LENOX INDUSTRIAL TOOLS 301 RACE REPORT
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Medallion Financial Ford
Starting Position: 23
Finishing Position: 28
Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Medallion Ford team started Sunday's race in the 23rd position. After gradually improving their car over the course of the weekend's practice and qualifying sessions, the team was eager to attack the "Magic Mile."
After initially slipping back to 27th with an "extremely loose" car in the opening laps, Almirola reclaimed two spots, while reporting that he was getting "tight" through the center of the turns.
Crew Chief Mike Ford called Almirola down pit road for a green-flag pit stop on Lap 67, where the No. 43 machine received four fresh tires, fuel, and air-pressure and wedge adjustments. The Medallion Financial Ford Fusion returned to the track in 25th.
Representative of the Sprint Cup Series season to date, the 318.46-mile race saw only three caution periods and no wrecks. The first caution flag of the day flew on Lap 90 for debris on the track. Almirola was in 24th and had fallen a lap down to the leader. With only 20 laps on their tires, Ford made the call to pit for fuel and right-side tires only. With many other teams also pitting for two tires, or fuel only, the No. 43 car was unable to gain positions with the move and restarted 26th. But as the first car one lap down, Almirola was in position to earn the "Lucky Dog" free pass to return to the lead lap if another yellow flag flew.
But the flags didn't fall the team's way. After restarting on Lap 93, the race stayed green for almost 100 laps. And while Almirola held his position around 25th, the long green-flag run caused more cars to fall off the lead lap and take the "Lucky Dog" spot away from the No. 43. Meanwhile, Almirola reported his brakes were getting hot and he was still having trouble getting the car to turn well through the center.
He was still in the 25th position when the next round of green-flag pit stops began. Calling Almirola into the pits on Lap 154, Ford ordered track bar and air-pressure adjustments along with four new tires and fuel.
The No. 43 team saw two more yellow-flag pit stops that brought chassis adjustments to help free up the car for Almirola, but the final 62 laps of the race stayed green without much chance to pass for position, and Almirola crossed the finish line after 301 laps in the 28th position.
He remains 22nd in the driver point standings, just five points behind 21st. The Sprint Cup Series takes a week off next weekend and allows the teams to begin preparing for the Brickyard 400 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29.
Comments from Medallion Financial Ford driver Aric Almirola after the Loudon race:
"That was a tough one. We made some progress on the car Friday and Saturday, but today was a bit of a battle. The guys worked hard on it, but our Medallion Financial Ford was just tight all day, and I couldn't use the brakes like I wanted to either. We'll take this week off to regroup and get set to go to Indianapolis for a fresh start."