ALMIROLA FINISHES FOURTH AT CHARLOTTE Slim Jim Driver Notches Second Career Top-Five Finish Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 18 Slim Jim Monster Stick Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), finished fourth in Friday night's Dollar General 300 ...
ALMIROLA FINISHES FOURTH AT CHARLOTTE
Slim Jim Driver Notches Second Career Top-Five Finish
Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 18 Slim Jim Monster Stick Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), finished fourth in Friday night's Dollar General 300 NASCAR Busch Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. It was Almirola's second career top-five finish in 26 Busch Series races, and it was the best finish by a driver not competing full-time in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
"It was a pretty good run," Almirola said. "I really appreciate these guys on the 18 team. The Slim Jim Chevrolet was good. I was pretty happy with the car. We were just tight there at the end and I couldn't do anything with those guys in the lead."
Almirola started seventh and was in the top-15 throughout the entire 200-lap race. The 23-year-old battled a tight handling condition each time he lapped the 1.5-mile oval, but still managed to move through the field during the second half of the race, which was slowed several times for accidents.
During a long green flag run from lap 146 to lap 181, Almirola drove from seventh to fourth before Reed Sorenson crashed in turn four to bring out the race's final caution period. Almirola radioed crew chief Jason Ratcliff and said, "This might be just what we needed. If we can cool these tires down, the car is really good at the beginning of a run."
The break wasn't enough to get the 18 car's tires down to the desired temperatures, and when the race restarted on lap 189, the leaders squirted away. But Almirola was able to track down Dale Earnhardt Jr., to take over third-place on lap 193.
But the tight handling condition eventually returned to the No. 18 Slim Jim Chevrolet, and Earnhardt got back by Almirola two laps later.
"I was really, really close to being wide-open at the end of the race, but we were just a little too tight," Almirola said. "It just wouldn't do what I wanted it to. We still had a great night though, and I'm really proud of the guys on this Slim Jim Chevrolet."
Almirola has one more start for JGR slated this season, as he'll again pilot the No. 18 Slim Jim Monster Stick Chevrolet in the Busch Series season finale Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Almirola, who is a native of Tampa, Fla.
There were 10 caution periods for 44 laps, with 16 drivers failing to finish the 200-lap race.
With 31 of 35 Busch Series races in the books, the No. 18 car is 22nd in owner points, 15 points outside the top-20.
Jeff Burton scored his 26th career Busch Series victory, his fourth of the season and his third at Charlotte by winning the Dollar General 300. Future JGR driver Kyle Busch, Earnhardt, Almirola and JGR teammate Denny Hamlin secured the rest of the top-five. David Ragan, Robby Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Kelly Bires and Kevin Harvick comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The Busch Series takes a weekend off before returning to action Oct. 27 with the Sam's Town 250 at Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN2 beginning with its pre-race show at 3 p.m.