In the closest finish ever in the history of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, just .002 of a second, Aric Almirola finished behind Kyle Busch yet again. And Almirola was not happy about it, saying “I got robbed” as he exited his race truck on the grid after the race.
Almirola was especially upset as he was convinced that Kyle Busch snatched the win away from him by going below the yellow line, improving his position.
“I was at his mercy,” Almirola said. “I hate to lose one like that.”
“I feel like I won the race,” Almirola said. “NASCAR’s perspective is that we finished second…Call it what you will.”
“We finished second,” Almirola continued glumly. “I don’t have a clear understanding of the (yellow line) rule, I guess.”
Busch on the other hand said in Victory Lane that he was trying to push Almirola to the win before getting loose, going sideways, and edging his former teammate out to take the checkered flag.
“I just wanted to push him,” Busch said about Almirola. “I had Johnny (Sauter) pushing on me. It was just crazy there at the end.”
“I was already alongside him well before I got below the yellow line,” Busch said. “Judgment call. It’s on NASCAR. All I knew was that I was trying to save my truck and keep it straight.”
While the two drivers had very different perspectives on the race finish, NASCAR tried to clarify the situation. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition, said that momentum from contact with Almirola is what put Busch below the yellow line.
Almirola most certainly had plenty of reasons to be bitter about coming in second yet again, especially to Kyle Busch. Just last year, when the two were teammates for Billy Ballew Motorsports, Almirola pushed Busch to victory, finishing in the runner up position.
Most certainly expecting that Busch might return the favor, Almirola did, however, predict that he would be in for a challenging day, especially since he was the only Billy Ballew Motorsports entry with no teammates on the track. He also predicted that the race would come down to the last lap.
“The first half you just want to make sure the truck is as comfortable as possible,” Almirola said before the Talladega race. “The last half you’re getting yourself into position. The last lap you race for the win.”
Almirola’s words did indeed prove prophetic. For the last three years, the Truck race at Talladega came down to a last lap pass, although the last lap pass of Busch by Almirola ended up to be by just about a foot, or at least just the nose of the race truck.
The young driver is also a bridesmaid when it comes to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings. Almirola is currently second in points, 216 points behind leader Todd Bodine, with just three races left to go in the season.
Almirola will, however, get one more chance to redeem himself at Talladega Superspeedway. He is set to drive the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Budweiser Ford, recently vacated by Kasey Kahne, in the Cup Series Amp Energy Juice 500.
In three previous Cup starts at ‘Dega, Almirola’s best run came in 2008, when he started third and finished 13th. His Budweiser team’s average finish over the past six years is 16th.
Cup crew chief Kenny Francis summed up Almirola’s chances for redemption in the Cup Series race.
“It’s all a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right cars in front of you and behind you,” Francis said. “It can be a bit of a crap shoot. You’ve got to keep your car clean and find someone you can draft with.”
There is probably little chance that Almirola will be looking for Kyle Busch to draft with in the Cup race, after being stiffed in the Truck race. And there may even be some interesting possibilities of some sort of justice being done in Sunday’s competition.
But Almirola may just have to take a modicum of consolation in the fact that he has now extended his streak of top-10 consecutive finishes in the Truck Series to ten. Yet there is no doubt that Almirola’s second place finish was indeed a bitter pill for the competitive driver to swallow.
“That’s just it,” Almirola reiterated. “I got robbed.”