For the first time in over a month, Stewart-Haas Racing placed multiple cars in the top 10 at the end of a NASCAR Cup Series race.
After grabbing the pole, Aric Almirola led the organization with a fourth-place finish in the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway. It marks the first top-five finish of the season for Almirola and the No. 10 team.
“We had a good car, just, my goodness, we don’t have anything for those Chevrolets right now,” Almirola said. “They’re making grip, and they’re getting up off the corner. It’s so hard to race with them. I can roll the center as good as some of the guys in those cars, if not a little better, and then it’s tough to keep up. But we have made huge strides to close the gap.
“Our race team is doing a great job scrounging and scrapping to build better race cars, and it’s nice to come here and run up front, run in the top five, and at least be in the mix, so it feels good. We’ll just keep building on it. The All-Star Race was a good race for us. Today, again, was a good race for us, so we’ll just keep grinding.”
Kevin Harvick finished fifth. Harvick said his No. 4 Ford suffered a bit later in the race after contact with William Byron, turning his car tight.
“I thought we were better than the 24 (William Byron),” Harvick said. “The 42 (Ross Chastain) had fresh tires, and the 10, I thought we were better than those cars. The 5 (Kyle Larson) was kind of in a league of his own, but once again, the guys did a great job and ground away at it and came away with a top-five out of gas.”
Just what the doctor ordered.@Aric_Almirola had a solid fourth-place finish after starting on the #BuschPole. pic.twitter.com/1T1nKKUcLO
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 21, 2021
Following 300 laps Sunday, Harvick didn’t think the performance was a statement, but they did run better. When asked earlier in the weekend if he felt his team was getting to where they could win weekly, Harvick had replied, “we’re not there yet.”
Does that change now? “I don’t know,” Harvick said. “I don’t think anybody can beat (Larson) right now.”
Cole Custer and rookie Chase Briscoe both experienced brake issues, which ended their days. Custer suffered a flat right-rear tire on lap 173, and then the brakes caught on fire. Briscoe suffered a brake failure and hit the Turn 4 wall on lap 228. However, both drivers spent time running inside the top 15 before their issues.
It’s been a season of searching for Stewart-Haas. The organization is winless and fighting to find speed and aero balance, which has played into a lack of results. Almirola has also suffered some of the worst racing luck a driver can have.
Days of Thunder (1990) pic.twitter.com/JJOuDrnIDu
— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) June 21, 2021
A run like Nashville in which Almirola was a solid top-10 contender, and coming off a top-10 in the All-Star Race, admittedly feels good. Almirola understands confidence comes with results, and his recent runs should give the team a pep in their step.
“It means we’re working hard,” Almirola said of the finishes for him and Harvick. “We’ve had a lot of races where the 4 has been a 10th-place car, and the other three of us have run 25th, it seems like, so we’ve been working so hard. When you run bad, it’s 10 times as much work because you’re going down every single different avenue trying to figure out what’s going to make speed in the race cars, and when you have fast race cars, it’s easy because you just massage on it and polish it and keep going to the race track with what you know is fast.
“We’ve been working so hard. I’m proud of everybody back at the shop and specifically this 10 team. We’ve been off, and it’s been nice to get it back and go on here in the right direction after two weeks in a row of running up front.”