Has there been anyone more consistent in the NASCAR Cup Series of late as Aric Almirola? The 36-year old driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang racked up his eighth-consecutive top-10 finish in Thursday night’s Super Start Batteries 400 at Kansas Speedway and he is certainly knocking on the door of victory lane.
Almirola started from the third position, and while he didn’t showcase a car with speed capable of winning on Thursday night, he took what the car would give him and he walked out of the 1.5-mile speedway with a continuation of momentum.
“Tonight we were just a little bit off. We didn’t have as good of a car compared to the field as we have the last several weeks,” Almirola explained. “I am proud of my guys. We keep chipping away and building up that points buffer to the cutoff which is nice but now we are ready to go get the W and some bonus points for the playoffs. I am proud of everybody, Smithfield, Ford, Mobil 1 and everyone that supports this program. Everybody back at Stewart-Haas Racing. Finally we will get to catch our breath for three or four days here and then head off to Loudon.”
Almirola, who hails from Florida, sits eighth in the championship standings with just seven races remaining before the NASCAR Playoffs begin.
It’s been an absolute bonkers flip of the switch for the No. 10 team.
In the first six races of 2020, Almirola was decent. He recorded three top-10 finishes over that stretch, and reached as high as seventh in the championship standings, but then he slipped into a bit of a funk as he registered five-straight finishes of 15th-or-worse including two DNFs at the short tracks Bristol and Martinsville.
What once looked like a promising season was now on the brink of disappointment, as Almirola was sinking fast at 14th in the standings and in quickly slipping into danger of falling out of Playoff contention.
However, it’s at this point where Almirola, crew chief Mike Bugarewicz and the entire No. 10 team seemingly found themselves and they began the current tear that they’ve been on since June 14th when they finished fifth at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In the eight races since that abysmal five-race stretch just before summer, Almirola has racked up five top-five finishes and eight top-10s. His average finish over that span is an astonishing 5.4. To put his performance over this recent group of races in perspective, Almirola has led 224 laps over the last eight NCS events. The most laps he had ever led in an entire season (36 races) before this year was 181.
Almirola can taste a third-career victory, and he’s ready to pounce when the opportunity arises.
“I am pretty eager to get a W,” Almirola explained after the race at Kansas. “This race team has been doing a great job. We have been running really good. A long time ago I would have given anything to just run top-10 every week and run like we have been running but when you start tasting victory and run up front and race around those guys, you want to seal the deal and go to victory lane.”
Victory appears to be just around the corner for Almirola and his No. 10 team. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing, they should collect a checkered flag or two, but regardless, this is shaping up to be a career-season for Almirola.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.