Aric Almirola on track at Richmond Raceway. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Xfinity Series Notes: Almirola Shines With JGR

RICHMOND, Va. — Aric Almirola retired from full-time NASCAR Cup Series racing at the end of last season, but he’s not finished with stock car racing.

During the offseason he reunited with Joe Gibbs Racing, where his career was jumpstarted nearly 20 years ago to run a limited NASCAR Xfinity Series campaign.

Almirola was a contender Saturday at Richmond Raceway, winning the first two stages and finishing second in his third start of the season in the No. 20 Toyota.

“Hate to win both stage and feel like I had the dominant car and then to let it slip away there in the end is disappointing, but it was a fun weekend this weekend in Richmond, coming back 18 years from my first start with coach (Joe Gibbs), with He Gets Us on the car on Easter weekend — it’s amazing to see what God has done in my life over the last 20 years since I got that call from coach and J.D. Gibbs to come drive for them. I really wanted to put this thing in victory lane for them, but I’m going to have to wait.”

Toyotas claimed the top four finishing positions in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Richmond Raceway. 

The Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Chandler Smith, Aric Almirola and Taylor Gray took the top three spots, with Corey Heim finishing fourth for Sam Hunt Racing.

Taylor Gray finished third in his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut Saturday with Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I can’t thank all of the Joe Gibbs Racing guys enough for bring me a great A Place of Hope Toyota GR Supra,” Gray said. “It was definitely as fast as Xfinity internet today. I made too many mistakes there throughout the race to be able to capitalize on such a fast car. I can’t thank all of my guys enough back at the shop.”

• Thirty-seven-year-old super late model driver Bubba Pollard made a sterling NASCAR Xfinity Series debut on Saturday, racing from 37th on the grid to finish sixth aboard the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet after getting loose during his qualifying run.

“I just got us behind in qualifying and it made for a long day,” Pollard said. “These guys gave me a great car. I needed that green flag run to get in a rhythm. This place is tough. It is technical. It is probably one of the tougher places that I have been to and I’ve been to a lot of places. If I hadn’t gotten us behind, we would have had a top five. I enjoyed it. I had fun, and hopefully, the fans enjoyed it too.”

• NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point leader Corey Heim is racing a limited schedule in the Xfinity Series and turned in a career-best finish in the series Saturday at Richmond, bringing his Sam Hunt Racing Toyota home in fourth spot.

“A bit of a roller coaster today. I can’t say enough about this Gearwrench GR Supra,” Heim said. “We had so much speed in it today. By far the best car I’ve had at Sam Hunt Racing. Props to them for bringing me a great piece. Track position was the name of the game there. We just didn’t have it there in the end.”

Rookie Jesse Love was the top finishing Chevrolet driver, bringing his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet home fifth to record his third top-10 finish in six races this season.