Random Race Recap: Aric Almirola at NHMS

Fans fill the seats, in a socially distanced manner, at NHMS.

No doubt, fans were thrilled to attend the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 in person. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/The Podium Finish)

For the New Hampshire Motor Speedway edition of Random Race Recap, the wheel chose Aric Almirola. Almirola had Smithfield Hometown Original Heroes onboard his No. 10 Ford Mustang.

Aric Almirola makes ground at NHMS.

Although he started on the pole, Aric Almirola battled all day to claim another top 10 finish. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/The Podium Finish)

Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 

Since the return from the COVID break, it appears Aric Almirola has found NASCAR’s golden ticket. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has started on the front row in six races thanks to the random draw currently in place. 

The weekend’s race at NHMS was no exception. Almirola rolled off in the pole position in search of the elusive “lobstah. Additionally, after seeing nine cautions for incidents, the final 83 laps stayed green which brought fuel strategy into play heading to the checkered flag.

 

Stage 1

Almirola kept his No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing machine in the lead for the opening four laps before Brad Keselowski took over. The driver told his crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz, his car was “really tight.”

Aric Almirola fought hard to bring home the bacon - and lobster - at NHMS.

Aric Almirola battled early on with Team Penske powerhouse, Brad Keselowski. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Halfway to the competition caution, the yellow flag flew ending the day for Kyle Busch who slammed the wall after a tire issue. After seeing Busch retire early, Almirola would line up P2 for the restart. 

Falling back two positions, he informed his crew chief again that he was, “Really, really tight rolling.” The scheduled caution couldn’t come soon enough. 

Hitting his pit stall for adjustments, Bugarewicz let Almirola know his SHR teammates were complaining of the same issues. Unfortunately, the much-needed adjustments forced Almirola to restart P17. 

The green flag saw a great deal of shuffling throughout the field, and additionally, saw Almirola pushed back to P19. Determined to recover, he made up nine positions in 11 laps. He radioed in, almost dumbfounded, to note he had “no rotation on throttle” and couldn’t pass anyone. 

The end of the opening stage saw one more caution, and a surge from the No. 10 driver, as he earned a lone stage point for his P10 effort at the green-white-checkered flag. 

 

Stage 2

As drivers and crew chiefs deliberated, the radar showed rain moving into the area. Bugarewicz rolled the dice and kept his driver on track to restart on the front row.  But nine laps later, the action stalled as rain forced a caution. 

Numerous yellow flags shook up the field and the strategy. Almirola saw positions as high as P3 and low as P11 as he worked through the field.

He earned seven more points, ending the stage P4. 

Stage 3

Almirola lined up P4 for the start of the final segment, but was immediately stalking Keselowski and Denny Hamlin as they battled for the lead. 

An early caution for Matt Kenseth saw a handful of drivers pit early. This caution set off a string of cautions that varied the strategy leading up to the long, green-flag run. 

On the final restart, Almirola lined up P8 but was forced back on the restart to P11.

Spotter Joel Edmunds told his driver he “had P3 lap times consistently.” Almirola showed his skills as a veteran driver in using William Byron as a “pick” to gain a position in the closing laps. 

But after teammate Kevin Harvick passed him with 14 laps remaining, it was obvious the lap times weren’t going to be enough.

After being informed that Cole Custer was over three seconds behind and would not be able to catch him before the checkered flag, Bugarewicz told his driver, “Save fuel and bring it home.”

 

Aric Almirola desperately wanted to bring home the bacon, or lobster, but it wasn’t in the cards for 2020. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/The Podium Finish)

Closing Laps

Almirola brought his machine home P7. Bugarewicz encouraged his driver and team saying, “I’m glad we got it better. We should have finished better, but good job.”

“We’ll keep fighting!” Almirola told his team before parking his car for the weekend. 

The win Almirola is chasing will have to wait another weekend for the Smithfield team. With the consistent finishes and speed Almirola has had this season, surely all the pieces will come together soon.

Facing a doubleheader weekend, Almirola sits 11th in the Playoff Standings with 2,005 points. While he’s solidly above the cutoff line, a win would definitely give him a comfortable advantage in the final weeks of the regular season.


Be sure to follow
Aric and SHR on Twitter for news and updates on the No. 10 team. We’ll see you next week for a twofer Random Race Recap from the Irish Hills of Michigan.

Terra Jones

As a life-long NASCAR fan and lover of words, I'm fortunate enough to put the two together here at The Podium Finish to bring our readers and motorsports fans news, features, and interviews from the world of wheels. Originally from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, I moved westward to graduate from Middle Tennessee State University. I now reside in central North Carolina with my husband, our three boys, and our dog, Charlotte. While my heart is at the race track, I also enjoy watching baseball, as well as college football and basketball. 

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