Aric Almirola is sleeping better these days.
Having gone from a mid-tier Cup Series driver the last few seasons to contending with Stewart-Haas Racing, Almirola feels justified. Had his career ended last year, Almirola didn’t want to wonder how good of a driver he was. The excuse of not having good enough equipment to get the job done is no longer an option at the No. 10 team.
So as Almirola battled the disappointment of failing to win Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he also knew where to find the positivity.
“I do feel like there is justification running up front and racing with Martin Truex and Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, all those guys that run up front on a regular basis,” said Almirola. “It makes me feel like I’m capable and I can do it. That does make me feel better.
“At least I’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that given the right opportunity I could perform at that level. Now we just got to figure out how to go win.”
It appeared Almirola & Co. had done that in the Foxwoods Casino Resort 301.
Although he only led 42 laps, Almirola – and winning teammate Kevin Harvick – felt he had the best car. And Almirola was in control of the race and what could have been his second career Cup win when the caution flew for the final time on Lap 233.
Then the race went downhill.
Entering pit road as the leader, Almirola came out third. The position lined Almirola up on the inside lane, where drivers had not been getting much of a launch all day. Sure enough, Almirola spun the tires and fell back to seventh and never got a chance to challenge for the win.
“Just frustrated on all parts that we didn’t execute the way we needed to try and win,” Almirola said. “Chicago, we had a car capable of winning and didn’t get it done [with two loose wheels]. Here again, had a car capable of winning, didn’t get it done.
“It’s frustrating, but everybody keeps telling me, ‘You got to lose some before you win some.’ So, we’ve lost some. Time to stop it, time to go to victory lane. We’re capable. We have a race team capable of doing it. Our cars are really fast.”
How much has Almirola improved since joining SHR? In the season’s first 20 races, Almirola has now improved his career-best finish at eight tracks. New Hampshire became the latest, joining Kentucky, Sonoma, Michigan, Pocono, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
“Just ready to go get to victory lane next week,” said Almirola. “Where we going next week? Pocono, perfect. Let’s go.”