Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Aric Almirola Bests Ryan Blaney For Atlanta NASCAR Cup Series Pole

Aric Almirola pole Atlanta Motor Speedway 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400
Aric Almirola scored the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Photo Credit: Jonathan McCoy,

Wow, who had that on their bingo card? Aric Almirola, the driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway from the pole after turning the best lap of the day in the second round of Saturday’s qualifying session.

Almirola’s fast lap was a 31.261 sec. circuit around the 1.54-mile track, which equates to an average speed of 177.346 mph. The pole is the first of the 2023 season for Almirola, and it is the fifth pole of the Tampa, Florida native’s NASCAR Cup Series career.

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RELATED: NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 Starting Lineup

While it’s only his fifth-career pole, this is Almirola’s second-career pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But it’s the first for the driver on the newly reconfigured superspeedway-style version of Atlanta. Almirola says while the pole runs were different, they were both equally stressful.

“Very different. From the car standpoint, and the way you drive it. Equally as nerve-racking, I can tell you that. We go to Daytona and Talladega superspeedways, and typically as a driver it’s pretty relaxed. You’re not really concerned about making any mistakes. You just try to concentrate on doing all the things you need to do… but here, with the track starting to degrade some over the winter, and now we’re in the hot summer months of July in Atlanta — the car is a handful to try to run wide open.”

While the 2023 season certainly hasn’t been the season that Almirola had in mind when he chose to hold off his retirement from full-time NASCAR Cup Series racing, as he sits 27th in the championship standings after 18 races, he knows that opportunity is knocking this weekend at Atlanta.

“If you’re one of the cars that has a consistent chance to win, you’ve probably already locked yourself into the Playoffs or you feel pretty good about where you are at in points. But for the guys like myself that’s further down in the points, we have got rare opportunities to win races because we just haven’t shown up with the consistent speed we need to put ourselves in a position to win,” Almirola explained. “Absolutely, when we show up to a place like this, and we know we have a fast race car — I blew a right rear tire while leading here last year with 40-50 laps to go — we know coming here, this is an opportunity race for us. And it is absolutely go time.”

Ryan Blaney, who was the fastest driver in the opening round of qualifying, was just not quite fast enough to score the pole, as he was 0.014 sec. slower than Almirola. The lap was good enough to secure the outside of the front row for the Team Penske driver, though.

Chase Briscoe and Joey Logano will line up from row two as they turned the third and fourth-fastest laps of Round 2.

Harrison Burton, Kevin Harvick, Ty Gibbs, Kyle Larson, Todd Gilliland, and Austin Cindric will round out the top-10 starters for Sunday’s event.

Brad Keselowski, who narrowly missed out on a victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this season, narrowly missed making it into Round 2 of Saturday’s qualifying session at the 1.54-mile speedway in Hampton, Georgia.

Keselowski earned the 11th-place starting spot for Sunday’s race.

Tyler Reddick will roll from the grid alongside Keselowski in the 12th spot in the No. 45 23XI Racing machine.

While Reddick will start in the front half of the field, his 23XI Racing teammate Bubba Wallace had an undisclosed issue during his qualifying run, which caused him to abort his timed lap. As a result of bringing his No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota Camry back to the pit road, Wallace was unable to clock in a timed lap during the session.

Wallace will start Sunday’s Quaker State 400 from the 37th and final starting spot.

Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is an award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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