Aric Almirola tried to find a bright spot in the darkness that surrounded Chicagoland Speedway, both literally as a storm moved, and metaphorically after a 25th-place finish.
Almirola had, after all, led four different times Sunday afternoon for a total of 70 laps. But his result could have been much more.
“I’m really frustrated, but the good news is that our cars are fast. We can build on that,” Almirola said. “We’re going to win a race. I guarantee you we are going to win a race. We have to be perfect to do it, though.”
The No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team was not perfect at Chicagoland. Almirola suffered two loose wheels, both under green flag conditions, over the course of 267 laps that took him from inside the top 10 to mid-pack.
After winning the first stage, Almirola made his first unscheduled stop down pit road on lap 141, falling back to 26th and one lap down. Almirola would get the ‘free pass’ under the caution for the stage two break.
“Keep your heads up guys,” Almirola radioed his team. “We aren’t out of this yet. We have a long way to go and a really fast car.”
Having climbed back into the top 10, the second loose wheel occurred on Lap 209. Almirola fell off the lead lap once again, but the race never again saw a yellow, and he was unable to rebound.
“Our car was super fast, especially out in clean air. It was incredibly fast,” said Almirola. “We just have to execute; we have to put a whole race together. That’s the difference between being good and being great. We’re capable of winning. We showed it today. We have speed, we’re bringing incredible race cars to the racetrack, and we just have to put a whole day together.
“We have to be flawless on pit road, and I have to do my part, too. Today we just had two loose wheels on two separate instances, and you can’t have that, especially in races like this that go green forever.”