“I thought from the start of the race that I had a No. 98 Fresh From Florida Ford Fusion that was capable of winning,” said Almirola. “It showed a lot of promise all night long. And, it was an emotional last few laps. I thought I had a shot to win but wasn’t sure I would get it done. I got a big push from the 7 car and then he pulled out and the 18 came and gave me a good push. I am really thankful for that.
“Daytona International Speedway is a special track for me. Coming to the Firecracker 400 was part of our family vacations every year when I was a kid. I remember sitting in the same grandstands watching every race, and they’re all special memories. So to go there and be a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is pretty awesome. Our team had a fast No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion there earlier this year, and we finished 12th in the Daytona 500.
“My team hustled today,” said Almirola. “We had a good No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion. The overall handling was better than it had been most of the weekend, and we were moving through the field. So it was unfortunate that we had the alternator issue, but my guys worked hard to get it fixed as quickly as possible.
“I have really started to enjoy road racing over the years. In the very beginning, I didn’t like it much at all. But, I’ve really embraced it and have taken an interest in getting better at it. I feel like it has paid off. I’ve run better, and I’ve seen results. We’ve performed better as a team and have been more competitive. As I’ve run better, I’ve started to enjoy it more and more as you do anything that you work hard at.
“This was definitely not the day that we were looking for,” Almirola said. “We were a little off when we unloaded on Friday, but my team worked hard on our No. 43 Smithfield Ford and we were feeling good at the end of final practice.