Event: Bluegreen Vacations 500k (Round 35 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: ISM Raceway near Phoenix (1-mile oval)
Format: 312 laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/162 laps)
Start/Finish: 11th/22nd (Running, completed 310 of 312 laps)
Point Standing: 14th with 2,219 points
Race Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):
● Aric Almirola started 11th and finished 12th.
● Running in 12th after 20 laps, Almirola described his No. 10 Eckrich Ford Mustang as having no rear grip.
● Fell to 14th by lap 52. Almirola keyed his mic to say, “Zero roll speed. Just driving through front tires on throttle.”
● Pitted for four tires and fuel with a right-rear wedge adjustment while under caution on lap 69.
● Was 14th for lap-72 restart and picked up two positions to finish the stage in 12th.
● Stayed out at the conclusion of the stage to maintain track position.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):
● Almirola started ninth and finished 14th.
● Settled into 11th by lap 90 and radioed on lap 106 that he was loose under braking into turn three, but was tight everywhere else.
● “The harder I try, the worse it gets,” said a 12th-place Almirola on lap 126 about the handling of his Eckrich Ford Mustang.
● On lap 136, Almirola added: “Chattering the tires. It gets really bad late in a run.” Dropped to 14th.
● Pitted for four tires and fuel at the end of the stage, and also inserted a spring rubber into the right-rear to aid in the car’s handling.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-312):
● Almirola started 20th and finished 22nd.
● Despite having pitted before the stage, Almirola still experienced a tight racecar that was chattering its tires.
● Took advantage of caution period and pitted on lap 168 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment.
● Remained 20th for lap-173 restart.
● Climbed to 18th by lap 196, but Almirola reported that his Eckrich Ford Mustang was back to being too tight and not turning.
● Even with a racecar that was too tight, Almirola found ways to gain positions. He was 16th with 100 laps to go.
● Lost a lap to leader Denny Hamlin on lap 225 while running 17th.
● Made scheduled, green flag pit stop on lap 236 for four tires and fuel.
● As pit stops cycled through, Almirola rose to 11th by lap 256 and was in position to score a top-10.
● But on lap 286, Almirola keyed his mic and yelled, “Flat tire!” He had a flat right front and was forced to pit under green for four tires and fuel.
● The unscheduled, green flat pit stop dropped Almirola to 22nd and put him two laps down, and with less than 25 laps remaining, it was a position from which he could not recover.
● Denny Hamlin won the Bluegreen Vacations 500k to score his 37th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his sixth of the season and his third at Phoenix. His margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was .377 of a second.
● There were five caution periods for a total of 32 laps.
● Only 15 of the 39 drivers in the Bluegreen Vacations 500k finished on the lead lap.
● Ford took five of the top-10 finishing positions in the Bluegreen Vacations 500k.
Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Eckrich Ford Mustang:
“We fought hard all day, and even though we weren’t where we needed to be from a handling standpoint, we managed to get up to 11th to where a top-10 was possible. But then we got a flat tire and that was it.”
The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The final race of the 10-race playoffs starts at 3 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.