Almirola had battled back from an oil leak earlier in the race to put himself back into the discussion, only to fade in the closing laps.
“Yeah, no, it was frustrating,” said the Stewart-Haas Racing driver. “Disappointed to have it end like that just because we had battled so much adversity throughout the night, got into a position where we were running top 10, doing what we were needing to do.
“That caution came out at the end where we had 18 laps on our tires. We stayed out. For whatever reason when we fired off on those tires, the car was up on the top of the racetrack skating. Wouldn’t turn. Struggling … I don’t know. That’s not the way we wanted it to end. But we’ll keep going and battle it out the rest of the Playoffs and see if we can’t finish inside the top 10 in points.”
Almirola’s 18th-place result means he missed the Round of 12 by just two points, as did Tyler Reddick who finished 12th in the race.
The RCR driver said of the elimination: “Yeah, unfortunately we certainly gave up more than two spots over the course of this first round. Darlington, getting stuck down a lap at Richmond. Not just one key opportunity, but there was a number that was the difference.
“One situation, the situation tonight, doesn’t really stick out as the one that makes it sting. It was just unfortunate getting to the Playoffs, we don’t really have the pace that we had to just point our way into the Playoffs leaderboard.”
Kurt Busch was the surprise of the night. After a strong run at Darlington and a top-five derailed by a cut tire at Richmond, many thought Busch would be able to escape elimination at Bristol. The veteran driver has won there six times and the Chip Ganassi Racing cars have been fast as of late. But the No. 1 machine remained mired in the middle of the field for most of the race, scoring no stage points and slipping out of the playoffs. He missed it by six points after a 19th-place finish at Bristol.
Michael McDowell was the fourth and final driver to be eliminated. He, like Almirola was a driver who forced their way into the postseason with a surprise win. He struggled for results in the first round and ended up far out of the running, placing 24th at Bristol.
The last driver in was William Byron, who climbed out of an 18-point deficit to to make it in by just two points. He was able to score points in both stages and finish third in the race.