Almirola Scorches Atlanta Pavement, Wins First Pole Since 2012
At a track known for making history, Aric Almirola did something on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway that he hadn't done in nearly seven years: win the pole for a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
Almirola's second lap in the final round of qualifying for Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 was his best of the session - and no one could top it. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver posted a phenomenal 30.55-second, 181.473-mph run to edge fellow Ford drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Clint Bowyer.
The pole was Almirola's second of his Cup Series career and his first since the 2012 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Daytona 500 winner and series points leader Denny Hamlin will start fourth on Sunday. Daniel Suarez - like Almirola and Bowyer, a Stewart-Haas driver - will roll off fifth. Kyle Busch was sixth-fastest with Kyle Larson seventh, Kurt Busch eighth, Martin Truex Jr. ninth and Austin Dillon 10th.
Sunday's forecast for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 features plenty of sun and clear skies for the second race of the Monster Energy Cup Series season on Atlanta's challenging, high-speed 1.5-mile quad oval.
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford (POLE WINNER): "We knew our car had a lot of raw speed in it and through the rounds, the adjustments that (crew chief) Johnny (Klausmeier) was making kept making our car better. We were getting it done on Lap 1. … In the first round, there was a little confusion leaving pit road, so I feel like that may have cost us a little bit there.
"In the final round, (it was) just really good execution by the whole team. The changes that the engineers and Johnny made to the car - honestly, just the car the guys brought - we had a really good car right off the truck. We were second in practice and just kind of carried that speed through qualifying. In that final round, I knew a second lap was going to be faster than the first. I sort of decided to throw the first lap away building the speed up and in the second lap, I just really executed, hit all my marks perfectly and was able to be good enough and (post) a really fast lap to get the pole, which is cool because I haven't done it in like seven years. It was pretty neat."
RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 Little Hug Fruit Barrels Ford (OUTSIDE POLE): "I think the (cooler) weather definitely helped our car there. We made some big improvements on the first run, because we were 18th to start and jumped all the way up to sixth. Randy and Angela, our engineers, made a lot of adjustments to get us where I needed to be to be able to hold the car wide open.
"This is a good start for our Little Hugs Fruit Barrels Ford here at Atlanta, but it's a bit of a bummer, too. I was trying to think what I could have done to get a little bit more out of the car, and then when I looked up Aric (Almirola) had run a 30.55. There wasn't much I was going to be able to do to catch up to that."
About the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 weekend
The Atlanta NASCAR Weekend continues with the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rinnai 250 and the Ultimate Tailgating 200 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race on Saturday. All of this leads to the main event: the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday.
Tickets for the 2019 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 can be purchased by contacting Atlanta Motor Speedway at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or by visiting www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.