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July 22, 2018

Aric Almirola

Kyle Busch

Loudon, New Hampshire

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our second‑place finisher, Kyle Busch, the driver of the No.18 Interstate Batteries Toyota.
Kyle, talk a little bit about the end of that race.
KYLE BUSCH: We were not in a position we probably deserved to be in. My guys worked really, really hard all day long. The performance of our car just wasn't great from the onset of the weekend, throughout today's race as well, too. We kept making it better.
Adam Stevens and the guys made some good calls on getting us better, better, and better throughout the day. My pit crew putting us in position to have control of the last restart. To be able to lead that many laps... It was just a matter of those SHR cars, they were really fast. Just a matter every time they get by me and get by me. A little bumping and banging, a little rubbing. We go racing next week.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. You mentioned your team. It's lost on people how important the team aspect is of this sport. Talk about how important the entire team is to having success.
KYLE BUSCH: Absolutely. It takes having great cars, a great team. Joe Gibbs Racing, TRD, Toyota engines underneath the hood. And of course Adam Stevens, my crew chief, my engineers, all the work those guys do, the awesome job they do for me on the racecars, when we get to the racetrack, and of course, too, just my pit crew. They're the best that's out there right now. Each and every week they prove it. They did this weekend giving us the lead at the onset of the race. We just didn't have a good enough car.
We missed it a little bit all weekend long. We could never find what it took to be the best, or be fast enough to hold off some of those guys that were faster than us. It's what we saw there at the end.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, thank you very much. Congratulations.
KYLE BUSCH: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the third‑place finisher, Aric Almirola, driver of the No.10 Smithfield Ford.
Aric, best finish of the season. 12th top five of your career, best finish in New Hampshire. Talk a little about your day.
ARIC ALMIROLA: You'd think I'd be happy (smiling).
We had an incredible Smithfield Ford Fusion today, felt like it was the car to beat, for sure. We got out front there and felt really good about it, felt comfortable.
That last caution there, we came down pit road leading, went out third, lost control of the race. Then I spun my tires on the restart and didn't even give myself a fighting chance to go race for the win.
Just frustrated on all parts that we didn't execute the way we needed to to try and win. Chicago we had a car capable of winning, and didn't get it done. Here again, had a car capable of winning, didn't get it done.
It's frustrating. But everybody keeps telling me, You got to lose some before you win some. So we've lost some. Time to stop it, time to go to Victory Lane. We're capable. We have a race team capable of doing it. Our cars are really fast. Just ready to go get to Victory Lane next week. Where we going next week? Pocono, perfect. Let's go.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor for questions.

Q. Looking at the big picture for Stewart‑Haas Racing, a 1, 3 and 9...
ARIC ALMIROLA: It's incredible. The racecars they're bringing to the racetrack, we have really fast racecars. Everybody at the shop is doing an incredible job. We've been able to show up every week with cars capable of running in the top 10.
Then throughout practice, if Johnny and I and the engineers dial in on a setup, get the car close, we're capable of winning. We've proven that the last few weeks.
I feel like we've really hit our stride. The first 10, 12 races of the season, we were trying to learn each other, figure each other out. In these last six, seven races, it's really clicked. We're showing up to the racetrack with speed. We're getting the balance of our cars right throughout practice. For the race, we're getting the car the best we've had it all weekend.
If we continue to do that, put ourself in position, we're going to win. I'm ready for it to hurry up and come.

