Aric Almirola relishing what may – or may not – be his last Daytona 500


When the checkered flag falls in November at Phoenix Raceway, Aric Almirola will no longer be a full-time driver. That much, we know.

But as he prepares to start his final NASCAR Cup Series season Sunday at the Daytona 500, will it be his last run at winning “The Great American Race”?

No one knows. Including him.

“You never know what the future holds,” Almirola said this week after mentioning he may need a “hall pass” from wife, Janice, and their children.

“I came down here before thinking that it could be my last in years past, like when you don’t have a contract going past that year.

“You never really know when it is gonna be your last Daytona 500. I got my eyes open to that. When I wrecked at Kansas and broke my back, I wasn’t sure if that was gonna be the end of my career there as well.”

Since that accident, Almirola has become a regular in the Cup Series playoffs as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing. He earned his fourth consecutive playoff berth last season thanks to an upset win in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

With a new crew chief in Drew Blickensderfer, Almirola wants to keep that run going in 2022. Especially if that includes earning multiple wins, something he’s never done in a Cup season.

But in this final full-time run, Almirola also wants to make sure he enjoys the overall experience.

“I could show you my itinerary for the Daytona 500 Speedweek this week and literally, my schedule is broken down into a minute-by-minute schedule,” he explained. “So I just reminded myself driving through the tunnel (Tuesday) morning like, ‘Slow down. Take it all in. Embrace it.’

“What we get to do is incredible. I get to drive a race car for a living, and I’m tremendously blessed to do that. It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to kind of slow down and kind of embrace it and live it, and that’s kind of my goal for this week and going into this year.”

One thing he says he isn’t dwelling on his near-miss at the “500” back in 2018.

In that race, Almirola took the lead in overtime and was in command at the white flag. But on the final lap, contact from behind by Austin Dillon sent him hard into the Turn 3 wall. Dillon went on to win.

While he’d love to have a “500” win on his resume, the Florida native already has several Daytona trophies in his case.

He earned his first career Cup win at Daytona in 2014. Two years later, he got an Xfinity Series win there. And last year, he scored a Daytona Duel win.

Each time, he marveled over winning at the track where he watched races as a child with family members, including his grandfather, former sprint car racer Sam Rodriguez.

To him, that feeling means even more.

“I know where Victory Lane is,” he said. “I’m very familiar with it, but I’ve not won a Daytona 500 and it would be very special.

“But at the end of the day, trophies collect dust, and I don’t put all my stock and all my weight in being a Daytona 500 champion.”

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.