It took Aric Almirola a full day of reflection to be able to say those words, after a promising race at Dover International Speedway ended in disaster.
Almirola led 64 laps overall and appeared headed for his first victory of the season last Sunday when a front suspension failure sent Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer into the outside wall between Turns 3 and 4 at the Monster Mile.
Taking four tires under the resulting caution, Almirola dropped from the lead to sixth for a restart with four laps left in regulation. Trying to hustle his No. 10 Ford through the first two corners, he clipped the outside wall near the exit from Turn 2 and triggered a five-car wreck that damaged the cars of four other Playoff contenders.
Instead of winning the race, Almirola finished 13th as Chase Elliott took the checkered flag in overtime and earned automatic advancement to the Round of 8. Almirola dropped to ninth in the Playoff standings, tied with Bowyer, and comes to Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) needing to make up ground.
Last Sunday night was difficult Almirola, because Dover wasn’t the first victory that has slipped from his grasp this season. He also had winning chances at New Hampshire and Chicagoland but failed to close the deal.
“I feel like, obviously, Sunday night was rough… pretty frustrated and just a bunch of emotions all at once, just because you feel like you’re so close, and the same thing at Loudon, so close, and Chicago, so close, and having a fast car and not getting to Victory Lane and wanting it so bad,” Almirola said.
“I think that’s the worst part is like when you go into it with low expectations and you’re not a dominant car and then, all of a sudden, you pop up and you’re running up front and it gets taken away you’re like, ‘Yeah, well, shoot, we could have won that one.’
“But when you’re like the dominant car, and you’re leading laps and you’re running up front, and you really feel like you’ve got a shot to win and it gets taken away, there’s a lot of emotions that go through that, and just frustrated and mad and sad and angry and all of those things all at the same time. I was upset Sunday night, some of Monday and by midday Monday, I was already focused on Talladega.”
A visit to the race shop was all it took to shift Almirola’s perspective.
“I’d already been on the phone several times with Johnny (Klausmeier), my crew chief, and Tuesday morning got up and was at the shop bright and early and seeing the guys,” Almirola said.
“And once you see the guys and see that everybody else is over it, and they’re already working on Talladega cars, Dover’s over and everybody is focused on making sure our Talladega car is prepared and ready and fast.”