laps to go.

“It felt really good,” Almirola told NBCSN. “That was fun. I want to do that more. We’ve had just a terrible two months. The few races leading into the playoffs and then the playoffs, just none of it went our way, and man, it feels so good to come here and have such a solid night.”

Almirola’s other top five in the playoffs came at Talladega. Other than that his best finish since the July race at Daytona (7th) was 11th at New Hampshire on July 21. His only other top five of the season was at Phoenix in spring.

“Our Ford Mustangs were really fast,” Almirola said. “Just happy for all of our partners, finally to come here and run good all night. … I feel bad that we haven’t gotten them the results even though we’ve run good, and tonight just a great performance by everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing.”

Almirola admitted the team’s past accomplishments have been a burden this year, where Harvick has been the only SHR driver to win.

“That’s the hard part about when you have a year like last year and we win 14 or 15 races as an organization, the expectations are really high,” Almirola said. “So when you don’t run like you’re used to, the morale in the shop can get a little down.  But we have such a great group of people at SHR and just a never‑give‑up attitude.  Everybody fights and keeps building new race cars and trying to learn and get better, and tonight was a prime example of that.”

Suarez was another consistent presence in the top 10. He led twice for 25 laps, the fourth time he’s led more than 20 laps in a race this year.

In his first season with SHR, Suarez claimed his fourth top five of the season. All four have have been split among both races at Texas and Michigan International Speedway.

“I feel like (Harvick and Almirola) just had a little bit more raw speed,” Suarez told NBCSN. “For whatever reason I feel like I was a little bit better than them in the long run, but on the sticker tires I just couldn’t go as fast as them. It was taking me 15 to 20 laps to actually get going. By then they were gone. … Stewart-Haas Racing did an amazing job. We brought very fast race cars this weekend. So it was fun. Hopefully, we can have more weekends like this to finish over there in victory lane.”

Suarez’ performance comes amid his negotiations with SHR to return to the No. 41 Ford beyond this season. His average finish through 34 races is 16.5, better than his 2018 total (18.5) but worse than his rookie total (16.2).

“I feel like honestly in the last few weeks we have had cars to perform the way that we performed today,” Suarez said. “But we have been with issues either on pit road or bad calls or stuff like that, but we’ve been pretty fast lately.  We’ve been running up front, top five, leading laps. Kansas was the same thing, Martinsville was the same thing.  It was nice to finally have a good strong car with a clean day.”