NASCAR at Dover notebook: Almirola leads drivers in final Monster Energy practice


DOVER — A replica of Aric Almirola’s No. 10 Ford is the car that is held 46-feet high in the air by Miles the Monster in Victory Plaza just outside the grandstands at Dover International Speedway.

On Saturday morning, Almirola drove his actual race car to the top of the speed charts, leading all drivers in the final practice session for today’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.

Almirola circled the high-banked, one-mile concrete oval in 22.745 seconds for an average speed of 158.277 mph.

He was followed by Chase Elliott (158.054), Clint Bowyer (157.916), pole-sitter Kyle Larson (157.729) and Kevin Harvick (157.529).
“I’m just going to go debrief with my crew chief, check with my teammates and see what they say, but overall the car is really fast,” Almirola said. “It feels really good. We doing a really good job of bringing fast race cars to the track every week and I’m just having a blast.”

Almirola, who will start 13th in today’s race, turned a total of 57 laps in the final practice session, trying to dial in its handling.

It’s all a part of a process that the Tampa, Florida, native feels will eventually end up with him celebrating in victory lane.

“It’s all self-driven,” Almirola said. “I’ll go and re-watch the old race footage of the race track that we’re going to. I’ll look at my driver data and compare it to my teammates. I write notes every single weekend, throughout the weekend.

“I’ll log it into my laptop and, after the race is over, I’ll go in and write a race report about how the race went, what happened in the race, how I thought the track changed, how the line changed and my driving style changed to adapt to the changing track conditions.

“I go in and write very detailed reports after practices and the race, and then I’ll study that leading into the next event at the track.”

Clint Bowyer (155.880 mph) and Kyle Busch (155.584) held the fastest 10-lap consecutive averages, showing they should have sustained speed in today’s race.

Hello, Newman …

Ryan Newman has quite a history at Dover.

It’s a track that Newman always seems to run strong and it is a place that presents him with an opportunity to move upward in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings.

Consider that Newman won three of the four races from 2003-’04 and has seven top-five and 14 top-10 finishes at the “Monster Mile” and it’s clear that it’s one of his favorites.

Newman enters today’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism race in 16th place in the points, right on the fringe of NASCAR’s playoffs.

He’s certainly looking forward to today when he rolls off from the 21st starting position.

“Dover is just a lot of fun,” Newman said. “The way the transition is of getting down into the corners and then climbing the hill up the straightaway makes it a lot of fun to drive.

“The concrete doesn’t typically change a whole lot. Typically, when you get your car right there, it stays that way.”

Newman has failed to finish only twice in 32 career starts at Dover.

Wallace enjoys Dover’s high banks

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. has good reason to look forward to Dover race weekend.

It has proven to be one of his best racing venues from the very start of his career.

As an up-and-coming racer, Wallace, 24, won from the pole position at Dover in the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race.

He won his first pole position in NASCAR’s national series in 2012 at the age of 18, starting first and finishing 12th in a limited four-race NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. He finished second in the Xfinity Series race at Dover in 2016.

He is coming off another rookie confidence-builder in Talladega over the weekend, leading laps (five) for only the second time this season and finishing 16th.

Wallace is currently ranked 22nd in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings.

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