TALLADEGA — Aric Almirola would've loved to have a nice, easy race at Talladega. He would've loved to have a spot in the next round of the playoffs locked up.
Instead, he finished a "frustrating" 13th last week at Dover International Speedway, even though he led with seven laps to go.
Almirola heads into Sunday's 1000Bulbs.com 500 ranked ninth in the Cup points standings. Only the top eight move on, although a win in this round of playoffs will advance a driver even if he doesn't finish high enough in the standings. Next week's race in Kansas in the cutoff when the playoff field is trimmed.
Almirola is 10 points behind eighth-place driver Ryan Blaney.
“It would’ve been nice to seal the deal at Dover last weekend and not have to worry about Talladega, but that didn’t work out, so now we have to go race," Almirola said. "I think for us being in the position we’re in, we can’t just ride around and be cautious and let those guys score stage points without us scoring stage points. Hopefully, we’ll have some luck on our side and we’ll stay out of the big one and score stage points, and really be on offense.”
For Almirola, it's a good thing that Talladega is this week. In the past four races at the superspeedway, Almirola has finished eighth, fourth, fifth and seventh. He also has six other top-16 finishes. Almirola also won an Xfinity race at Talladega.
"Talladega is a pretty good place for us," Almirola said. "If you look at my career, when we've actually finished the race and not wrecked, the result has been pretty good."
Last week at Dover, Almirola was ahead when a caution flag came out because of an incident involving Clint Bowyer. Almirola decided to pit, but not every driver did the same.
That allowed Chase Elliott, who was third, to take the lead. He wound up winning the race. Meanwhile, Almirola dropped to sixth. Shortly after the restart, he hit a wall on the backstretch and caused a crash when he hit Brad Keselowski.
It took a little bit of time for Almirola to put that race behind him.
"I feel like Sunday night was rough," he said. "I felt a bunch of emotions all at once."
He said it took until about mid-day Monday to move on.
"We were so close," he said. "We had a fast car, and we were wanting it so bad. It's one thing if you go in with low expectations. If you don't have a dominant car, and that happens, you go, 'Eh.' We had a dominant car, and there's a lot of emotions — frustrated, mad, angry."