Aric Almirola’s Daytona 500 winning bid ends in Turn 3 wreck

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Aric Almirola did everything he possibly could to try to win Sunday’s Daytona 500, and he wasn’t about to condemn Austin Dillon for doing the exact same thing.

In a race that ended with a two-lap overtime shootout, Dillon claimed the Harley J. Earl trophy after tapping the bumper of Almirola’s No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and turning him into the outside wall in Turn 3 of the final lap.

Almirola failed to complete the final circuit in his damaged car and was credited with an 11th-place finish. Dillon, meanwhile, was celebrating the most significant accomplishment of his young career in Victory Lane.

Was Almirola disappointed? Of course. But in a gracious post-race interview he opted not to direct any bitterness toward Dillon.

“It was the last lap and we’re all trying to win the Daytona 500,” said Almirola, who was making his first start for Stewart-Haas Racing. “It’s the biggest race of the year, and it’s a career-changing race, so we were just racing really aggressively. I used every move I knew to try and stay in the lead and, unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to hold on.

“He got to my back bumper and was pushing and just hooked me. My heart is broken, but the beauty is we’ll go to Atlanta, and we’ve got an incredible race team here at Stewart-Haas Racing, and we’ll have another shot next week.”

But did Almirola think Dillon was driving too aggressively.

“He’s not driving too aggressively, he’s trying to win the Daytona 500, just like I was,” Almirola said. “I saw him come with the momentum, and I pulled up to block and did exactly what I needed to do to try to win the Daytona 500. I wasn’t going to just let him have it.

“I wasn’t going to just stay on the bottom and let him rail the outside, so I blocked and he got to my bumper and pushed, and I thought I was still going to be OK, and somehow I got hooked. I still haven’t seen the replay, so I don’t know what happened, but I’m just devastated.

“I really thought we were going to start this relationship off with Stewart Haas Racing in Victory Lane.”

About Greg Engle 7420 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 Examiner.com 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.