Aric Almirola Wins In Overtime At Talladega To Advance In The NASCAR Playoffs

by October 14, 2018 0 comments

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Aric Almirola claimed his first victory of the season in Sunday’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway after a dominant performance by all four Stewart-Haas Racing Ford teams.

After a late-race caution left the leaders short on fuel in NASCAR Overtime, Almirola made a final-lap pass on teammate Kurt Busch, when the No. 41 Monster Energy Ford ran out of fuel after taking the white flag. Almirola held off the field and took the checkered flag in the No. 10 Smithfield Bacon for Life Ford, his first win racing for Stewart Haas Racing and the second of his series career.

“I felt like I kept giving it away and I was so disappointed for all these guys behind me because they’re awesome,” said Almirola after experiencing defeat at Dover International Speedway last weekend. “They’re the best. I’m with the best team in the garage and I felt like I kept letting them down not winning a race. Today, the Good Lord was shining on us and we went to Victory Lane. We did it, finally.”

Almirola’s win on Sunday places him into the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Playoffs.

“Coming into this round, I felt like the tracks lined up really well for me,” Almirola said. “I love Dover. I absolutely love going to that place. It’s one of my favorite racetracks. I enjoy and like coming to Talladega. I feel like it’s an opportunity for me to go win. I really enjoy Kansas. Even though I broke my back there, I remember in 2012 showing up there in October and dominating the beginning part of that race until I blew a right front. That was the first time in may career in the Cup Series at Kansas that I had led any real laps to speak of, to be running up front.

“From that point forward, I’ve always enjoyed Kansas and been excited about going to that racetrack since that day. I look forward to all the rest of these racetracks. I feel like they kind of suit well for me and my race team.”

Over the course of the race that ended with 193 laps total, Stewart Haas Racing drivers Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick led a combined 154 laps. Almirola led just one lap, the final one.

On almost every restart in the event, the four drivers of the Ford team were able to line up in an effort to form a straight line and pull away from the field. On multiple occasions, they broke away and left the field far behind them on the giant superspeedway.

Before the final restart for NASCAR Overtime was waved green, Harvick was forced to bail off of the track and onto pit road giving up a chance for the win. It was up to Kurt Busch to then lead the minimized group from the team to pull away. When Busch ran out of gas, it was Almirola and Clint Bowyer’s turn to battle for the win and hold off competitors after such a dominant team performance.

Bowyer didn’t lead any laps on Sunday, but he finished in second after running within the top-four among his teammates for most of the race.

“Those cars were so fast,” Bowyer said. “I’ve seen other guys, other teams, other organizations put that together before. The Hendrick organization has been there before, the Gibbs cars have done that before. It was our turn, you know what I mean? The Penske cars have done that before.

“We finally got all four cars to the cream of the crop. Oh my gosh, was it awesome. To be able to work together like that, we could hold on. They get runs on you and everything else, but as long as you stayed your ground, stayed in line, we’d prevail.”

Following behind the Stewart-Haas Racing drivers, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was able to capitalize on the final restart and drive up to the third position in his No.17 SunnyD Ford.

“We definitely had to fight hard today,” Stenhouse said. “We weren’t near as good as we normally are at the speedways, so that was a real bummer, but we fought hard and made a lot of adjustments to try and make our car faster. It seemed to work a little bit there and obviously fell on the lucky side of having to pit and having enough fuel, so everything worked out good for us today to get that good finish and back-to-back top 10s is a start.”

Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano completed in the top-five. AJ Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Paul Menard and Regan Smith rounded out the top-10.

The race remained calm for many laps, clearly out of character for Talladega. With just eight cautions for a total of 32 laps, only one caution flag was thrown for a multi-car incident, which came on lap 187, when Alex Bowman went for a spin and collected several cars, prompting NASCAR Overtime.

Heading into the final race of the Round of 12, Almirola and Dover winner, Chase Elliott are the only two drivers locked into the Round of 8. Harvick is third 63 points ahead of the cutline, followed by Kyle Busch (+46), Joey Logano (+39), Kurt Busch (+30), Clint Bowyer (+21), Martin Truex Jr. (+18), Brad Keselowski (-18), Ryan Blaney (-22), Kyle Larson (-26) and Alex Bowman (-68).

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now heads to Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday, October 21. Live coverage will broadcast on NBC and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 2 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

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