Ford Dominates Atlanta Cup Qualifying as Almirola Wins Pole

  • For the second time this season, Ford dominated NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway with 8 of the top 10 spots.

 

  • That matches what the Blue Oval did in the spring when the top eight qualifiers were all Ford drivers and Joey Logano sat on the pole.

 

  • Aric Almirola captured his first pole of the season and fifth of his career with today’s top run.

 

  • Ford swept the top six spots in qualifying, which included Harrison Burton’s career-best fifth-place effort.

 

Ford Qualifying Results:

1st – Aric Almirola

2nd – Ryan Blaney

3rd – Chase Briscoe

4th – Joey Logano

5th – Harrison Burton

6th – Kevin Harvick

9th – Todd Gilliland

10th – Austin Cindric

11th – Brad Keselowski

13th – Ryan Preece

15th – Chris Buescher

20th – Michael McDowell

21st – Cole Custer

24th – JJ Yeley

 

POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE

 

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield/IHOP Ford Mustang – HOW DIFFERENT IS THIS POLE COMPARED TO THE OTHER ONE YOU WON HERE ON THE OLD SURFACE AND WITH THE OLD CAR? “Very different from the car standpoint and the way you drive it, but equally nerve racking, I can tell you that. We go to Daytona and Talladega, superspeedways, and typically as a driver it’s pretty relaxed. You’re not really concerned about making any mistakes. You try and just make sure you concentrate on doing all the things you need to do, get a good launch, hit your shift points, do all of those things. But here, with the track starting to degrade some over the winter and now we’re in the hot summer months of July in Atlanta, the cars a handful to try and run wide-open. It’s not easy to run wide-open, so a lot more nerve racking, much like it was back with the Gen 6 car when you’re absolutely flying around here and slipping and sliding on that old surface, so it was an exciting lap. I’m just really proud of Drew and all the guys on our team and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. We’ve been working really hard to bring more speed to the racetrack and it was great to get a pole.”

 

DO YOU FEEL WITH 8 RACES REMAINING AFTER THIS WEEKEND THAT YOU HAVE TO FIND A PLACE TO WIN? “it’s crunch time, absolutely. It’s go time. You’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity and you’ve got to maximize every opportunity. You’ve got to put yourself in position. You’ve got to make bold moves in the race car. You’ve got to make bold moves pit strategy-wise. You’ve got to do whatever it takes because you’re not going to get a lot of opportunities. If you were one of the cars that has a consistent chance to win, you’ve probably already locked yourselves in the playoffs or you feel pretty good about where you’re at in points, but for the guys like myself that is further down in points, we’ve got rare opportunities to win races because we just haven’t shown up with the consistent speed we need to put ourselves in position to win, so absolutely. When we show up to a place like this and we know we have fast race cars, I blew a right-rear tire leading here last year with 40-50 laps to go, so we know coming here that this is an opportunity race for us and it is absolutely go time. Bring the best race car we can. Bring as much speed as we can. Qualify as best we can. Maximize the entire race and try to put ourselves in position and go capitalize.”

 

DO YOU LOOK AT LOUDON AS AN OPPORTUNITY RACE AS WELL? “Yeah, I do. I look at the schedule going forward and I feel like, here is a great place for us. I look at Loudon as a great place for us. We went to Michigan and I felt like we learned a lot. We had a great tire test there a month ago, maybe two months ago. I felt really good about that. Look at Richmond, I’ve run really, really good at Richmond throughout my entire career. Our short track program is really good at Stewart-Haas Racing. No doubt, we have to continue to work on our mile-and-a-half program and our downforce type racetracks, but our short track package is really good. When I look at these few races ahead of us, here, Loudon, Michigan, Richmond and then Daytona the last race, I think those are five opportunities of the next eight races that I feel like we have a legitimate shot to go and win if we do everything right. So, yeah, to answer your question, I do feel good about where we’re at, the opportunities we have ahead of ourselves, and we can do exactly what we did in 2021, where we were scrounging back in 22nd, 24th in points – something like where we’re at now – and we went to Nashville and qualified on the pole. We ran top five all day and then a couple weeks later went to Loudon and shocked everybody and won and launched ourselves in the playoffs. I certainly feel like this year is a similar year, where we’ve had a lot of things not go our way. Even to start the year, Daytona, with such a fast race car and get crashed out, but that always happens. Go to Phoenix, running in the top 10 and have a right-front wheel come off. Leading here in the spring with 40 laps to go and blow a right-rear tire, so I think about the year we’ve had and so much bad luck, and it certainly tested our race team, tested the morale of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing just because we’re not going to victory lane and we’re not getting the results that we want, but everybody is continuing to work hard and grind, just like in 2021 and hopefully we’ll see some of that reward and that payoff and we’ll go to victory lane.”

 

DO YOU LIKE THIS SURFACE BETTER OR THE OLD TRACK? “Funny you say that. I love the old track. That was one of my favorite racetracks to race at, but I was average at that racetrack if you look at my results. This racetrack has been better for me, and I guess you could say that I am a pretty decent superspeedway type racer and now that they’ve repaved this racetrack it races a lot more like a superspeedway, so I would say this new track configuration suits my style. The cars we have, the speed we have, the engines from Doug Yates and Roush Yates Engines, so I feel like all of that together as a package, this track and the new pavement certainly suits me better for having more opportunity to win. If you ask Kevin Harvick, he’ll certainly say the old one.”

 

HOW DO YOU FEEL ATLANTA HAS MATURED AND GROWN AS A SUPERSPEEDWAY RACE? “It’s certainly aged and the track is a lot more gray, and you can see some of the aggregate coming up through the asphalt to where it’s not perfectly smooth and shiny. It’s starting to get some character and some rock starting to show through the shininess of the racetrack, so I think that at some point in the near future this racetrack is going to race like the old Daytona when Daytona was kind of old and worn out, bumpy, had a lot of fall off and guys were slipping and sliding around. I think this racetrack will start to trend that direction to where you’ll have to start bringing more downforce in your race car and those things, but I don’t think it’s quite there yet. I think it still has a lot of grip – certainly, for a night race when the track temp cools off and all of that. If we raced at 1 o’clock in the afternoon I think it would be a different story, but I think coming real soon this racetrack is gonna be at a point to where handling is going to play a major factor and it’s gonna change the way that the racetrack races.”

 

DO YOU THINK IT WILL GO BACK TO THE WAY THE OLD TRACK WAS? “They hope that it will. Talking to Steve Swift and Marcus Smith, they paved this racetrack with basically the old style asphalt. The newer asphalt they take a lot of the aggregate and they crush it up almost into a powder and it makes it super smooth, like Michigan and Pocono. Here, they paved it and they kept a lot more coarse rock in it like they used to pave it, and so that coarse rock as the pavement starts to wear down and those rocks get exposed, that’s what chews the tires up. I mean, you go to Darlington and look at Darlington. You go drag your feet across the infield and it’s pretty coarse. You don’t want to fall because you’d skin your knee pretty easy, but you go to pit road at Michigan and you fall, you might get a little road rash and that’s it. You’re not gonna get tore up as bad because there’s not as much aggregate sticking out.”

 

Ford Performance PR