For a while Aric Almirola thought he had a car capable of winning the AAA Texas 500, until teammate Kevin Harvick challenged him on a late restart.
“His car was a good bit faster than ours in clean air,” Almirola said following the runner-up finish.
Almirola led 62 laps at Texas, which was second-most to Harvick’s 119. After Harvick won the first stage, Almirola took the win in the second stage. But Harvick had the track position after taking the lead from Almirola on lap 256 (less than 10 laps after the race’s final restart), and when green-flag pit stops cycled through for the last time with 21 laps to go, he was back up front. In the end, Almirola could not make up 1.5-seconds in the run to the checkered flag.
“Our Smithfield Ford Mustang was really fast; really proud of the effort by everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush Yates Engines, and Ford Motor Company,” Almirola said. “Our cars were really, really good from the time we unloaded here, and we all came with a little something different just trying to learn and get ahead for next year, and I think we learned some stuff. Just really proud of Johnny [Klausmeier, crew chief] and all the guys on my team.
“Man, we’ve had such a bad run of luck the last probably two months, and it is so nice to come here and just execute all night, have a fast car, lead laps, win the stage, run up front, and have a great night on pit road. Me do my part on restarts, and on and off pit road, and just all-around solid night. And we can build on that.”
Eliminated after the first round of the postseason, Texas was just the third top-five finish of the season for Almirola. It was also only his third top-10 finish since the July race in Daytona. Texas was also the most laps that Almirola has led in a race this season.
Behind Almirola came another Stewart-Haas car in Daniel Suarez. SHR went 1-2-3 at the finish ,with Harvick locking up a spot in the title race in Miami.
“It was a great day,” said Almirola of SHR. “Just shows how hard everybody has been working. It’s a bad feeling when the guys are working as many hours as they are back at the shop and you just don’t produce the results. So, it’s really nice to come home with a 1-2-3 finish and just get the morale of everybody at the shop up.”