Aric Almirola was in control of scoring his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win until late in Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Almirola had the lead with less than 10 laps left around the one-mile concrete oval. But that’s when the day’s fireworks started. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer had a mechanical problem and slammed the inside wall to bring out caution.
Almirola came to pit road for four tires and lined-up sixth on the ensuing restart. But he slipped racing Brad Keselowski for position down the backstretch and made contact with the Team Penske driver. It triggered a multi-car crash that brought out a red flag and ended Almirola’s hopes for a second career win.
“I’m just sick for Aric,” Bowyer said of the ironic twist that impacted his SHR teammate. “He had that race won. It was his win and unfortunately his teammate had trouble and took him out of it.”
Unfortunately it was little consolation for Almirola and a bitter pill to swallow of what might have been.
“We’ve had so many opportunities and been so close and had the car to win and been in position and I don’t know, it just seems to not come through,” Almirola said. “I don’t know. I’m frustrated and mad and angry. I don’t know.”
Almirola said he wouldn’t have done anything differently including the call for four tires and the move he tried to make racing down the backstretch. However the end result is something that will stay with Almirola now for at least a few days until next week when he goes to Talladega now fighting for his Playoff life.
“We had a great car,” Almirola said. “It was really firing off on the restarts really fast and to come get four tires on it and be on offense. We’ve talked about that a lot this year about putting ourselves in situations to be on offense and we were. We put ourselves in position and it didn’t work out. I think it would have been different had we started on the second row, starting sixth was really difficult.”
As he stared at winner Chase Elliott celebrating his victory Almirola could only think of one thing.
“I want to be there,” he said. “I want to be in Victory Lane. I feel like we’ve got a car capable of doing that.”