Prior to Sunday the only laps Aric Almirola had led all season was a lap and a half in the season opening Daytona 500. And the ‘half’ of that equation ended badly when he was pushed from the lead on the final lap by eventual winner Austin Dillon.
Sunday Almirola was looking to finish that half of a lap from February, this time at Chicagoland Speedway. After starting sixth Almirola was in the lead by lap 61 and won Stage 1; the first time he’s ever won a stage. He would go on to lead a race high 70 laps, more laps led than all his previous races combined.
Lug nuts ended his hopes for a win.
Almirola reported a loose wheel on lap 141. With too many laps to go to end the stage, he played it safe and pitted on lap 142. He rejoined the field 26th, one lap down.
His attempts to rally back ended on lap 219 when he reported another loose wheel while running 9th.
He came back out 28th, again a lap down, and with too few laps remaining, finished 25th.
“Our car was super-fast, especially out in clean air,” Almirola said. “It was incredibly fast.”
“We just have to execute. We have to put a whole race together,” he added. “That is the difference between being good and being great. We are capable of winning. We showed it today. We have speed, we are bringing incredible race cars to the race track and we just have to put a whole day together. We have to be flawless on pit road and I have to do my part too. Today we just had two loose wheels on two separate instances and you can’t have that, especially in races like this that go green forever. I am really frustrated but the good news is that our cars are fast. We can build on that. We are going to win a race. I guarantee you we are going to win a race. We have to be perfect to do it though.”