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“Thank You, Thank You Coach” – Aric Almirola Indebted to Joe Gibbs for a Shot at Vindication

Published 04/07/2024, 12:03 AM EDT

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As Xfinity Series action returned this weekend to Martinsville Speedway, it was Joe Gibbs Racing and JR Motorsports that dominated the front for the majority of the race. While newcomer Shane van Gisbergen brought home a solid top-15, Stewart-Haas Racing’s former veteran driver gifted Coach Gibbs the Grandfather Clock.

Although Cole Custer started the race with a dominant 26-lap lead, no man was as dominant on the short track as Aric Almirola, who led the most, 148 laps. Throughout the race, Almirola looked formidable, challenging his JGR teammate Sheldon Creed and JR Motorsports driver Sam Mayer for the win until the very end.

Aric Almirola talks about a 17-year-old “asterisk” as he thanked God after the Martinsville win!

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Despite losing out to Justin Allgaier at the end of Stage 2, Almirola will take home a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash reward after securing his first win for Joe Gibbs Racing! Over the final restart, Almirola managed to put his #20 Supra in all the right places compared to Mayer, Creed, and Chandler Smith, who entered the last lap going three wide for the lead. This is when Almirola inevitably got helped out by his JGR teammate, Sheldon Creed, who held up Sam Mayer’s charge for long enough to let the 40-year-old pull away with the win.

Despite being a veteran with over two decades of experience, this weekend’s win at the Dude Wipes 250 was a monumental one for Almirola’s relationship with JGR. He shared in the post-race interview, “Oh, man! First, I want to thank the good lord! This is so awesome. To win for Joe Gibbs Racing, I’ve had an asterisk next to a win for Coach for seventeen years, and it’s just so awesome to finally put a real win banner up inside the shop at Joe Gibbs Racing.”

According to Almirola, the #20 GR Supra had been fast throughout the weekend and instilled great confidence in him earlier. With the perfect recipe for success brewing at the #20 JGR garage, Aric Almirola was ecstatic to be the one to bring home a grandfather clock for Coach Gibbs. He added, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Coach! For calling me and giving me this opportunity to come and have some fun. And still scratch the itch of racing but still get to spend a lot of time with my family.”

Besting his previous greatest finish (P2) at Martinsville, Almirola showcased great adaptability to be able to jump into the car for a one-off appearance and still beat the usual frontrunners fair and square. Speaking of which, just last race at Richmond, he brought in a solid second-place finish, helping him secure a bid for the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 prize at Martinsville. This made the Dude Wipes 250 a rather profitable outing for the veteran.

However, it wasn’t just the monetary gains that had Aric Almirola buzzing with a smile. The 40-year-old veteran also reflected on the importance of taking Joe Gibbs Racing to victory lane once more. Only this time, it bore no asterisks.

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The Dude Wipes 250 was more than just a shot at redemption for Almirola

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This weekend’s Xfinity win at Martinsville not only marked Almirola’s return to victory lane after his full-time career ended, but it also helped him deliver a ‘real’ win for JGR. But what does that actually mean? You see, back in 2007, Almirola had secured pole position as a stand-in for Denny Hamlin at the Milwaukee Mile. Whilst Almirola didn’t get to race, Hamlin went on to visit Victory Lane instead. However, the credit was given to Aric Almirola with an asterisk next to his name.

Naturally, his dominant win this weekend allowed the 40-year-old to gift Joe Gibbs with the trophy he missed out on last time. Almirola was delighted as he shared, “I’ve won a lot of races in my career through the late model ranks and stuff to get my that opportunity to go work for Coach and then from there it’s been a lot of ups and downs and a lot of struggles over 20 years in NASCAR and to cap off my career doing it the way I want to do it, with Coach, with this whole organization at Joe Gibbs Racing, it feels amazing and we’re going to celebrate this one.”

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So not only did Aric Almirola win big at the Dude Wipes 250 with the Dash 4 Cash payout, but he also put the icing on top of his JGR career. With the 40-year-old proving to the Xfinity Series lineup that they can be caught off guard at any moment, do you think the newcomers need to step things up?

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Written by:

Kabir Bajaj Ahmed

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Kabir Bajaj Ahmed is an F1 & NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. Known for his storytelling and extensive research skills, he has covered multiple stories on Dale Earnhardt Jr and his legendary dad, allowing readers to relive the thunderous days of 'The Intimidator'. Being a racer himself, Kabir can resonate with the motorsport world better than most.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta