Aric Almirola’s hopes of adding to Champa Bay ended early in Sunday’s Daytona 500.
The Hillsborough High alumnus was in second place when he was involved in a big crash that destroyed his victory hopes at Daytona International Speedway.
Almirola’s No. 10 Ford was only behind Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick on lap 14 when he got a push from behind by Christopher Bell. The nudge forced Almirola outside and into pole-sitter Alex Bowman.
“Unbelievable,” Almirola said on his radio. “Unbelievable.”
The ensuing pile-up collected 14 other drivers, including former Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman, who survived a vicious crash in last year’s 500.
Almirola won one of the duels last week and has been in contention to win several Daytona 500s. He also earned his first Cup win at Daytona, although that was in a July race rather than NASCAR’s biggest event.
“We were just getting pushed too hard too early,” Almirola said. “It’s a long, long race. We were in a fine position, just sitting there riding around... the 20 just came with a big run and hit me really hard in a bad spot. Tore up our race car and ended our Daytona 500 way too early.”
Soon after the crash, the red flag came out because of lightning in the area.