“Texas has proven to be somewhat of an arch nemesis for us in the last two years. We haven’t run well there. We’ve struggled with our racecars being really loose on the long runs. And, those bumps in Turn 1 there are very violent, very big. They used to just be swells, but now, they’re actual bumps. They make it challenging to make your car setup to go over those bumps yet still be low to the ground and have grip.
“This is progress, and it’s something we need to keep doing,” said Almirola. “It was a solid day for our No. 43 Smithfield Ford team. That’s what we need to do. Our team is capable of running Top 15 every week, and we’re heading in that direction. It takes executing perfectly and getting everything right. And, today we did that. We did a good job on pit road.
“Between the tire that Goodyear is bringing to Martinsville and the new aerodynamics package, the cars seem to be driving quite a bit differently than in the past. We struggled a bit adapting to those changes at the last Martinsville and didn’t run how we normally do there. We’ve been running in the Top 15 for the last four years, but we didn’t run that well last time, and then we ended up having an engine issue. But, I think that we’ve gotten a better handle on the package here recently, and we’ve been showing improvement these past few weeks, especially at short tracks.
“This is definitely great momentum for our race team,” said Almirola. “It’s been a challenging year for us, but we’re working hard to get back to scoring consistent Top-10 and Top-15 finishes. I knew going into the race today that my No. 43 Smithfield Ford ran best in the top and middle lanes, but it was a matter of making sure I was in whichever lane was moving fastest at the time.
“Talladega is very stressful, but we get used to it. It’s part of the sport. We go there twice a year, and we know what to expect when we get there. We also go to Daytona twice, but they’re very different tracks. The cars don’t need to handle as well at Talladega; handling really comes into play at Daytona. But, at Talladega, it’s all about having a really fast car and drafting well. The whole weekend leading up to the race is actually pretty relaxed and stress free compared to most weekends.