The NASCAR All-Star Race on Sunday, June 13, did not matter in terms of points or playoff pushes. However, it set one driver up for success heading into the limited remaining regular-season races. Aric Almirola won the All-Star Open and then finished eighth in the All-Star Race, boosting his confidence in the process.
The driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang has dealt with numerous issues during the 2021 season, leading to him posting DNFs in five different races. He sits 28th in points after 16 races and has very few opportunities to take the checkered flag and punch his ticket to the playoffs. However, he showcased on Sunday the speed and control that helped him reach the playoffs in 2020.
“It’s really nice to have something to smile about,” Almirola told Fox Sports Bob Pockrass after winning the All-Star Open. “I mean, we’ve left the race track so many weeks in a row with our head held low and tail between our legs and just dejected. Scratching our heads, trying to figure out what we need to do to get more speed in our cars, make our cars drive better.”
Almirola Only Has One Top-10 Finish in the 2021 Season
The SHR driver entered the season with the goal of winning races, reaching the playoffs, and contending for the Bill France Cup. However, the season started off very poorly. Almirola wrecked during the season-opening Daytona 500, finishing 34th. He crashed again three weeks later at Las Vegas and then three weeks after that at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Almirola appeared to turn a corner during what was quickly becoming a frustrating season for the No. 10 team. He finished sixth at Richmond and racked up 32 points in the process. He then followed this outing up with 15th at Talladega Superspeedway.
While Almirola appeared to make positive strides in consecutive weeks, the optimism quickly faded. He finished 29th at Kansas and then crashed in back-to-back races (Darlington and Dover), only continuing to struggle. Now, however, he and the No. 10 team have the opportunity to rebound and make a late-season push while riding the All-Star Race momentum.
Almirola Will Have the Opportunity to Land a Top Spot in Nashville
Unlike past races on the NASCAR schedule, Almirola will not have to rely on the starting lineup formula to determine where he will line up on the starting grid. Instead, he will have the opportunity to take part in practice and qualifying sessions before the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 20.
The NASCAR drivers will head to the 1.33-mile concrete oval on Saturday, June 13, for a 50-minute practice session. They will then return the following morning at 11:05 a.m. ET for qualifying. Almirola will climb into the No. 10 Ford Mustang with the opportunity to post one of the fastest laps and secure his spot near the front of the pack.
Almirola has eight starts at Nashville Superspeedway on his career resume, four in the Truck Series and four in the Busch Series. He has no trips to Victory Lane, but he has five top-10 finishes. Almirola took eighth and third in the 2010 Truck Series races. He also finished 10th in the 2007 Busch Series race and then 10th and fifth in the 2011 races.