Almirola has the speed, just not the results he's looking for

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Almirola has the speed, just not the results he's looking for


Almirola has the speed, just not the results he's looking for


The start of the NASCAR Cup Series season is a story of positives and negatives around Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team.

Entering Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway (3 p.m. ET, FS1), Almirola is 29th in the championship standings — not where an SHR driver expects to be or wants to think about.

Almirola has a clean sheet across the board, and not in a good way. There have been no top-10 finishes, no top-five finishes, and no wins. He’s led 33 laps and has an average finish of 26.1.

Before you ask, yes, it is frustrating that the potential of the team is there, but the results are not. Through eight races, Almirola’s best finish is 13th at Richmond Raceway. Just one of two top-20 finishes.

“It is (frustrating); it’s very reminiscent of two years ago,” he said Saturday before practice at Martinsville. “Two years ago, we got off to a similar start where it was just like, ‘Man, what in the world?’ We’re fast, we have speed, we’re running up in the top 10, and then we just don’t convert into results.

“At least I’ve seen this movie before.”

In 2021, he started the year with one top-10 finish in the first 15 races. But at Nashville Superspeedway in June, he felt things turn. Almirola won the pole and finished fourth. Five races later, he was in victory lane in New Hampshire.

“And (we) finished out the year relatively strong,” he said. “Yeah, it’s frustrating. It’s life. You go through seasons of life that aren’t always the greatest, and it’s just part of it.

“It’s not ideal. We don’t enjoy the results being what they are, but I know that the race team has a lot of fight in them. All the guys on our team are rallying, and we’re bringing fast race cars to the track every week.”

The good news is the team just needs the results, which are far easier to find than speed.

“I’ve been on both ends of it, and the reality is, the results are usually the same,” Almirola said. “When you don’t have speed, and you run bad, you run bad. When you have speed and have bad finishes, you still get bad finishes.

“The pay is the same. The points are the same. It’s still bad. But the nice thing is you feel like, at any moment you can turn it around and get those finishes. Where when you’re searching for speed, it’s a lot harder.”

Unfortunately it’s not as easy to get the results as it is knowing that’s the issue. As it normally happens in racing, Almirola acknowledges there is a little bit of everything that he and his team need to do better.

“It’s execution. It’s luck. I’ve got to do my part as well,” he said. “Like last week at Bristol, sitting there running third, I had an opportunity to pick the front row, and I didn’t on one of the restarts. I chose to restart on the outside again, and it allowed Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon, those guys who were on tires, to pounce. Kyle tried to slide me and didn’t get clear, got me in the fence, and it bent the right rear toe link. Then a few laps, I got in the fence again and broke the right rear toe link. Just little things like that continually happen.

“I can look at every single race where we’ve had things happen, and we can Monday morning quarterback all we want, but it doesn’t change the results for that weekend. We just have to learn from it and go forward.”