The NASCAR Cup Series returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 17 (3 p.m. ET, USA Network). There are several drivers that will fight for a spot in the playoffs with a win, and Aric Almirola is an intriguing name to watch.
The driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang is currently below the playoff cutline, but he has been one of the most consistent drivers in 2022. He is the only competitor to finish all 19 races, and he has completed 99.9% of the laps. Almirola is also the defending winner of the New Hampshire race.
The last time the Cup Series headed to NHMS, Almirola was 27th in points and out of the playoff picture. He needed a win to get himself into the mix, and he delivered on a unique afternoon that featured a rain delay and a race against the setting sun. Almirola started 22nd before working his way into the top 10 for Stage 2. He then jumped to the front of the pack and held off Christopher Bell before darkness brought the race to an early end.
This win turned around what had been a season of struggles, and it helped Almirola reach the first round of the playoffs. He did not ultimately move beyond the Round of 16, but he ended his season in a much better position.
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Almirola Has some Strong Performances at NHMS
The win in 2021 was the third of Almirola’s career, and it punched his ticket to the playoffs. It was also the latest strong performance at the track, a run that includes five top-10 finishes and three top-fives.
Almirola first cracked the top 10 during the 2013 season while driving for Richard Petty Motorsports. He finished fifth while Brian Vickers reached Victory Lane. Almirola then added a sixth-place finish for RPM during the 2014 season.
Almirola has only turned in stronger performances since joining SHR. He has a top-five in 2018, a top-10 in 2020, and his win in 2021. Almirola also finished 11th at NHMS during the 2019 season. He now has completed 18 of the 19 races at the track, and he has posted an average finish of 18.0.
“I’m looking forward to going back,” Almirola said in a release from Stewart-Haas Racing. “We’re in a much different situation this year. A lot closer to being in on points, but with so many new winners this year, it’s pretty apparent you’re going to have to win to get in. This weekend will be a great opportunity to go win.
“When I look at this year compared to last, we have some races where we hit it and some where we missed. It felt great to have a car that strong that could control the race. We’re at a point in the season where we’re just now coming back to tracks for the second time with notes, so it’s really hard to compare to last year. We were really good at Phoenix to open the year, and great at Gateway, so I think we already have some good notes to go from.”
Almirola Has Ground To Make Up at NHMS
Winning at NHMS will not be a simple task considering the unknowns surrounding the track and how the Next Gen cars will perform. No one really knows if the racing will be the same as it was at Phoenix or World Wide Technology Raceway, two tracks where Almirola posted strong finishes in 2022.
Adding another top-five — or even a win — is critical for Almirola considering that he has ground to make up in the points battle. He is currently two spots below the playoff cutline with seven races remaining. He is 42 points below Christopher Bell, who holds the final transfer spot. Almirola is also 23 points behind teammate Kevin Harvick.
The veteran driver will try to gain ground while returning to a track where he has previous success. Almirola will kick off his weekend with practice (11:35 a.m. ET) and qualifying (12:20 p.m. ET) on July 16. He will then return to the track the following day for 301 laps around the track.