Advertisement
  1. Sports

NASCAR Playoffs: What changes for Tampa’s Aric Almirola?

“When the playoffs start, it really is like everybody switches gears to another level.”
Aric Almirola drives out of Turn 1 during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. [RICHARD SHIRO | AP]
Published Sep. 11

When NASCAR’s playoffs start Sunday at the South Point 400 in Las Vegas, Tampa’s Aric Almirola will be in it for the second straight year and the third time in his career.

The Hillsborough High alumnus enters with eight consecutive finishes outside the top 10 but is capable of making another strong run. He advanced to the third round last year and ended the season fifth in the standings.

Almirola has been in it long enough to know that something changes when the regular season turns into the postseason. The Tampa Bay Times asked the driver of the No. 10 Ford about it this week in Ask Aric — a periodic feature where the NASCAR playoff contender shares his thoughts on racing, the season and his hometown.

What’s different for you when the playoffs start? What changes?

When the playoffs start, it really is like everybody switches gears to another level. It’s hard to explain, unless you live it and you’re in it. But the race teams, the crew guys, the pit crews, the drivers —the intensity level just elevates, and everybody rises to the occasion.

RELATED: Why Bucs’ Mike Alstott is Aric Almirola’s favorite Tampa Bay athlete

You show up in those playoffs races, and you go out and practice. The 16 playoff cars will be in the top 17 or 18 cars on speed. The competiveness and the intensity level is such an extreme high that it’s hard to explain. It’s hard to even fathom you can get to that next level, because you feel like all year long you are competing and competing at a high level. It’s just like, when the playoffs start, everybody digs deep and finds just a little bit more. That’s what makes it exciting.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Notre Dame running back Tony Jones Jr. (6) runs through a hole in the line during the first half against Louisville on Sept. 2. TIMOTHY D. EASLEY  |  AP
    More national college football: Jimbo Fisher, meanwhile, should be hyper focused on his quarterback, who hasn’t looked all that spiffy this season.
  2. Tim Tebow. [Associated Press)] Associated Press
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Tom Jones and Rick Stroud debate Tebow, Dickie V, the first-place Bucs and the Rays playoff chase
  3. Notre Dame defensive lineman Jonathan Bonner (55) celebrates a sack of Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (11) during the second half of 2017 game. Georgia defeated Notre Dame 20-19. MICHAEL CONROY  |  AP
    Unlike last week, Saturday’s slate is loaded. Sit back and enjoy.
  4. The Yankees celebrate after defeating the Angels and clinching the AL East on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. MARY ALTAFFER  |  AP
    New York wins its first division crown since 2012.
  5. Rays host the Red Sox and more sports on the air.
  6. Florida State Seminoles quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) throws during practice at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Tallahassee Democrat and 247Sports expect the Wisconsin grad transfer to see some time against the Cardinals.
  7. Paul Spicer, left, is now a defensive line coach at the University of South Florida. Skyler Fulton, right, is now a wide receivers coach at Portland State University. University of South Florida | Portland State University
    Former Bucs assistants Paul Spicer and Skyler Fulton faced accusations of violence against women before coaching in Tampa Bay under Dirk Koetter, according to a USA Today investigation.
  8. If the Rays end up popping champagne bottles, like they did in 2013 after beating the Texas Rangers 5-2 in an American League wild-card tiebreaker, don't expect the clincher to come at home. TONY GUTIERREZ  |  AP
    Don’t expect a quick clincher as the team enters its final homestand of the regular season.
  9. Kevin Minter played linebacker for Todd Bowles in Arizona, was released by Bowles last year when Bowles coached the Jets and is starting Sunday for the Bucs' defensive coordinator when Tampa Bay plays host to the New York Giants. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    When rookie linebacker Devin White went down, the Bucs turned to a player who keeps showing up in Todd Bowles’ defenses.
  10. USF guard Enna Pehadzic (0), USF center Shae Leverett (21) and Houston guard Julia Blackshell-Fair (33) battle for A loose ball at the Yuengling Center last season. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The Bulls also have an afternoon home game the same day as the Gasparilla parade.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement