By: Sarah Handy, Staff Writer
It was an eventful O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway for Stewart-Haas Racing driver, Aric Almirola and it started even before the green flag flew.
Due to random draw for qualifying, Almirola started on the pole for the 334-lap event, the 16th of the season.
However, right from the get-go there were issues. It was during the initial pace laps prior to the green flag that Almirola radioed to his crew chief that his No. 10 Smithfield Ford was having brake issues.
It seemed as if adversity was adverted as Almirola was able to hold on to the lead until the competition caution on lap 20. That lead would be lose to his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin [Harvick] on lap the restart, but Almirola quickly gained it back.
Unfortunately, the No. 10 team would face another setback after Almirola brought his No. 10 in for service on lap 63 as he was handed a blend-line violation.
That violation meant a pass-through penalty and he was scored two laps down to the leaders. Ultimately, he was able to work his way back through the field and back onto the lead lap for a 16th place finish as stage one concluded at Texas.
Starting stage two in the 21st position, Almirola cracked the top-10 again around lap 135. He would eventually come down pit road for four tires, and fuel on lap 180. Almirola was able to gain three bonus points at the end of stage two and was scored eighth. He did opt to come down pit road again at the end of the stage for service consisting of tires, fuel, and adjustments on his Ford Mustang.
The End of the Race
The final stage would provide be eventful for Almirola was well, on lap 219 he sustained damage though it was minimal after being involved in an accident with multiple other competitors.
By a lap 243 caution, the veteran driver was able to work his way up to the third position. The decision to pit for four tires and fuel on lap 288 would prove to set the team back yet again as an untimely caution brought out the yellow flag on lap 305. In turn, Almirola’s No. 10 ended up a lap down due to green flag pit stops.
Multiple cautions would plague the end of the final stage at the 1.5-mile track, but Almirola was able to restart 10th for the final restart of the race and hold onto that position as the checkered flag waved.
“Man. One of these days we’ll get everything to go our way,” said Almirola in a team release. “That was my fault on the penalty, but we had such a fast car and got it back in position to compete for a win again before that caution came out. We’re still bringing fast Smithfield Ford Mustangs every weekend and we learned a lot for when we come back here and compete for a championship.”
Momentum Moving Forward
Almirola’s top-10 in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 was his seventh straight top-10 finish. Furthermore, it’s the longest top-10 streak of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
Additionally, Texas proved to be yet again another solid track for Almirola as the top-10 was also his fourth straight top-10 at the track.
Heading into Thursday evening’s race at Kansas Speedway, Almirola’s streak has a good chance statistics wise of continuing on. In 16 starts at the track, he has six top-10 finishes with his best finish of eighth occurring twice in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
I'm proud of this #SmithfieldRacing team. Week in and week out we have fast racecars. If we keep running like this, things will go our way and we'll come home with a W soon. pic.twitter.com/RROvya8gW5
— Aric Almirola (@Aric_Almirola) July 20, 2020