Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Momentum for Almirola After Top-10 at Las Vegas

After his third start in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Aric Almirola “The Cuban Missile” finally captured his first top-10 of 2018. In his new No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion, Almirola finished 10th in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Finally a top-10 for our Smithfield Ford Fusion,” Almirola said. “We have had a solid string of races, and obviously everybody has been working really hard at Stewart-Haas Racing, and the cars are obviously fast.”

A “solid string of races” it is.

At Daytona, Almirola stayed out of trouble and was the leader with a lap to go until he was wrecked in the backstretch by Austin Dillon, who ended up spraying champagne in victory lane.

The following weekend at Atlanta, Almirola ran in the top-10 most of the day but finished 13th after having a hiccup on pit road.

Almirola began the weekend at Las Vegas struggling with a bad handling race car.

“Our car was not very good on Friday or Saturday morning,” Almirola said. “The guys made a lot of changes for final practice and we finally hit on something that felt good for me.”

Almirola started back in the 29th position and successfully drove his way up into the top-15 by the end of Stage 1. Throughout the race, he ran among the top-20 allowing him to finish in the tenth position.

“I am proud of everybody at Ford Performance and Stewart-Haas Racing,” Almirola said. “We had to battle back from a lot this weekend.”

Thanks to a phenomenal job by his team, Almirola could finally get the car to handle to his liking which led him to finishing the weekend off strong with momentum going into Phoenix.

The 2018 season has begun strong for Almirola and the whole Stewart-Haas Racing organization. Starting off a year, with speed and consistent runs can really guide Almirola to having a successful season.

Heading into Phoenix, Almirola sits 12th in the overall point standings. Furthermore, this is the first season that he goes on to the fourth race with a top-10 at a track other than Daytona.

During the offseason, Stewart-Haas Racing made a few changes, most notably bringing Aric Almirola over to drive Danica Patrick’s former car.

This year started off with a historic Daytona 500 and two dominant performances by Almirola’s teammate Kevin Harvick. During the offseason, many expressed concern about Ford’s performance in 2018 since a Toyota dominated the previous season and Chevy was introducing the new Camaro ZL1.

However, the Ford camp has shown early success and it’ll be interesting to see Aric Almirola evolve throughout the season with Stewart-Haas Racing.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MrBrandonRivero

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Dillon and Menard Play Teammate Tussle

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Austin Dillon finished fourth in the STP 500 at Martinsville, but the way he and teammate Paul Menard raced each other was the main topic of conversation.

The two Richard Childress Racing drivers went at each other hard in the second half of the 500-lap event. Contact was made; frustration poured over the radio. In the end, both walked away following a handshake and the agreement that it was over.

In other words, it was Martinsville.

“We worked it out on the track; I probably overreacted. I was racing AJ (Allmendinger) and trying to race him clean, and I kept bumping him, and I was in the middle of a sandwich there,” Dillon said following his second top-five finish of the year. “We’re in the same trailer together; we’ll work it out.”

Ironically, Dillon had to lean on Menard, who finished eighth, heavily this weekend in order to even be able to compete with him.

“I have to thank a lot of his effort this weekend because we used his setup today, so that was pretty big. The 27 setup helped us a bunch throughout the weekend,” said Dillon, who qualified 29th. “We worked it out on the racetrack; I helped him at the end, he helped me at the end. It was just one of those things everybody is pushing, and you’re hot in the racecar, and sometimes you shouldn’t key the microphone.”

With his early season success – one pole and four top-10 finishes in six races – Dillon acknowledged it brings more attention. Which means radio communications like Sunday will be made public. Dillon said he would explain himself to Menard this week concerning his comments.

“I probably should have kept my mouth shut. I’m working on it, obviously caught myself,” he said. “You guys listen to me a lot more now that we’re up front, so I have to work on me as far as speaking up. But man, it’s part of Martinsville and short track racing.”

Tangling with his teammate aside, Dillon not only tied his career-best finish of fourth, he picked up his first Martinsville Speedway top 10. Prior to Sunday, he had finished no better than 12th. It was a long way and a much better feeling than that of being distraught because of his qualifying effort.

It was his worst starting effort of the year, but it ended with his best finish. Dillon is now seventh in the series standings.

“We put a lot of focus into qualifying here and talked about where I had messed up previous races and I just kind of backed up it up and messed it up again,” he said. “That was frustrating.

“I went home and talked to myself a little bit, came back on Saturday and regrouped and we did that as a team and just decided to work on our car and work on me, and when it got down to it, it paid off a lot today. We came from 29th all the way up to fourth; that’s a heck of a day.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.