Almirola ends winless streak with dramatic Talladega win

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Almirola ends winless streak with dramatic Talladega win
Jim Utter
By: Jim Utter
Oct 14, 2018, 9:48 PM

The ending didn’t go quite as Stewart-Haas Racing had planned but the result was just as important.

Aric Almirola took the lead on the final lap of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega when his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch ran out of fuel, and hung on for his first victory of the season.

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The win could not be more timely for Almirola, who is locked into the third round of the playoffs regardless of his performance next weekend at Kansas Speedway.

It’s Almirola’s second career win. He came within a lap of winning the season-opening Daytona 500 but was spun out by Austin Dillon.

"This is so awesome! It's Talladega! You guys are awesome," Almirola yelled to the fans after his win. "I've been so close so many times this year and this team, everybody believing in me, Tony Stewart, Gene Haas, (thank you) for giving me a chance.

"Four or five times this  year I feel like we've had a shot to win and haven't been able to seal the deal. To come here, a place that I love - I won an Xfinity race here last year - I just love racing at Talladega. 

"I came to this track with the mindset that they we were going to race and give them hell. If we wrecked, we wrecked, and if we win, we win - and we won!"

The win ended his 149-race winless streak in the Cup Series.

Almirola also praised the team effort from SHR and Ford.

"There are 400 employees back at Stewart-Haas Racing. There are close to 200 employees at Roush Yates Engine shop. Thank you," he said. "This was an incredible race for us. We were so committed to each other and so organized, and nobody in the field could touch us. It was us against the field. What an impressive run. I'm just proud to be the one on top today."

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Clint Bowyer finished second, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Joey Logano completed the top-five.

Until the overtime, Kurt Busch was leading his three SHR teammates – Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Almirola – into a finish that would have been decided among themselves.

Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, the cars that had had pit before the stage break remained on track with Brad Keselowski leading the way when Stage 3 went green on Lap 116.

Shortly after the restart, Jamie McMurray was penalized for forcing Paul Menard for going below the double-yellow line.

On Lap 123, William Byron got a shove and moved ahead of Keselowski and into the lead for the first time.

On Lap 127 Keselowski made a power move on Byron to take the lead going into Turn 3. Logano follows his Team Penske teammate into second.

Kurt Busch moved up into second on Lap 130 with help from Harvick.

On Lap 137, McMurray hit the wall entering the tri-oval and drove into the infield grass, where his No. 1 Chevrolet came to a rest.

All of the lead-lap cars elected to pit for fuel and tires with Kurt Busch the first driver off pit road. He led the way when the race returned to green with 47 laps remaining, followed by Keselowski, Harvick and Ryan Blaney.

Led by Kurt Busch, the four SHR cars soon got together in the bottom line and tried to break away from the rest of the field.

With 40 to go, Kurt Busch remained out front of Harvick and his SHR teammates with Menard running in fifth.

A tire got loose during a pit stop and ended up in the infield grass which forced NASCAR to call a caution on Lap 160. Some of the lead-lap cars elected to pit for fuel – many needed to make it to the finish.

 

Kurt Busch continued to lead the way followed by his three SHR teammates on the restart with 24 laps to go.

With 20 laps remaining, Kurt Busch continued to lead the way with the only change up front being Bowyer moving into the second position.

The SHR group remained unchallenged with 10 laps in the race.

With three laps to go, Alex Bowman hit the wall to start an incident that also collected Byron and J.J. Yeley. That sent the race into overtime.

On the two-lap restart, Kurt Busch led his two SHR teammates as Harvick, Keselowski and Blaney were forced to pit as they were low on fuel pressure.

Cla # Driver 4506 Laps Time Laps Led
1 10 United States Aric Almirola  Ford 193   1
2 14 United States Clint Bowyer  Ford 193 0.105  
3 17 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 193 0.311  
4 11 United States Denny Hamlin  Toyota 193 0.433  
5 22 United States Joey Logano  Ford 193 0.479  
6 47 United States A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 193 0.525 1
7 48 United States Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 193 0.528  
8 20 United States Erik Jones  Toyota 193 0.539  
9 21 United States Paul Menard  Ford 193 0.605  
10 95 United States Regan Smith  Chevrolet 193 0.631  
11 42 United States Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 193 0.664  
12 62 United States Brendan Gaughan  Chevrolet 193 0.679 1
13 6 United States Trevor Bayne  Ford 193 0.781  
14 41 United States Kurt Busch  Ford 193 2.664 108
15 13 United States Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 193 3.273  
16 19 Mexico Daniel Suarez  Toyota 193 3.348  
17 3 United States Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 193 3.361  
18 00 United States Joey Gase  Chevrolet 193 3.557  
19 43 United States Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 193 3.875  
20 24 United States William Byron  Chevrolet 193 5.364 5
21 37 United States Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 193 6.393  
22 99 United States Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 193 13.089  
23 78 United States Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 193 16.469  
24 15 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 193 17.108 1
25 31 United States Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 193 20.048  
26 18 United States Kyle Busch  Toyota 193 22.609 1
27 2 United States Brad Keselowski  Ford 193 28.400 21
28 4 United States Kevin Harvick  Ford 193 34.727 46
29 12 United States Ryan Blaney  Ford 193 1'07.968 6
30 32 United States Matt DiBenedetto  Ford 192 0.770 2
31 9 United States Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 192 0.942  
32 72 United States Corey Lajoie  Chevrolet 191 2 laps  
33 88 United States Alex Bowman  Chevrolet 191 2 laps  
34 7 Canada D.J. Kennington  Chevrolet 190 3 laps  
35 1 United States Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 186 7 laps  
36 23 United States J.J. Yeley  Ford 185 8 laps  
37 96 United States Jeffrey Earnhardt  Toyota 185 8 laps  
38 51 Cody Ware  Ford 185 8 laps  
39 38 United States David Ragan  Ford 173 20 laps  
40 34 United States Michael McDowell  Ford 155 38 laps  

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Harvick holds off SHR teammates for Stage 2 win at Talladega

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Harvick holds off SHR teammates for Stage 2 win at Talladega

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Kurt Busch criticizes NASCAR for "two missed calls" at finish

Kurt Busch criticizes NASCAR for "two missed calls" at finish
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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Talladega II
Drivers Aric Almirola
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing
Author Jim Utter
Article type Race report