home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


October 14, 2018

Aric Almirola

Lincoln, Alabama

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner, Aric Almirola, driver of the No.10 Smithfield Bacon For Life Ford.
We will open it up to questions for Aric.

Q. When during this race did you realize the Stewart‑Haas cars had something that nobody else had? Are you already waiting for the Daytona 500 next year?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Pretty much. I knew when we qualified, all four of us starting up there in the front. We kind of talked about it in our competition meeting, that we needed to be committed to each other, we needed to score as many stage points as we can, we needed to score more stage points than the 12, than the 42 and the 88. We knew all that.
Going into the weekend, that was our focus, was to be committed as an organization to doing everything we can to help each other, making sure that we continue to get points, especially for Clint and myself being in the situation we were in going into this weekend.
Then when we qualified top four, all of us together, I knew that all four of us were going to be tough to beat. We were going to have really fast racecars. We've been chasing those Penske cars. We talked about it in here Saturday. We've been chasing Penske at the restrictor plate races. They've been able to do somewhat of what we did today, where they get out front, Brad and Joey and Paul and Blaney get organized, basically dominate the race.
Today we were able to do that. We stayed so committed to each other. We worked every restart out to where we stayed committed to each other, got in line. It was us against the field.
When we started to drive off from the field in the first stage, as the stage went on, I knew we had something special. I knew one of our four cars was going to win. Just by happenstance, we were the ones that qualified fourth, I kept being the third or fourth guy in line. It was like, Man, this is nice that we're all four running together, but I'm scoring less stage points than Bowyer, I'm racing him in points.
Eventually we're going to have to try and win this race, we're going to have to separate and start to fend for ourselves. That opportunity honestly never really presented itself. It seemed like the way the race played out, such long green‑flag runs, we would get committed to each other. As we would drive away from the field, me being the fourth guy in line, I never really had anybody behind me to help me make a move on my teammates.
It was an incredible day for us as an organization at Stewart‑Haas Racing, and I am so proud and so thankful for the opportunity to be driving these racecars.

Q. Yesterday you described racing here like a high‑speed chess match. In the third stage, you fell behind early, worked your way back up through the field. Describe what it was like getting back to the front like that.
ARIC ALMIROLA: We were in a position coming into the weekend we needed to score all the stage points we could. When the caution came out at the end of stage two, we had to stay out to score points. That gave a lot of the cars behind us an opportunity to pit and have fresh tires and be full of gas, to not pit when the stage ended.
We came off of pit road at the end of stage two to begin the final stage, we weren't with our teammates. We had to race a lot of cars in front of us that were on a different strategy than us. At that point it just came down to us having an incredible racecar. I was able to kind of maneuver my way through the pack and make some moves and get up towards the front.
I think at that point I knew as an organization we were going to be able to get all four of our cars back together. All four of us ended up back there together just because of how strong our cars were. We were able to lead the field, separate ourselves.
I thought this race honestly was a little bit less of a chess match and more of an organizational commitment. It started probably months ago. We have a group of guys, this is all they do is work on speedway cars all year long, develop, get better. Like I've said, we've been chasing Penske for years now. They have been the dominant team when we show up to restrictor plate tracks. We've tried a lot of different things with aero stuff and just different things. We've not been able to hit on how to beat them.
I think this weekend we finally came up with a package and a plan, and we stayed committed to each other, and we were able to outrun them.

Q. With your win today, you become the 12th driver to win both an Xfinity race and a Cup race at Talladega. Comment on how you used some of the things you got out of victories in Xfinity to wind up in Victory Lane today.
ARIC ALMIROLA: You know, I don't know. I came here in a truck race with Billy Ballew. I had Kyle Busch as a teammate. I raced here, I had no job that year, was out of a ride. Billy let me run a handful of races that year. I came up here and Kyle beat me by an inch. I led a lot of that race.
That race was kind of the race that for me something clicked about Talladega. I learned some things in that race. From that point forward, I've always showed up to Daytona and Talladega with the mindset that this is going to be fun. A lot of people show up here and they're frustrated that they're racing with restrictor plates, they're frustrated that we're pack racing. They come here with the wrong attitude, in my opinion.
But I show up to these tracks anxious but excited, feeling like I've got an opportunity. I think when you look at my career, I've won an Xfinity race at Daytona, I've won an Xfinity race here at Talladega, I won my first Cup race at Daytona, now I've won my second Cup race at Talladega. Now I'd like to win at some of these other tracks so people don't say, Oh, he's just a good restrictor plate racer.
Today was sweet. To go to Victory Lane in such a clutch moment, in the Playoffs, down 10 points coming into this weekend, knowing this was an opportunity race for us, winning here today was really special. Like I said, I can count on my hand five or six races that I feel like we maybe should have won this year, and it didn't work out, didn't happen. Today the good Lord was shining down on us and we were able to go to Victory Lane. It was a special day.

