FONTANA, Calif. – You won’t hear Aric Almirola saying “Thank goodness it’s Friday”— not this year at least.
Fridays typically are qualifying days for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and Almirola hasn’t found the secret to success in time trials in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Through four races, Almirola has posted an average starting position of 24.8. By the time race day arrives, however, Almirola finds his stride in race trim. His average finishing position through the first four races is 10.2, producing a series-best start-to-finish differential of 14.6 positions.
On Friday at Auto Club Speedway, Almirola was poised for his best qualifying effort of the year, having posted the third fastest lap in opening practice at the two-mile track.
But Almirola’s hopes for a top starting position were squelched when his No. 10 SHR Ford failed pre-qualifying inspection, joining 12 other cars that didn’t make it through tech. Accordingly, Almirola will start 27th in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“Man, Fridays are just our Achilles heel right now,” Almirola said. “Vegas, we showed up and I was out of control and we weren’t very fast and I think we qualified 29th. And then last weekend (at Phoenix) we improved a little bit in qualifying, so Fridays have just not been good for us. This weekend, we came here with a heavy focus on qualifying. Our car was really fast right off the truck.
“We ended up third in practice and I was really excited about qualifying, and then we didn’t make it out to qualify. I’m disappointed, because our Smithfield Ford Fusion was really fast, but it is what it is. We’ll get ready for the race now, and one of these days we’re going to get Friday figured out, and it’ll just make it a lot easier and cleaner weekend.”