Advertisement
  1. Sports

Ask Aric Almirola: What’d the NASCAR driver learn from last year’s Dover disappointment?

The Hillsborough High alumnus is returning to Dover for the first time since an unlucky caution derailed him last October.
Aric Almirola's No. 10 Ford was up front for a lot of last October's race at Dover. It just didn't finish there. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Published May 1

After recording his seventh top 10 of the season last week at Talladega, Tampa’s Aric Almirola heads to Dover — the site of one of his most memorable runs from 2018.

The Hillsborough High alumnus led 64 laps there in October and was in position to win the playoff race before an unlucky caution derailed his chances.

As Almirola returns to that track for Sunday’s Gander RV 400, the Tampa Bay Times asked the driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford about last fall’s 13th-place finish at Dover in Ask Aric — a periodic feature where the NASCAR playoff contender shares his thoughts on racing, the season and his hometown.

Dover was obviously a disappointing finish for you in October. What’d you learn from that experience and that race?

So last year, it looked like we were going to win the race at Dover. I felt like we had the best car, and coming down to the closing laps had a sizable lead. And with just less than 10 laps to go, the caution came out, and we made the decision at that point to be on offense.

We were the leader. When you’re the leader of the race, you’re in a really vulnerable spot at a place like that track. There’s, I think, maybe 20 cars on the lead lap. Whatever you do, at least half the field’s going to do something opposite to try to give themselves a chance to win the race.

And so we rolled down pit road and came and got tires, and we made the conscious decision to be on offense and have four fresh tires to have the most amount of grip and to go and try to win the race. We came off pit road sixth. That was a challenge.

I think we restarted the race with maybe six, seven laps to go. I went for it. I ran practically wide open through Turns 1 and 2 on the restart and got around one car and was trying to pass, I think, the 11 and the 9 for the lead back and got into the fence off Turn 2 and wrecked.

For me, I was pretty down in the dumps after that. With the situation we were in, points and things, even if we didn’t win, finishing second or third would have still been a good day, especially points-wise. But the one thing I learned leaving there was that all of my guys on my team were proud of me. Every one of them came and patted me on the back — that was awesome. We’d rather wreck trying to win than settle, and so it just gave me a really big sense of confidence that the guys on my team had my back.

That was probably the third or fourth time throughout the year where we had a shot to win and things just didn’t work out. Knowing that my brothers, the guys on my team, supported me and were proud of me and that they were fired up that we were going for the win, it just gave me a different outlook and a different vote of confidence, and I kind of carried that through the rest of the year.

Coincidentally the very next week at Talladega, we won. That was really cool to go from a rather emotional low after the race at Dover to the extreme opposite and just be on a really, really huge emotional high winning at Talladega.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Jameis Winston is on pace to gain 4,700 yards this season and throw 32 touchdown passes and 27 interceptions. All of which would be career highs. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Franchise-altering decisions loom for Tampa Bay as it nears the halfway point of the season. Among them: Should the Bucs be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? How much stock should they place in...
  2. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp says he doesn't want to take anything away from Florida, but he doesn't want to keep quiet about the officiating either. MIC SMITH  |  AP
    The South Carolina coach says getting called for unsportsmanlike conduct was "gutless.''
  3. After years of complex Internet-to-TV setups and multiple streaming boxes, it seems the tech has finally caught up with the dream of cutting the cable cord, as several companies, such as Roku and TiVo, have begun offering devices specifically geared to cord cutters.
    Live sports without cable TV isn’t as different as you might think. And that can have serious ramifications across college sports.
  4. Monday Night Football and more sports on the air.
  5. Northside Christian's Brianna White (14) blocks the ball during a district volleyball game against Clearwater Central Catholic on Tuesday. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    The Tampa Bay area will be well represented, although a few teams are left out under the new rankings system.
  6. After Colorado's 6-2 whitewash on Saturday left goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning looking for answers, the Bolts had a spirited practice at Amalie Arena on Sunday. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Defenseman Ryan McDonagh says the team has failed to meet expectations in this early stage of the season
  7. Florida's James Houston IV (41) and Umstead Sanders (42) jog through the tunnel before the start of the NCAA college football game against South Carolina Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Columbia, SC. (AP Photo/Mic Smith) MIC SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY LLC  |  AP
    There were two shakeups to Matt Baker’s top five this week, too.
  8. Juan Tejada (right) and the Rowdies could not contain the Hartford Athletic in a 2-1 loss Saturday night. Hartford Athletic
    Tampa Bay’s loss means it will start the postseason with a tall order
  9. Thumbs up: Need 300 passing yards? A couple of touchdown passes? Oatmeal recommendations? Kirk Cousins is your guy. BRUCE KLUCKHOHN  |  AP
    Kirk Cousins and Chase Edmonds lead this week’s list of players you should stash now.
  10. These are unquestionable the three greatest Bucs of all time. But who's the greatest? Tampa Bay Times
    Counting down from No. 25 to 1: Choosing between three Hall of Famers.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement