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July 5, 2020

Aric Almirola

Indianapolis, Indiana

THE MODERATOR: We have our third‑place finisher Aric Almirola. Wild finish, wild race for much of the day, especially that second half. Give us your vantage from the driver's seat of the 10.
ARIC ALMIROLA: We had such a fast Smithfield Ford Mustang. We kept having left front tires come apart. They would start shaking and vibrating so bad, I could hardly see where I was going on the straightaway. We had to pit for that. We kept getting off our pit sequence for our strategy. Became difficult for Buga and those guys to get on any sort of strategy for the race because we had to pit so often for left front tires coming apart.
But man, what a racecar. We've been bringing such fast racecars to the race every week. I'm so proud of this 10 team, everybody with this Smithfield Ford Mustang. We have been running so good. We have had top‑five racecars. We have been finishing top five with them. If you do that enough, you'll find yourself in position to win races.
I'm just really thankful to be in this position, really blessed. Thankful for Smithfield's support and our race team. Everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing has been doing an incredible job.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. Two in the top three for Stewart‑Haas Racing. How big a boost is that for you and the team to do that well at Indianapolis?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Well, it's a really big boost. Coming to Indy, it's a crown jewel event. You want to run good here. It's such a fastidious race. Really proud of all the guys at Stewart‑Haas Racing, and girls, everybody that makes this thing go round. They've been putting in some incredible hours. We've been going on multiple shift work at the shop. They're working all hours of the day just to be able to keep up with this pace of race after race after race with midweek races. It's put a lot of strain on our organization.
But we've seen the resilience and the grit of our race team. It's been incredible.

Q. Let's not forget Cole Custer, in the top five. Pretty impressive. How do you view how Cole is coming along?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, that's great. I think he's been learning the ropes. He's figured out that the jump from Xfinity to Cup is a big jump. He's doing a great job. He's learning. He's bringing cars home in one piece. He's continuing to build and get better.
He had a great run today. So really proud of Cole.

Q. We've heard for years here that the racetrack doesn't always provide an exciting race. A lot going on in this race. Do you hope everything that took place maybe kind of quiets that pressure for the motor speedway and NASCAR?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, it's just such a historic racetrack. The way it's laid out it just happens to be extremely aerodynamic dependent. Clean air is very important. It's very hard to pass.
I wouldn't trade racing here for anything in the world. I love the nostalgia of this racetrack. It's just an incredible place. The amount of history that's went across that Yard of Bricks. To be privileged enough to race here on these hallowed grounds is just a special thing.
I love coming here. They call it the world capital of racing. Roger Penske is going to put a lot of effort into continuing to make this place immaculate and incredible. It's a great place to race.

Q. We saw the Xfinity guys put an exciting race together on the road course. Do you still hope that maybe doesn't push you onto testing on that road course?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I mean, I don't know. I hope that we never stop running the oval. I mean, I just think it's one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it's historic. It's just a special place. It's hard to explain when you don't grow up a racer and you don't aspire to come to race at Indy.
But for me, I grew up watching stockcar racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It's something I've always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now. Today we got really close to winning and being able to kiss those bricks.

Q. Is the tire deal something you would have a handle on if you had practice? Is it okay that you do have to have some sort of tire conservation?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Tire conservation is fine. Tires coming apart and blowing is not ideal. It hurts really, really bad when you hit that wall. 90‑degree turns, there's no real good angle to hit the wall. That's unfortunate.
But yeah, we just kept having to get off sequence on our strategy. We never could get a strategy to play out because we couldn't run a fuel run without the tires starting to come apart. We'd have to pit.
We're in a situation right now to where we can't really afford and we don't want to have a bad day, we don't want to blow tires and finish 35th or 40th. We kept opting to pit every time they would start coming apart and vibrating really bad.
It is what it is. We made do. Things went our way at the end where we were able to get our Smithfield Ford Mustang up front like we were at the beginning of the race. We had a lot of speed in our car. We were able to run top five like we deserved to.

Q. How do you feel about the string of top fives and your positioning? Will that allow you to be more aggressive going after wins?
ARIC ALMIROLA: It will. Buga and I just talked about it on pit road. We're in a situation now to where we can gamble a little bit, we can be a little bit more aggressive, we cannot be so conservative and worried about points. Not that we're going to throw caution to the wind, but we can certainly be more aggressive.
I'm excited about that. I think we've been trying to put a string of good runs together, and we've been able to do that. Five top fives in a row is incredible. That's hard to do for anybody. Just really proud of my race team.
But I keep telling the guys, I told them as soon as we took the checkered flag, if we consistently run in the top five and continue to contend, we're going to put ourselves in position to win a race. We have to capitalize on it.
I'm looking forward to these next racetracks. I have top fives at racetracks I consider my worst racetracks statistically. Now we're going to some of the racetracks that are probably my best racetracks statistically. So I'm looking forward to that.

Q. Is this the first time in your career you're showing up now each week knowing in your heart of hearts that you have a chance to win?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, absolutely. I would say for most of my career I would show up to the racetrack and hope to have good runs. In 2018 about summertime all the way through the Playoffs, I showed up to the racetrack with a lot of confidence, feeling like we could win on any given weekend. We had several opportunities slip away. We were able to go to Victory Lane at Talladega. We probably had four or five races that year that we could have won. They got away from us.
In 2019, quite frankly, we struggled. I could never find any sort of consistency running up front. It was very sporadic.
I'm thoroughly impressed with Buga and this whole 10 team. We've been bringing really fast cars to the racetrack. I feel like every weekend we expect to run top five now.

Q. You mentioned the tracks coming up. Talk about Kentucky, how much different it's going to be in the daytime, the quick turnaround to the All‑Star Race at Bristol.
ARIC ALMIROLA: It's going to be tough. Kentucky is usually pretty hot in the summertime. Kentucky in the middle of the day in the heat of the summer is going to be challenging. The racetrack is probably going to be a lot slower, a lot slicker.
But it will be fun. I love those conditions. The hotter the better, to be honest. I feel like a lot of my training and stuff pays off in those conditions. I don't feel like I'm falling out of the seat. I feel fresh, ready to go. At the end of the race I feel as good as I do at the beginning of the race. I enjoy it. I know some people dread racing in the hot of the day. I don't mind it. So I'm ready for Kentucky.
THE MODERATOR: Aric, thank you for your time. Have a safe trip back home.
ARIC ALMIROLA: Thank you, guys.

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