Aric Almirola in Martinsville Speedway victory lane. (HHP/Andrew Coppley)

Almirola & Gibbs: A True Victory After 17 Years

On the stat sheet, it’ll show that Aric Almirola scored a NASCAR Xfinity Series victory with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2007 at the Milwaukee Mile in Wisconsin. 

Almirola claimed the pole and led the race. However, he didn’t cross underneath the checkered flag due to regular driver Denny Hamlin arriving late from Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and wheeling the No. 20 Chevrolet to victory lane. 

Almirola left JGR at the end of the season and later churned out a 12-year full-time NASCAR Cup Series career, winning three races before stepping away at the end of last season.

Now back with JGR on a part-time basis in the Xfinity Series, one may think because he’s not racing for points, there would be no pressure.

However, with the strength of JGR’s race cars, the 40-year-old still feels the pressure to succeed. 

Aric Almirola burns it down at Martinsville Speedway. (HHP/ Tim Parks)

“Everybody just automatically assumes that you are going to win,” Almirola said. “With all the experience in Cup, and going to Xfinity, everybody assumes – Cup veteran, getting in the best cars in the garage – he’s going to win.”

He rose above that pressure on Saturday night as he snagged the victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, his first “official” win in a Joe Gibbs-owned race car. 

“That is a lot of pressure, so just thankful to be able to do that and kind of get that checkmark, and to be able to do it at Martinsville – a place I absolutely love,” Almirola said. 

While he led 148 of the 251 laps, Almirola lost the lead to Sam Mayer with seven laps to go. A caution flag came shortly after, prompting an overtime restart. 

“The handling of our car went away. I was just kind of holding on there in the end,” Almirola said. “Our car did not like cycled tires. We had damage on the front and once we got that damage, I felt like ‘Oh no, we are out of it’ – and we weren’t.”

With two cars alongside him barreling into turn one, Almirola remained firm in the outside lane. At the exit of turn two, Almirola had a clear path for the final lap-and-a-half.

“The car was still decent, and I was able to manage what I had. Just really thankful to coach (Joe Gibbs) for giving me this opportunity to come back and race for him, and to do it for this organization — all of these people at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Almirola said. “It is really awesome to come and play, and that is what I really get to do — I get to play, and not a lot of people get to do that and finish their career like that. Just really humbled.

“Really thankful to coach, and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. Our Toyotas are really fast – any one of our cars can win on any given weekend.

“I’m just really thankful for the He Gets Us ministry and all of those people to give me this opportunity to semi-retire and still get to come out and race and win.”