Q. Now that you've checked a race win off the box this season with SHR, are you pretty much where you thought you and the team would be, signing with Stewart‑Haas Racing, going through a full season?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Honestly, I feel like we're exceeding expectations. I feel like we're exceeding your expectations, the media. I feel like we're exceeding probably even Tony Stewart and Gene Haas' expectations.
I went into this year feeling like if we could run top 15, be consistent, not make any mistakes all year long, we could maybe make the Playoffs. That was a goal for us.
I've got a new team. I'm new to the organization. My crew chief, Johnny, his first year being a crew chief. We have a lot of young guys on our team. I really feel like we're built to grow.
As the year has progressed, I feel like we just continue to get better and better and better. I feel like we haven't even reached max potential. I feel like there's so much more room to grow for us, to get better. That's what is exciting for me to see. We're not at the ceiling yet. We're young and new in this whole team. So I feel like we're way ahead of our expectations.
But I knew I was going to be given this opportunity to have fast racecars. I knew if we did the things that we needed to do, we brought cars capable of running up front, if I pulled my weight, we would have opportunities to win.
That's been one of the most frustrating things for me, is to watch all my teammates win races, and for me to get close so many times, not win. I feel like I was letting our team down and our organization down because they kept giving me fast racecars week after week after week and we weren't able to win.
Today is gratifying. Today I feel like I finally gave Stewart‑Haas Racing and all the guys on the Smithfield team what they deserved.

Q. You're in the Round of 8. What more do you want to see out of yourself and team but have a shot if you can make it to Homestead?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I honestly thing we're somewhat of a dangerous team just because we've been flying under the radar all year long. Even going into the Playoffs, I feel like we've been flying under the radar.
We went to Vegas, had a great day at Vegas, ran up front, got some damage, fought back from that, finished good. Went to Richmond, a place where we knew we had to run good to put ourselves in position to go to the roval, make it to the next round. We did exactly that. We qualify up front, ran second and third in the stages, finished the race third or fourth, I don't even remember where we finished. It put us in position to go to the roval and be somewhat conservative. Then all hell broke loose at the end of the race. Next thing I knew, I was six points out.
We were able to get into this round. Coming into this round, I felt like the tracks lined up really well for me. I love Dover. I absolutely love going to that place. It's one of my favorite racetracks. I enjoy and like coming to Talladega. I feel like it's an opportunity for me to go win. I really enjoy Kansas. Even though I broke my back there, I remember in 2012 showing up there in October and dominating the beginning part of that race until I blew a right front. That was the first time in may career in the Cup Series at Kansas that I had led any real laps to speak of, to be running up front.
From that point forward, I've always enjoyed Kansas and been excited about going to that racetrack since that day. I look forward to all the rest of these racetracks. I feel like they kind of suit well for me and my race team.

Q. What was going through your mind when you saw Kurt having to pull out?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, so going down the back straightaway I saw the 17 break free from the pack. I kind of backed up to him a little bit hoping that when he got to me he would be able to give me a push. When I backed up to him, as he got closer, my rpms started going way up. I started coming with a huge run to Kurt. I felt like Kurt was a little bit of a sitting duck at that point anyway. I don't know that I would have beat Kurt, but it would have been exciting. We'll just say that.
When I got to his right rear quarter panel, pulled up next to him, I heard his motor start to sputter. I drove past him, my spotter told me he was running out. At that point it was all eyes on my mirror, making sure I blocked any runs that were coming to try to be the first car across the finish line.

Q. Kyle Busch said this race had a feeling like none other he had ever seen at Talladega. We saw three major size packs. It wasn't one big pack or two. What do you think caused that? What was the handling like?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, the cars are going so fast. We were going so fast. The cars are a handful. When you get in a pack, you're running 205 miles an hour, the cars are light on their feet, they're dancing around, they are a handful.
As you get single file, it's the shortest way around the track on the bottom, and we're going so fast that the bottom lane just prevails. We saw that even in the spring race. You look at the spring race, the bottom lane was the dominant lane. The pack broke up the same in the spring race.
In the spring race, everybody wasn't as organized as far as the teams. Our team specifically wasn't. It was kind of a free‑for‑all. Kevin had some issues handling‑wise. Kurt ran up front, then had some pit road issues. We had issues in qualifying, so we had to start last. Clint rode around to play it safe. There were a lot of differences and varying strategies in the spring.
This time we came and brought four amazing racecars. As an organization, we were so committed to each other about running up front, staying up front, scoring as many points as we can, and staying committed to the bottom lane, to each other.
I feel like that strategy, honestly, was what obviously won us the race. I think our cars were so fast that as long as we stayed single file, all four of us lined up, nobody could get that outside lane working to go up there and challenge us.
A couple times on restarts, some guys got close and tried to make runs at it, but we just kept staying committed and working together. Everybody else couldn't do that. Everybody else was racing for position, they would get two‑wide, three‑wide, stall their runs, then we would be able to drive away.

