Stewart-Haas Racing driver Aric Almirola looked like he had the car to beat at New Hampshire Sunday and almost pulled off the win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Foxwoods Casino 301.
After starting fifth Almirola was inside the top 10 for much of the 301 laps. He finished 10th in the first stage and after adjustments his car seemed to get better.
He finished the second stage fifth, and after some more adjustments Almirola seemed to suddenly have the car to beat.
To the surprise of many, Almirola took the lead on lap 211. He would lead 15 laps before coming in for a green flag stop. He regained the lead on lap 232 and suddenly it seemed his race to lose.
Actually, it may have been his teammate Clint Bowyer who lost it for him.
Bowyer, running inside the top 10 at the time, smacked the wall on lap 256 bringing out the races seventh and final caution on lap 256.
During the round of pit stops, Almirola was beat out of pit road by Kyle Busch who had a 13 second stop versus 14 for Almirola. On the restart Almirola spun his tires and dropped to seventh. With the laps closing down, all he could do was rally to his third-place finish.
Despite his best finish of the season, Almirola was not a happy camper.
“I’m competitive,” Almirola said. “We played Candyland in the bus earlier during the rain delay and I don’t like to lose to my kids playing Candyland. I’m just competitive by nature and I want to win, especially for everybody that believes in me and support me – Tony Stewart, Gene Haas, everybody at Haas Automation and Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford Motor Company and Smithfield – everybody has put so much into believing in me and giving me this opportunity to come here and I feel like I owe it to them to win and to prove them right that they made the right choice. I’m frustrated that I didn’t get to Victory Lane today.”
Bowyer, who finished 35th and in the garage was well aware of what his incident had resulted in.
“I hate that for my teammate,” Bowyer said. “It was his first win and he was dominating the race. I was trying to nurse it around. Something in the left-rear was broke and no more than Brett (Griffin, spotter) told me, ‘we’re having trouble, let’s just get off the track,’ and I was kind of thinking the same thing. Literally, as he was saying that and I’m thinking it, something broke on the right side and away it went. That sucks. I hate it for him.”