The NASCAR Cup Series drivers headed to Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 20, for their single-lap qualifying sessions. All had the goal of posting the fastest lap around the 1.33-mile concrete oval, but only one achieved this. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola turned in the fastest lap at 161.992 mph and won the Busch Pole.
Almirola set this lap time early during the qualifying session and watched as some heavy-hitters attempted to knock him off the top spot. Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and William Byron among others had solid lap times, but none could reach the same speed as Almirola. The driver of the No. 10 SHR Ford Mustang secured his spot at the front of the pack and set himself up to win his first race since the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 14, 2018.
Kyle Busch, the winner of the Tennessee Lottery 250 Xfinity Series race on June 19, nearly topped Almirola with his qualifying lap. He posted a speed of 161.91, taking second on the leaderboard. He continued to hold this position as the remaining drivers turned in their qualifying laps, ensuring that he would join Almirola at the front of the pack.
The Qualifying Session Benefited One Organization
Entering the race weekend at Nashville Superspeedway, Stewart-Haas Racing struggled to find success. The four-car stable failed to take the checkered flag in any race while only Kevin Harvick sat above the playoff cutoff line. Almirola, Cole Custer, and Chase Briscoe all had spots outside the top 25.
However, the team made positive strides during the qualifying sessions. Almirola won the pole, Custer posted the seventh-fastest lap at 160.93, and Harvick finished 12th with a speed of 160.144. The rookie in Briscoe rounded out the group with a lap of 159.893 mph, good enough for 16th.
With all four Stewart-Haas drivers in the top 20 for the Ally 400, they will all have opportunities to post strong finishes and contend for points as the regular season draws to a close. A win will help Almirola, Custer, and Briscoe make the leap into the playoff picture while Harvick will have the opportunity to solidify his spot.
Almirola’s Qualifying Session Marked Another Week of Progress
Prior to his trip to Nashville Superspeedway, Almirola competed in the annual NASCAR All-Star Race. He did not have a guaranteed spot in the main event, but he did what was necessary to fight for the $1 million bonus.
Almirola impressed during the first portion of the trip to Texas Motor Speedway. He won the All-Star Open and punched his ticket to the main event, showcasing improved speed in the No. 10 SHR Ford Mustang. Almirola then finished eighth in the All-Star Race while Larson captured the bonus money.
While he didn’t win the annual non-points race, Almirola gave his fans the impression that he was turning a corner. This eighth-place finish was only his second of the season alongside a sixth-place outing at Richmond Raceway. He also avoided the on-track incidents that sent him to the garage early at five separate tracks — Daytona, Las Vegas, Bristol, Darlington, and Dover.
Almirola’s outing at Nashville Superspeedway continued to serve as a sign of progress. Though winning the Busch Pole will not ultimately matter if he can’t perform at a high level during the 300-lap race and post a season-best finish.