Q. You're a man of large perspective. You definitely understand that side of life. With all you've been through the last couple years with the 43 team, did you ever think you'd be disappointed with a third‑place finish?
ARIC ALMIROLA: No, but it's who I am. All of us as racecar drivers, we're competitive, we want to win, especially when you have a car like we had today. You go out there, I think we led the most laps. I don't know if we did or not. But I feel like we did.
When you have a car that fast, that dominant late in the race, and you don't win, it's disappointing. There's no way to hide that. I could put on a big smiley face. Deep down inside it would be fake.
I'm disappointed because I thought that was going to be us going to Victory Lane. We didn't capitalize on it today. That's the frustrating part.
But there's a lot of positive to bring out of it. The car that we had, we did a really good job of keeping up with the track as the racetrack changed. We had a really fast Smithfield Ford Fusion.
I hate it we didn't go to Victory Lane. I feel like we owe it to so many people. Especially me personally, I feel like I owe it to so many people that believed in it. It was a huge leap of faith for people to give me the opportunity when I didn't have a lot of stats deserving to get this ride.
Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, the people at Smithfield, Ford Motor Company, everybody that believed in me to give me this opportunity, I feel like I owe it to them to go win and prove them right.
That hurts the most. As much as I want to win for me, selfishly I want to win for them, too.

Q. Is this car better than Chicagoland?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I don't know. They're equally really good. Any time you can outrun Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, like we were able to do this weekend, any time you can do that, you have a damn good racecar.
I felt like both weekends we had a really, really good racecar compared to the field.

Q. A lot of guys coming into this weekend talked about how they felt they needed to be perfect in order to compete with Kevin and Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. Was today an example of that for you, needing to be perfect in order to contend with your teammate?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah. I think you look at those teams, they're seasoned teams, veteran teams. They execute on every level. When you don't, when you make a mistake, it's hard to fight back.
We actually had an issue on pit road our very first pit stop of the race today, fell all the way back to last. We had an issue on the right front. Didn't get the right front on. We battled back from that. We drove all the way back up to the lead. Then right there at the end we lost control of the race by coming off pit road third instead of leading like we came down.
That's where those guys are so good. Under pressure they perform at their highest level. Today we didn't. We came down pit road leading the race. We went out third. On the restart, I didn't do a good job. As a team, we didn't give ourselves a chance to win when it mattered the most. We had the best car and we didn't do it.
I have no doubt that as we clean those things up and as we get better as a team, we are going to be a contender. We're going to be tough to beat. That's what I keep telling everybody. We're so new and so young, we're 20 races into working together, we're good, we're not great. We have potential to be great because I don't feel like we've reached our max potential just because everything is so new and we're still learning each other, learning what I like in the racecars and all those things.
It's getting there. If we keep performing like we are right now, we put ourselves in position, we get used to racing for wins, the wins will come.

Q. You mentioned wanting to win for all the people who have been supportive of you getting this opportunity. What you've been able to accomplish already this season, for you personally, does it serve as some justification for yourself that this is what you wanted to do?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, absolutely. It does. It makes me sleep better at night. I think had my career ended at the end of last year and I never got another opportunity, for the rest of my life I would go to sleep at night and wonder how good I was as a racecar driver.
I feel like it's fair to say that I've had not good enough equipment as an excuse. Well, now I have this opportunity here at Stewart‑Haas Racing, and equipment is not an excuse. We have the best of everything. We have everything we need to go out and compete for wins. It's up to me and my team.
So, yeah, I do feel like there is justification running up front and racing with Martin Truex and Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, all those guys that run up front on a regular basis. It makes me feel like I'm capable and I can do it. That does make me feel better. At least I'll be able to sleep at night knowing that given the right opportunity I could perform at that level. Now we just got to figure out how to go win.

Q. As you make this second trip to some of these tracks, are you going to be able to make that next step and start getting those wins?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I think so, I really do. I feel like going back to some of these tracks that we'll now have notes at, a lot of these tracks all year long we've shown up kind of blind. We have no real notebook. We've showed up and just kind of guessed at where we needed to unload, then throughout the weekend made a lot of changes to dial our car in and get it better.
Now we're going to go back to these races where we have a notebook. We changed these things in practice, we'll start already with that in our car. We'll be able to fine‑tune on that and make that better. We've learned what not to do. We've gone to some racetracks early earlier this year, made some changes, it was the wrong way. We know now not to venture down that path.
It's as much learning what to do as it is what not to do. It's just building a foundation and a notebook. When you look at the teams that are very successful, the big three that all you guys talk about, they've all been working together for three, four, five, six years now. They've got a foundation. That's what has me excited about my relationship with Johnny Klausmeier, my engineers, this whole 10 team, is that we're young. We're all a young group of guys all in our early 30s. We're learning each other, we're new. We're already starting to compete with these guys 20 races working together. I feel like we have so much potential to continue to get better.

