NASCAR veteran scores first Joe Gibbs Racing win in 17 years – sort of

Aric Almirola (sort of) won a NASCAR Xfinity Series race for Joe Gibbs Racing back in 2007. He officially found himself in victory lane on Saturday night at Martinsville Speedway.
Aric Almirola, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR
Aric Almirola, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR / James Gilbert/GettyImages

After spending the last six seasons competing for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, Aric Almirola opted to take on a new role in 2024, joining Joe Gibbs Racing's Xfinity Series team in a part-time capacity.

The now 40-year-old Fort Walton Beach, Florida native got his start in the Xfinity Series -- and in the Cup Series, in fact -- with Joe Gibbs' team. He competed in select Xfinity Series races for the team from 2005 to 2007 and made his Cup Series debut with the organization in 2007.

In 2007, he scored his first career NASCAR national series win (sort of) for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series race at the Milwaukee Mile. He started that race after taking the pole position, but it was Denny Hamlin who ultimately finished it in the same car to take the win. Almirola owns the victory when it comes to the record books.

Aric Almirola gets first JGR win in 17 years (or...all-time?)

On Saturday night, he officially found himself in victory lane with Joe Gibbs Racing, wheeling the No. 20 Toyota to the win under caution at Martinsville Speedway in his fourth start of the year.

Almirola dominated the race, leading 148 of 251 laps around the four-turn, 0.526-mile (0.847-kilometer) Ridgeway, Virginia oval en route to the checkered flag. He won stage one and placed second in stage two, but he did not take the lead for the sixth and final time until after a late restart, when he got by JR Motorsports' Sam Mayer.

His DUDE Wipes 250 win also netted him a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

Almirola returned to the Xfinity Series last season for his first two starts since 2018, first with SS-Green Light Racing at Circuit of the Americas and then with RSS Racing at Sonoma Raceway. He won at Sonoma, giving him his first win since April 2017 when he won for Biagi-DenBeste Racing at Talladega Superspeedway.

It's safe to say that last year was a sign of things to come, and his decision to come back to the Xfinity Series after back-to-back Cup Series seasons without a playoff appearance has already paid off.

Almirola's first full-fledged Xfinity Series win came in July 2016, when he also competed for Biagi-DenBeste Racing at Daytona International Speedway. His first career Cup Series win came at Daytona for Richard Petty Motorsports in July 2014. He won twice in the Cup Series for Stewart-Haas Racing, first at Talladega in October 2018 and then at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July 2021.

His Martinsville Speedway win marks just the second time in his career he has won twice in less than a year, and it came just one week after a promising runner-up finish at Richmond Raceway.

Almirola's next scheduled start isn't until the regular season finale at Bristol Motor Speedway in September, but he is expected to run multiple races before then. He is slated to run the season's final eight races behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota, including all seven postseason events.

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His first two starts of the season came both behind the wheel of the No. 19 Toyota, when he finished in 12th and 31st place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway, respectively.