It’s no secret, Aric Almirola is having a career year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Heading into the 2018 season, his first with Stewart-Haas Racing, Almirola, 34, had one win, 11 top five finishes and 32 top 10’s in 244 starts. But, none of those races were run with an organization of SHR’s caliber.
After his first 20 races in the No. 10 Ford, Almirola was a 1/2 lap away from winning the Daytona 500 and now a badly timed caution away from another victory in Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Almirola, first took over the lead on Lap 212 and would lead until he hit pit road on Lap 228. He would hand the lead over his to SHR teammate Kevin Harvick then cycle back to the lead a few laps later. He was checking out and well on his way to a huge victory before the Lap 258 caution when his other teammate Clint Bowyer got into the wall.
That changed everything.
On the ensuing restart, Almirola spun the tires and fell to fourth. Getting by him were the “Big 3” this season. Kyle Busch, Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. skated by as Almirola was facing the daunting task of having to now pass all three if he wanted to end his 145 race winless streak.
Good luck too. After 20 races run this season, that trio has combined to win 15 of them. Take out the three restrictor plate races and they’ve won all but two races this year. Bowyer is the only other one to visit victory lane in 2018 on a non plate track.
You can see why despite having one of the fastest cars on the track, having only 43 laps to pass all three was now slim.
He would get by Truex and settle for his first top five since joining SHR in third.
Almirola, led 42 laps today which now gives him 113 for the season. From 2010 through 2017, Almirola led a combined 120 laps. He’s now eight laps led this year from surpassing that in less than one season to do so. Plus, the driver he replaced in this ride, Danica Patrick, had led just 64 laps in 191 starts in that car with no top fives and only seven top 10’s.
In 20 starts, Almirola has 113 laps led, one top five and nine top 10’s. Safe to say, he’s already put that car in contention in just a half of a season.