Aric Almirola has certainly shown over the past 18 months that it wasn’t him as the reason to why his stats were the way they were in his first 10 years in NASCAR’s premiere series. Yes, some of those seasons were on a part-time basis, but he had just one win, 11 top five finishes, 32 top 10’s and 176 career laps led in his first 244 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts.
Despite that, he still landed at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018 taking over a seat from the departing Danica Patrick. It was a career defining opportunity. If he couldn’t perform in a car that honestly had struggled over the last few years, then he’d likely never get a top ride again.
With how Almirola has performed since taking over the No. 10 Ford at Daytona in February 2018, he’s certainly showed that his car, not him was the problem with Richard Petty Motorsports and that Danica, not the car, was the problem at SHR.
In 45 races run so far at SHR, Almirola has one win, five top five finishes, 23 top 10’s and has led 253 laps. Danica, had zero wins nor top fives, only seven top 10 finishes and had led just 64 laps in that car prior to Almirola.
Now, the Florida native heads to the site of his lone win with SHR as he piloted his ride to a victory at the Talladega Superspeedway last Fall. Almirola, who shows up with every reason to believe his good fortune will continue. The Tampa, Florida, native has top-10 finishes in his last five races at the big track, including three top-five efforts and the Playoff win last October that propelled him into the Round of 8.
The superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega have been highlights on Almirola’s resume. In addition to the Playoff win at Talladega, he won the 2017 Xfinity Series race there. His first career Cup victory was at Daytona International Speedway in July of 2014. Plus, he won an Xfinity race there in 2017 – meaning four of his five wins in the top two series have come at these behemoth tracks.
“I always had to go to these races and be aggressive because, back then, they were our only realistic options to win races,’’ Almirola said. “It was the only way I could make it into the Playoffs, and we were able to do that in 2014. They’ve been good to me. I’ve always gone into those races with that mindset.”
That recent Talladega victory was instrumental in Almirola finishing a career best-fifth in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship in his first season driving Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustangs. And Almirola has responded with another stellar season start. He won the pole position at Atlanta and had a streak of six top-10 finishes between Atlanta and the Bristol races. He’s currently ranked 11th in the points standings and his 72 laps led is already nearly half his career-best season total of 181 laps last year.