But Almirola is still enjoying the best season of his young career. He is 18th in the standings, with five top 10s, and hopes to crash the Chase party with a win in one of the final eight races.
He qualified fifth in the No. 43 Ford for Sunday's Chase race at Dover. It's rare for non-Chase drivers to win during the final 10 races, but Almirola is determined to bust through for Richard Petty Motorsports.
"I think everybody is under the same understanding that they don't have a separate playoff system," Almirola said. "There aren't 12 or 13 guys going out there to race their own race. There are 43 guys out there, and everybody is on the same agenda. Everybody wants to win, so I don't particularly race any different. I try to respect everybody, whether they're in the Chase or not, but at the end of the day I get paid to try to go out and win races, and that's what I'm going to do."
Almirola has bounced around NASCAR's top three circuits, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. before landing at RPM. Of Cuban decent, he was one of the first in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program.
He wants to find the winning combination with crew chief Todd Parrott.
"We've got to do a better job of that, and I feel like we've seen moments where that's been really good, but we haven't done it on a consistent basis," Almirola said.