Q. Two sunny days here Friday and Saturday. It rained this morning. How did it change the track?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I think the PJ1 was really sticky and fired off with a lot of grip. Then as the race went on, it wore off. I think we kind of expected that. We kind of planned for that in practice. By the time Happy Hour rolled around, the PJ1 started to wear off some just because of all the laps that were on the racetrack.
We kind of felt like we had a good idea where the racetrack was going to go. I felt like we had a good handle on what we needed. Really proud of Johnny Klausmeier, Mike Cook, Mark, all the guys on the road crew of this team preparing the racecar they did for the race today. We did a good job of getting it dialed in in final practice. Did a few things that woke the car up. They made some adjustments overnight that had the car really, really rolling nicely today.
We're doing the things that we need to do with the racecar to have racecars fast enough just on raw speed to win. Now there's a whole other dynamic that goes into winning: execution from my part on restarts, getting the job done on pit road, all of those things.
It's a team sport. If it was just car and driver, we lined up and went and raced, we probably would have had a shot to win today just like we did. There's so much more that goes into it.

Q. Daytona, Chicago, you've had all these races where you're right there. How do you keep positive, looking the potential instead of, What's going to go wrong next?
ARIC ALMIROLA: It just has me more motivated really. I just have more fire in my belly and more motivation. I have more confidence just knowing that we're close, we're right there. We just got to keep pounding. We got to keep grinding and keep after it.
We're going to win. I mean, you can say I said it here in the media center at Loudon, New Hampshire. We're running too good. We're too competitive to not win. It's just a matter of when. When are we going to win?
I firmly believe that. I think that is the mentality that we all have on this team. That's what has us fired up. We keep working hard every week. We don't worry about anybody else. We're just focused on our team, our car, doing the things we need to do to make our car go fast.
We're on the brink of getting there. Hopefully it happens soon. If not, I'll take it in the first round of the Playoffs, too.

Q. What happened on the last restart?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I laid back off of Harvick's bumper a little bit, was trying to time the restart to roll up to him and Kyle. Kyle went right at the beginning, maybe even slightly before. He went right at the beginning, if nothing else, of the restart zone. It caught me off guard.
Earlier in the race they had been dragging the restart out further in the restart zone. I was kind of anticipating that. When Kyle fired, I was caught off guard. When I fired, I just spun the tires because I wasn't prepared.
That was totally my bad. Instead of giving myself a fighting chance to go up there and win, race those guys for the win, I fell back to sixth and had to battle back to third.

Q. Are you surprised it took you this long to get your first podium finish with Stewart‑Haas Racing?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yes, I am actually. We've had really good cars. In Richmond we drove from 27th all the way to second, almost won the first stage. I think we ran second in the second stage. Again, didn't execute, kind of fell apart and finished poorly at the end of the race.
I look at so many different races where we've had cars capable of running in the top five, and we haven't finished in the top five yet. I feel like that's almost made us more under the radar. People are talking about this 10 team less, which has been fine by me, because I've been confident. I know what we're capable of. I know the speed we've had in our cars. So I feel like being under the radar has been kind of a good thing for us. It's put less pressure on us. We've kind of gone out and performed at a high level. Sometimes it's been unnoticed.
Today here we are. We led a bunch of laps. We finished third.
THE MODERATOR: Aric, thank you.
ARIC ALMIROLA: Thanks, guys.

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