Almirola Finishes 16th at Darlington
Smithfield Ford Driver’s Day Marred by Untimely Caution
Date: Sept. 5, 2021
Event: Cook Out Southern 500 (Round 27 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway(1.366-mile oval)
Format: 367 laps, broken into three stages (115 laps/115 laps/137 laps)
Start/Finish: 8th / 16th (Running, completed 366 of 367 laps)
Point Standing: 11th (2,029 points, 3 points ahead of top-12 cutoff)
Race Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-115):
● Aric Almirola started eighth and finished eighth, earning three bonus points.
● Almirola held his Smithfield Ford inside the top-10 before the competition caution waved.
● The Smithfield Ford driver pitted during the caution for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments.
● Almirola restarted eight after the caution and was scored ninth before another caution was called for a spin by playoff contender Michael McDowell just a few laps later.
● Another caution was called on lap 48. Almirola pitted for four fresh tires, fuel and adjustments to come off pit road in eighth.
● Almirola pitted under green for four fresh tires, fuel and more adjustments on lap 81.
● Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz radioed to Almirola that he was the fastest car on the track with 20 laps to go in the stage.
● Almirola held his position to the end of the stage, and then pitted for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 116-230):
● Almirola started ninth and finished 18th.
● The caution was called on lap 126 for a spin by the No. 18 car.
● On lap 152 as he ran in 16th, Almirola radioed to Bugarewicz: “I’ve just lost everything. Everything is worse.”
● Almirola pitted under green on lap 157 for four fresh tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments.
● A debris caution was called on lap 164. Almirola and multiple playoff drivers were forced to wave around to rejoin the lead lap.
● Almirola restarted 18th, drove to 15th, then pitted for four fresh tires, fuel and adjustments on lap 196.
● The caution was called again for a cut tire by the No. 24 car with Almirola in 12th.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 231-367):
● Almirola started 13th and finished 16th.
● Almirola raced to 11th on the restart and advanced to the top-10 on lap 255.
● While attempting to pass multiple cars, Almirola slid his Smithfield Ford into the wall, causing minimal damage. He lost one spot to the No. 19 car but passed the No. 8 car.
● The caution came out on lap 319 for a spin by the No. 12 car with Almirola in the 13th position.
● The No. 10 Smithfield driver pitted during the caution period for four fresh tires, fuel and adjustments, putting him one lap down.
● Almirola was forced to check up when the No. 17 car got loose coming off the turn. He escaped the incident with minimal damage to his No. 10, and the caution was called for a spin by the No. 9 shortly after.
● Almirola raced his was back to the Lucky Dog position, but the caution did not come out for the remainder of the race, leaving Almirola one lap down.
● Denny Hamlin won the Cook Out Southern 500 to score his 45th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his fourth at Darlington. His margin over second-place Kyle Larson was .212 of a second.
● There were 11 caution periods for a total of 52 laps.
● Only 15 of the 37 drivers in the Cook Out Southern 500 finished on the lead lap.
Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
“We had a good car today, and we had good speed. We had a great day and our pit crew was on fire until the caution came out late in the race and put us a lap down. The strategy just didn’t play out for us there, but that’s how it goes. We controlled as much as we could control and showed we’re serious contenders.”
Playoff Standings (with two races to go before Round of 12):
1. Denny Hamlin (2,072 points) 1 win
2. Kyle Larson (2,106 points) +80 points
3. Martin Truex Jr. (2,062 points) +36 points
4. Kurt Busch (2,062 points) +26 points
5. Ryan Blaney (2,048 points) +22 points
6. Joey Logano (2,047 points) +21 points
7. Kevin Harvick (2,046 points) +20 points
8. Brad Keselowski (2,038 points) +12 points
9. Christopher Bell (2,031 points) +6 points
10. Chase Elliott (2,030 points) +4 points
11. Aric Almirola (2,029 points) +3 points
12. Alex Bowman (2,026 points) +0 points
13. Tyler Reddick (2,026 points) -0 points
14. Kyle Busch (2,024 points) -2 points
15. William Byron (2,017 points) -9 points
16. Michael McDowell (2,006 points) -20 points
The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. The second race of the 10-race NASCAR Playoffs starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.