Aric Almirola started the Saturday night race from the fifth position, thanks to his fast lap times in practice and a qualifying rainout that set the field according to practice speeds. The speed of the No. 43 Goody’s Ford carried over to the start of the race, too, as Almirola made a charge toward to the front in the opening laps. He moved into fourth by Lap 4 and into third by Lap 5.
Next he set his sights on pole-sitter Casey Mears, who had fallen back to second. The two battled for position for 20-plus laps before Almirola finally took the second slot on the leaderboard. By this time, he was hitting lapped traffic, and leader Joey Logano had built up too big of a lead for Almirola to get to the front to lead any laps. But he showed he had a competitive car and could make passes, and knew he still had 450-plus laps to go.
Amidst the action, Almirola told crew chief Mike Ford his No. 43 machine was loose in and out of the corners and tight through the center of the turns. When the yellow flag flew for debris on Lap 81, Ford called his driver down pit road for air-pressure, track-bar and wedge adjustments along with four tires and fuel. Almirola returned to the track to restart ninth, and soon told his crew chief that entry and exit had improved, but he still needed more turn in the center.
The newly resurfaced track, changed over the summer to tighten up the groove and create more action-packed racing, did its job. By Lap 190, and not even yet half-way, the race was seeing its fifth caution of the evening for a multi-car accident. The stop-and-go action allowed teams to take different strategies, and the No. 43 team was taking every yellow-flag opportunity to come to pit road to make their car better. Restarting in 19th on Lap 199, the team was prepared to switch up their strategy in the latter part of the race to make up track position.
Unfortunately, the Goody’s team never got the opportunity to do so. On Lap 224, David Gilliland made contact with the No. 43 from behind and Almirola got turned nose-first into the wall. He brought the wounded car down pit road with significant right-front damage. The team made initial repairs and sent him back out on Lap 231 in 29th position. But just a handful of laps later, he reported he had engine problems and had to bring the car behind the wall. With the hood up, the team discovered the motor had suffered damage resulting from the contact with the wall that could not be repaired. Almirola’s night was over early and he was credited with a 35th-place finish.
He heads into Atlanta for the Labor Day race weekend 22nd in the driver point standings.
Comments from Almirola after Racing at Bristol: “That was a real shame. Our Goody’s Ford was really fast. We showed that at the beginning of the race, and I think we could’ve been a factor in the end. It would’ve been great to have a good finish for Goody’s and Petty’s Garage. It seems like everybody wanted ‘old Bristol’ back, and it looks like they got it.”