The No. 43 Smithfield Ford was good off the truck in California, but a mishap in qualifying gave Almirola the 31st starting spot for the Auto Club 400. When the green flag dropped, Almirola jumped up 10 spots to 21st. The car was tight in the middle of the corner in the first run. Almirola came in for a green-flag pit stop on Lap 32 and pit for four tires and a wedge adjustment.
“I like racing in California. You can race all over the track to find the grip and speed you need. But the teams are really tricky making it one of the toughest places we race in terms of how you position your car on the track. We had a good finish in Vegas, and we’re looking to repeat that this week in California.
“We did what we needed to do today,” said Almirola. “We needed to find more speed off the truck and worked hard all weekend to do that. We started in the back of the field for an engine change but were able to get back up quickly. We struggled at the beginning to get turn in the center of the corner, but the guys made good changes and got the car handling well at the beginning of the run late in the race.
“I’m looking forward to going to Phoenix this weekend. We had a good weekend in Vegas and look to carry over momentum into this week. It’s our first short track this season, and we usually do pretty well in the Spring race. So, I’m looking forward to putting our short track program to the test.
“That was a lot more enjoyable for us,” said Almirola. “We made a lot of progress from last week ,and we learned some things, too. I think everything we can take from today will help us move forward to qualify better and then race inside the Top 10 and gain points throughout the day. In this sport, little things make a huge difference, and today, we gained on that.”