Q. Tony Stewart was talking to you a long time before the race. What was he saying to you? Anything that applied to today's win?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Every time I've seen him lately, he just keeps telling me, Goosfraba. Calm down, take deep breaths. He's like, You're going to win, I promise you. The day I told you I was going to hire you, I knew you were going to win races for my company. He said, It's going to happen. You just have to keep putting yourself in position. You keep putting yourself in position, I promise you it will happen. He kept telling Johnny the same thing. He was telling Johnny, Just keep doing what you're doing, don't doubt yourself, second‑guess yourself. Put yourself in position, and it will happen.

Q. You talked about Kansas a little bit. That was the lowest point of your career last year. Now you've experienced the highest point of your career. How sweet has that story been? How much more does that fuel you to win next week?
ARIC ALMIROLA: It does. I'm fired up about going to Kansas next week. It's going to be fun. We're going to go there with no pressure at all, and one thing on our mind, and that's to go win, to try and get some stage points, bonus points, get ready for that Round of 8.
For us, I think that's our mindset. That's a really fun mindset that I have never experienced in my entire career. I've always went to the racetracks every single weekend, you know, anxious and focused and concentrated, nervous about what if, I hope we run good, I hope we have a shot to win. This weekend at Kansas, for us, nothing really else matters other than going there to win.

Q. You finally get over the hump with the win, transfer to the Round of 8. Is there a way to prioritize what feels sweeter at this point?
ARIC ALMIROLA: The win. The Playoffs, that's pretty sweet, too. But just going to Victory Lane, man, to win for Smithfield, taking a chance on supporting me and this organization, Stewart‑Haas Racing, to win for Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, to believe in me and give me this opportunity, for everybody that's helped me along the way in my career, to be in this situation.
Last year to think about potentially my career ending and never knowing if I was good or not. I feel like I always had equipment as an excuse. When I showed up to Stewart‑Haas Racing, that was no longer the case. I did not have that as an excuse. I have the best team in the garage. For me, it was up to me. It was time to go do my job and see if I'm good enough.
So coming so close so many times this year, it's made me think long and hard about myself, am I good enough, why do I keep losing when I've been in position and had opportunities to win. I've been hard on myself.
So to win, that was the most gratifying part. The Playoffs, transferring to the Round of 8, that's secondary. Just going to Victory Lane, getting that gratification, giving what I feel like my team deserves. They bring incredible racecars to the track every single weekend and they deserve to win. All of my teammates have won except me. Today was our day.

Q. When you come into this year, were you embracing the challenge or were there doubts?
ARIC ALMIROLA: No, I came into it embracing it. I talked about it with my wife before the year even started. I knew going into this year, no matter what happened for the rest of my life, I'll be able to lay my head down on the pillow at night and know that I had the best racecars, the best opportunity, I either got the job done or I didn't.
So far this year I feel like I've been close to getting the job done. I feel like we continue to get better and better as a team. I continue to get better and better as a racecar driver. I put a tremendous amount of work and effort into being the best that I can be. To see it come to fruition is pretty gratifying.

Q. Seven days ago, you said you would be over it by Tuesday. Last lap, looking at Kurt, were you wondering if something else was going to go wrong? What was it like taking that checkered flag after last week?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I knew going into the restart‑‑
First, to answer your question about last week, I was really over it by Tuesday. I was bummed out about it Sunday night pretty bad. Johnny came to my house after the race. We sat in my basement, had a few beers together, just talked. We said, Hey, we've just got to keep doing what we're doing. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. But we're going to keep putting ourselves in position. They're going to know we're there.
That was good. That was good for us to kind of have that moment, kind of sulk and pout together. Then when Monday came, it was over. It was time to go to work, get ready for the next race, get ready for Talladega.
Tuesday morning I got to the shop bright and early. All of our focus and attention was on Talladega. I had forgot about Dover. I didn't care about Dover any more. I couldn't go back, couldn't change it, couldn't fix it. It was time to go to Talladega and do what we needed to do.
Honestly, I was hoping to win, but my main focus was to come here and score as many points as we possibly could to go to Kansas and give ourselves a fighting chance.

