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Friday, December 1, 2023

Struggling Stewart-Haas Racing gets shot in the arm with NASCAR qualifying at Talladega

Stewart-Haas: In Saturday’s qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway – and no doubt in Sunday’s YellaWood 500 – Aric Almirola’s hands will be firmly placed at 10-2.

Off the track, however, Sunday’s polesitter says of late, he’s let Jesus take the wheel.


“I feel like the good Lord led me to have this opportunity,” said Almirola, who last season reversed his decision to retire. “It was it was very apparent that the door was wide open all I had to do was step through.

“…I’ve, kind of so of speak, put my career on the altar, because for most of my career I held on so tightly I was like, ‘Man I just need, you know, one more contract.’ This year I’ve just been so free with it and held it so loosely, and it’s been mind blowing the conversations that I’ve had in the last three to four months and just all the things that are happening and going on around me.”

The Superspeedway powerhouse of Penske will be on the outside pole with Joey Logano and Almirola’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Chase Briscoe is third. Playoff drivers Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski round out the top five, respectively. The race begins at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on NBC.

Not to rain on Almirola’s accomplishment, Larson more or less stated the obvious about superspeedway qualifying.

“I think it definitely helps for the first stage and hopefully we can get some stage points,” he said, “but outside of the first stage, I don’t think it really matters a ton.” Stewart-Haas

While it might not matter that much, it is often a barometer of automaker power. And all total, led by the first three places, Ford seems to have the most with six of the first seven spots.

Saturday’s pole has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing return for Almirola and season for Stewart-Haas Racing.

SHR’s four-car lineup is still searching for its first victory of 2023, and for Almirola, in the 30 races so far, his average finish is 21st. He has just one top five, which came at the circuit’s other superspeedway, Daytona. He was on the outside pole at Talladega Superspeedway in the spring.

But if there was anything to fix what ails the driver who they call “The Cuban Missile,” it’s the sports fastest track.

Starting in 2016, he had a streak of eight straight top 10 finishes, helping to give him Top 10s in a third of his 27 starts.

“I knew coming here we were going to have an opportunity to qualify well and that this would be a great opportunity for us to to win a race,” Almirola said. “So proud of you know everybody at Stewart Haas racing for continuing to fight and work their tails off to bring fast race cars to race track.

“You know it would be so easy at this point in the season where we’re at to just bring a car to the track and check the box but that’s not who we are.”


After Saturday qualifying; race Sunday

At Talladega Superspeedway Lap length: 2.66 miles(Car number in parentheses)

  • 1. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 181.656 mph.
  • 2. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 181.642.
  • 3. (14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 181.625.
  • 4. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 181.549.
  • 5. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 181.511.
  • 6. (36) Riley Herbst, Ford, 181.398.
  • 7. (2) Austin Cindric, Ford, 181.285.
  • 8. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 180.932.
  • 9. (23) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 180.905.
  • 10. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 180.788.
  • 11. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 180.707.
  • 12. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 180.608.
  • 13. (45) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 180.546.
  • 14. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 180.516.
  • 15. (20) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 180.502.
  • 16. (19) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 180.431.
  • 17. (38) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 180.390.
  • 18. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 180.339.
  • 19. (41) Ryan Preece, Ford, 180.322.
  • 20. (48) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 180.268.
  • 21. (21) Harrison Burton, Ford, 180.244.
  • 22. (54) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 180.241.
  • 23. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 180.196.
  • 24. (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, 180.193.
  • 25. (8) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 179.946.
  • 26. (43) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 179.892.
  • 27. (51) JJ Yeley, Ford, 179.858.
  • 28. (99) Daniel Suárez, Chevrolet, 179.777.
  • 29. (15) Brennan Poole, Ford, 179.726.
  • 30. (31) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 179.716.
  • 31. (16) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 179.524.
  • 32. (1) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 179.443.
  • 33. (77) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 179.161.
  • 34. (13) Chandler Smith, Chevrolet, 179.091.
  • 35. (47) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Chevrolet, 178.974.
  • 36. (7) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 178.221.
  • 37. (78) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 177.857.
  • 38. (42) Carson Hocevar, Chevrolet, .000.

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