Just as he has been for much of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Aric Almirola has started the 2022 season off as a model of consistency.
The 37-year-old driver (he turns 38 next week) finished sixth in Sunday’s (March 6) Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to continue his streak of being the only driver to score a top 10 in every Cup points race so far in 2022.
Dating back to the last two races of 2021, Almirola has now brought home five consecutive top 10s. It is his longest streak of top-10 finishes since he tallied nine in a row in the middle of the 2020 season.
“We fight. That’s the beauty of this race team,” Almirola said. “We’re still learning this car. There’s a lot to learn about it, and we’re still trying to figure a lot of things out. Practice is great, but we’ve got to make adjustments throughout the race, and I feel like every race we’re learning more and more and more and we’re building a notebook. We’re making adjustments throughout the race and trying to figure it out.
“This team has so much fight in it and so much grit that it’s a lot of fun to race with these guys. We’ll keep digging and try to keep this streak alive of all these top-10 finishes. It’s a lot of fun when you run up front.”
What makes the streak extra special is Almirola announced prior to the start of the 2022 season that it would be his final one in Cup competition. It’s the Tampa, Fla., native’s 11th year full time on the Cup circuit and his 18th year running races in a NASCAR national touring series.
The hot start and consistency by the No. 10 team is quite the turnaround from last season. Almirola was the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver to win in 2021 and he made the playoffs, but he only scored two top 10s in the first 21 races before that. It was completely uncharacteristic of a driver who has “pointed” his way into the playoffs three times with Stewart-Haas Racing and nearly did once with Richard Petty Motorsports.
But Almirola seems back to his old self this year. He’s on pace to shatter that mark of two top fives and five top 10s total last year, and he currently sits sixth in the standings, 20 spots higher than he was after three races last season.
With that said, Almirola has yet to roll out the hauler with race-winning speed. The team has had slow starts in each race, resulting in the No. 10 only scoring three stage points so far. But thanks to crew chief Drew Blickensderfer’s adjustments and Almirola’s patience, the team has made strong pushes to end all three races.
“Drew has been doing a great job of making good adjustments throughout the race and just getting the car better and better,” Almirola said. “We take the first half of the race and it’s really about learning. We make adjustments. If they’re no good, we go back on them and just keep fine-tuning on the car to get it to where we need to get it. And, usually, the last few weeks, we’ve gotten the car where we needed to have it at the end of the race. It’s been nice.”
Despite the consistent start, Almirola recognizes the team still has a ways to go to get from competing for top 10s to competing for race wins. After all, he only has 33 more chances to pick up career victory No. 4 before he puts down the helmet for good.
“We’ve got some work to do to keep up with some of the other manufacturers,” Almirola said. “We’ve got to continue to do our homework, but, nonetheless, this is a great start to our season and a lot of fun.”
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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