Q. With how you've run lately, being so close, getting the win, how has that proved, shown, reaffirmed to you being a championship contender as opposed to just somebody else? What does that mean to be able to show that to your team? While your guys believe in you, when you have close call after close call, don't finish it off, what does today mean?
ARIC ALMIROLA: On that note, I'll go back to Sunday night, Johnny and I in my basement talking and stuff. I said that very thing. I told Johnny, The thing that hurts the most is that we keep getting close and being in position. In Loudon, having what I felt like was the dominant car. Yeah, we lost a couple spots on pit road, but still it was up to me to get a good restart, give ourselves a chance to go win, and I didn't. Dover, after Harvick has his tire issues, we're the next best car, dominating the race. Coming to less than 10 to go, looks like we're going to win the race. Next thing you know we're lined up sixth. I still have the opportunity to put ourselves in position to win. I went for it. After Loudon, I was so gung‑ho going into that restart at Dover saying, I am not going to lose this race.
I got over‑aggressive, made a mistake off of two, and the car bottomed out, I hit the fence, then came down and hit Brad. That was so disappointing because I felt like it was on me again. We had the best car. I was in not the best of position starting sixth with a few laps to go. I would have loved to have been on the front row. Johnny made the call for four tires to put me on offense, to be aggressive. That's exactly what I went and did. It didn't work.
We had that conversation in my basement about, Man, I'm sorry, you guys are giving me incredible racecars. I don't want you to give up on me, to doubt. I need that from you guys. I need him. Every single person on my crew has done nothing but reemphasize they believe in me, they know we're going to win together, to keep putting ourselves in those positions.
Today, what a relief. To see all those guys in Victory Lane, give each and every one of them a hug, to say, We finally did it, that was pretty special.

Q. It helped what happened to Kurt. What do you feel like you did right today compared to what didn't go right at Dover? Is this more circumstances, you still have to be able to prove to yourself in other situations when it's on your shoulders you can handle it?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I think today was circumstantial. You look at past results at Daytona and Talladega, you look at green‑white‑checkereds, usually the winner is going to come from the first two rows. That's pretty much a given. Everything behind that is chaos. You don't know what to expect. The winner typically comes from the first row, maybe the second row.
I knew going into that restart today we had a shot. It was going to be tough. I knew my teammates were really, really fast. I was going to have to beat them. I didn't know how I was going to do it. I didn't know if I would do it. Today circumstances just played out and went our way.
There's been so many times it hasn't gone our way. Chicago I thought we had the dominant car. I raced Harvick heads up, we outran him. Had two loose wheels, went two laps down. That one got away from us. Circumstances.
Loudon, you can blame it on circumstances. Dover, can you blame it on circumstances. Today circumstances went our way and things worked out. The only thing I can attest it to is that God just kept telling me to be patient.

Q. You talked about the enormous opportunity you had to go to Stewart‑Haas Racing. Talk about being part of an organization this season that has all four cars winning races, one guy won seven, all four have a plausible chance to continue advancing, maybe make up the championship four, and you four of you guys together dictated the flow of a restrictor plate race today. Is there a situation in this sport better than this team right now?
ARIC ALMIROLA: No, absolutely not. There's no better team in the garage area than our race team. I would put our race team up against any team in the garage, hands down. I've been around this sport for a long time. I've been able to see inside of different organizations. I was with Gibbs early on in my career. I've had the opportunity to work with Hendrick Motorsports when I drove for Dale Jr. in the Xfinity Series. I did baby watch stuff for Jimmie, got full access, was in the 48 and 88 shop all the time, sitting in their hauler, go through their debriefs, all of the above. Got full access to that. When I was first with Petty, had an alliance with Roush, seen the way they operated and worked.
I've been around a lot of different organizations, some of the best. I've never ever seen an organization with so many people pulling the rope in the same direction at Stewart‑Haas Racing. All four crew chiefs are bought in. Completely open notebook. The employees, like, everybody, everybody wins. When our car wins, everybody gets a bonus, which we've done a lot of. Our employees are making bank this year on the bonus program.
I've been so amazed. That's one of the things that I think has probably been the most eye opening for me. I've been around the garage a lot. People are kind of open notebook. But you know you're still going to have to race that guy, that teammate. You give 90%, but 10% you keep for you and your team. From everything that I've witnessed, that doesn't happen at Stewart‑Haas Racing. We take and build the four best racecars we can. Everybody is bought in. Then the four of us go race it out, may the best man win.
I think that is what makes our organization so incredible.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Aric.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297