Playoff Payoff 2019: Aric Almirola

On the whole, Aric Almirola desired for stronger results in 2019. (Photo Credit: Michael Guariglia/TPF)

On the whole, Aric Almirola desired for stronger results in 2019. (Photo Credit: Michael Guariglia/TPF)

For the most part, Aric Almirola sought for another stellar campaign that mirrored his results in 2018.  However, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season dealt some unlucky cards to the amiable 35-year-old Tampa, Fla. native.

All things considered, Almirola nearly mirrored his statistics from last year.  After all, he earned three top-fives in 2019 versus four in ’18 and 12 top-10’s versus 17 last year.

Then again, the 12th-year NASCAR Cup Series racer had a big ole’ goose egg in the win column this past season.  While Almirola reeled off six straight top-10 results following the Daytona 500, bad luck struck the Floridian at Bristol.

As can be seen, Almirola showcased speed with a runner-up finish at Texas' Playoffs race. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

As can be seen, Almirola showcased speed with a runner-up finish at Texas’ Playoffs race. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

With this in mind, the driver of the No. 10 Smithsfield Ford Mustang struggled with achieving the same level of consistent, strong finishes during the first seven races of 2019.

In fact, Almirola only racked up six top-10’s for the rest of the year.  Consequently, he dropped from fifth to 14th in the points standings.

Prior to this year’s NASCAR Playoffs, Almirola expressed optimism with the direction of the No. 10 team.

“I can’t imagine it any other way,” Almirola said.  “We’ve had some ups and downs this season after a strong start, but we’re all trying to figure out how to get better as a team.”

Consider that Almirola joined the team with crew chief Johnny Klausmeier atop the pit box.  Surely, both complimented each other as evident with their season-to-season stats over the past two years.

Although this may be true, Almirola only tallied two top-five finishes during this year’s NASCAR Playoffs.  Essentially, an average finish of 15.4 versus last year’s 12.9 showcased the falloff with Almirola and his No. 10 team.

Shockingly, Almirola showcased some strength at the road course races with an average finish of 11.67.  In addition, the young racer performed decently at intermediates (12.54), Daytona and Talladega (13), and the superspeedways (15.83).

Alongside those results, Almirola scored his second career pole (Atlanta), boosting his average starting spot from 15.6 last year to 10.5 in 2019.  Furthermore, he finished in 91.67 percent of this year’s races, dropping out of three due to accidents.

Altogether, Driver 10 desires for success with SHR. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

Altogether, Driver 10 desires for success with SHR. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

On the other hand, Almirola struggled at the short track races, posting an average finish of 21.1.  Expressly, this statistic seems concerning when considering next year’s postseason.  Richmond, Bristol, and Martinsville host Playoffs races, with the latter two serving as cutoff events.

All things considered, Almirola has the makings for success in 2020 when considering the strong, fast cars at Stewart-Haas Racing’s campus.  Also, Mike Bugarewicz enters the picture, as he transitions from Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 team to the No. 10 team as Almirola’s crew chief.

Moreover, Almirola remains confident and hopeful with his chances.  Expressly, the two-time Cup Series race winner pointed out to some positives.

Definitely, the Floridian hopes for better performances at a short track like Martinsville. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff/TPF)

Definitely, the Floridian hopes for better performances at a short track like Martinsville. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff/TPF)

“Last year, for the first time in my career, I have been able to compete for wins every time we go to the race track,” he said.  “It’s very humbling to say the least.

Smithfield has been with me all the way.  And, it’s time to show to bring them to Victory Lane with a strong team like SHR.”

Recall, this talented driver overcame injuries sustained at Kansas Speedway in May 2017.  In the blink of an eye, Almirola faced a daunting challenge in his pursuit to remain in the NASCAR Cup Series.

All in all, Aric Almirola is resilient and a steady racer.  Typically mild mannered, save for a dust-up with Kyle Busch at Martinsville, the Sunshine State driver remains one of the more mature individuals on the track.

Ultimately, if Almirola gels with Bugarewicz immediately off the bat, especially during Daytona Speedweeks, look for the No. 10 team to be as dangerous and potent as they were in 2018 – especially with his approach.

In this case, Aric Almirola observes the golden rule of NASCAR. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

In this case, Aric Almirola observes the golden rule of NASCAR. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

“I think it’s something that all racecar drivers have in the back of their minds,” he said.  “You know the guys on the racetrack that you can race a certain way. And (there are) other guys that you would race that you’d want to be raced.  You hear us talk about it all the time.

Inside, the racecar, there’s a lot of things that we can do. As drivers, you can either make somebody’s life a lot harder or a lot easier if you know that they’re faster or better than you.

If not, there’s definitely guys on the racetrack that I would be more lenient with and cut a break or cut a favor.  And there’s other guys that you just won’t.”

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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