DOMINANT DAY ENDS WITH HEARTBREAK FOR FUSIONS AT DAYTONA

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Aric Almirola was poised to win the Daytona 500, leading on the last lap before getting wrecked coming to the checkered flag, part of a disappointing finish to the day for Ford.
The Blue Oval crew was led in the final results by Joey Logano, Paul Menard and Ryan Blaney. The Team Penske & Wood Brothers trio came home fourth, sixth and seventh, part of an afternoon and evening that saw Ford have the most dominant cars by far at the Great American Race.
In fact, Blaney led a race-best 189 laps, outpacing the next driver in laps led by 177 but found himself in a late race wreck that sent him to pit road with damage and took out then front-runner Kurt Busch.
Michael McDowell came home ninth to round out the top-10 Fords. Almirola wound up 11th despite the last lap accident.
Trevor Bayne rebounded from an up and down day to finish 13th and Clint Bowyer, who was down a cylinder for the second half of the race, was able to finish 15th.
The stout Fords of Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick saw their day end early, wrecking out in the first big one of the day on lap 102.
The Ford Performance teams will head to Atlanta next Sunday afternoon for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Green flag is at 2 pm (ET) on Fox.

ARIC ALMIROLA (No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion) — Finishing Position: 11th
WHAT HAPPENED AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON AUSTIN DILLON’S MOVE? “It was the last lap and we’re all trying to win the Daytona 500. It’s the biggest race of the year and it’s a career-changing race, so we were just racing really aggressively. I put every move I knew to try and stay in the lead and, unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to hold on. He got to my back bumper and was pushing and just hooked me. My heart is broken, but the beauty is we’ll go to Atlanta and we’ve got an incredible race team here at Stewart-Haas Racing and we’ll have another shot next week.”

WAS DILLON DRIVING TOO AGGRESSIVELY? “He’s not driving too aggressively, he’s trying to win the Daytona 500 just like I was. I saw him come with the momentum and I pulled up to block and did exactly what I needed to do to try to win the Daytona 500. I wasn’t gonna just let him have it. I wasn’t gonna just stay on the bottom and let him rail the outside, so I blocked and he got to my bumper and pushed and I thought I was still gonna be OK and somehow I got hooked. I still haven’t seen the replay, so I don’t know what happened, but I’m just devastated. I really thought we were gonna start this relationship off with Stewart Haas Racing in Victory Lane and get Smithfield and Ford and everybody to Victory Lane, but I’m really proud of everybody. That was a back up car and we were a half a lap away from winning the Daytona 500. I’m really proud of that. I’m still very excited. I’m not gonna let that get me down. We’ve got an incredible race team and I’m gonna go to Atlanta and we’re gonna have good race cars there and we’ll have a shot to win next week. That’s something I’ve not had in my career, where I feel like every week I get on the plane to go to the race track I feel like we’re gonna have a shot to go win. This is just one race. It might be the biggest race and this one is gonna hurt for a while, but I think next week we’ll have another shot.”

YOU HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO BLOCK THERE? “Yeah. I’m doing everything I can to win the Daytona 500. If that was lap five, I probably wouldn’t have pulled that block, but it was the last lap of the Daytona 500 and I was doing everything I could to try and win. I wanted to win the Daytona 500.”

YOU’RE STILL SMILING, THOUGH. I’M SURPRISED. “I’ve got an incredible opportunity with Stewart-Haas Racing and Smithfield and everybody’s support at Ford, so I’ve got a lot to be happy about. I’ve got a lot to look forward to. My boss, Tony Stewart, came in the infield care center and he gave me a big hug and he said, ‘The good news is we have a whole lot more of this to look forward to.’ We’ll move on and go to the next race.”

RYAN BLANEY (No. 12 Menards/Peak Ford Fusion) — Finishing Position: 7th
“It was just hard racing. You say it all day. I was trying to be aggressive blocking the lead and kind of fell back and got a good run back up towards it. Man, the 11 blocked the 41 and the 41 kind of went high last minute and I was on his left rear and I turned him. I feel bad about that. He kinda changed lanes last minute and I couldn’t react quick enough. It stinks. We led a lot of laps. It just wasn’t meant to be. But it was a good showing. Hopefully we go into Atlanta and have a decent run.”

JOEY LOGANO (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion) — Finishing Position: 4th
“There were a lot of ups and downs all day for us. Getting the left rear fender rub, needing to pit, going down a lap, getting the Lucky Dog, scoring points in that stage was amazing. To get ourselves back in position where we needed to be behind Blaney, our teammate, to try to control the race and win. It was a mental mistake on pit road. My fault. Can’t pick a worse time to do that. Once you are back there, you are kind of back there in the garbage. It was getting crazy. All the holes close up at the end of the race and it is hard to make progress and the crashes happen more often. We were able to get a top-five out of it, which is nice for the Shell Pennzoil team. Maybe we would have gotten caught up in a crash if I stayed up front but overall I just feel like I let us down a little bit.”

PAUL MENARD (No. 21 Omnicraft Ford Fusion) — Finishing Position: 6th
TALK ABOUT YOUR RUN: “We had a really fast Omnicraft Ford today. These guys are awesome. Great race car. I ran upfront the first-half of the race. I got shuffled out. Denny (Hamlin) bumped me in Turn 3 and got loose and lost all my track position. I just kept fighting from there to get my track position back. Great run for us. We had shot to win the Daytona 500 at the end of the race. We just came up short. The Omnicraft Ford Fusion was a rocket ship. It was really fun tonight. I’m so proud of this team. The car was fast all day. We survived and were able to bring it back home in one piece.”
TALK ABOUT HAVING A SHOT TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500: “We were so fast. I just wasn’t able to get the restart that we wanted on the green-white checkered. I had a bit of a run, he blocked and just got outrun on the outside.”

YOU HAVE TO BE HAPPY THAT YOU SCORED STAGE POINTS IN ALL THREE ROUNDS: “It was huge. To score points in all three stages is awesome. That’s good for the overall picture. I had a shot at a stage win. It was a good points day for sure.”

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