Almirola took the high road after 2018 Daytona 500-Now he’s back

Driving in his debut event for Stewart-Haas Racing last year, Aric Almirola had the lead roughly a mile from the finish line.

But as he approached Turn 3 at Daytona International Speedway and tried to block a run by Austin Dillon, contact between Dillon’s No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Almirola’s No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang sent Almirola into the outside wall and Dillon into Victory Lane.

Under the circumstances, Almirola was extraordinarily gracious after the fact, defusing what could have been a volatile situation between the two drivers.

That’s not to say, however, that Almirola didn’t have a few private moments of anger and frustration.

“Did I ever have a moment where behind closed doors I stomped my feet and hit some things?” Almirola asked rhetorically on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. “Maybe,” he acknowledged with a mischievous grin.

But his behavior in public was far more measured and diplomatic.

“In that time, in that moment, it was more important for me to go out and be a good representation for my sponsors and my partners and my kids,” Almirola said. “My kids were sitting back in my motor home watching on TV like the rest of the world, so at that time it was an opportunity for me to be a good role model for my kids.

“You’ve got to be a good sport, and sometimes things don’t always go your way. You’ve got two choices. You can either keep your head high and take the high road, or you can pout and piss and moan—and the sponsors usually like the first one.”

Almirola didn’t win the Daytona 500, but he eventually found Victory Lane with Stewart-Haas in the last restrictor-plate race of 2019 at Talladega. With the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars featuring the same specs for the Daytona 500, Almirola is optimistic about his chances this year—if he can just complete the last mile in the lead.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.