Aric Almirola returned to Victory Lane for the first time since 2014 when he took the checkered flag in Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Almirola sped by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch, who ran out of fuel, to take the top spot on in the final turn. A crash broke out on the overtime last lap but the track remained green and Almirola was able to stay ahead to the finish line.
"That is so awesome! I’ve been so close so many times this year and this Smithfield team, everybody believing in me, Tony Stewart, Gene Haas, thank you for giving me a shot," Almirola said.
Busch was disappointed after leading a race-high 108 laps on how things finished.
"I did everything I could," Busch said. "Gotta thank Doug Yates for the Ford power, it was a different Talladega for me…There were two human element calls at the end, I don’t know why we ran an extra lap under yellow and I don’t know why an ambulance wasn’t dispatched." Read More
Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano rounded out the top five.
"That was a great day for Stewart-Haas," Bowyer said. "So happy and proud to be in those cars on a day like today…What a weekend on their behalf, that was the easiest Talladega of my life and it was because of the rockets they brought to race."
Kurt Busch won the first stage with Kevin Harvick winning the second. Stage Points
One race remains in the second round of the playoffs with Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman the bottom four in the standings.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now heads to Kansas Speedway next Sunday afternoon for the Hollywood Casino 400.
How Almirola Won: He was described as a "good teammate" by his Stewart-Haas Racing partners and Almirola reaped the dividends. He was able to stretch out enough fuel in the overtime finish to be in position to take the lead and power around Kurt Busch to the top spot on the final lap. That all added up to Almirola getting a second career Cup win and move on to the Round of 8 with the victory.
Who Had a Good Day: Bowyer scored his first top-five finish at Talladega since 2014…Hamlin had his sixth Talladega top-fove finish and first since October 2016…Logano has finished top five in four of the last five Talladega races.
Who Had a Bad Day: Tough day for the Front Row Motorsports duo of David Ragan and Michael McDowell, both of which were in the discussion as possible upset winners. Problems for both drivers led to finishes of 39th and 40th. Jamie McMurray’s struggles continued when he had a tire problem that caused him to spin a fate that also happened to his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson, who did rally back to finish 11th…Alex Bowman saw his playoff hopes take a hit literally and figuratively when he got caught in an accident that included JJ Yeley and set up the overtime finish…Matt DiBenedetto and Chase Elliott were in the accident that happened on the last lap of overtime.
What Else Happened: Teams working together was the absolute story of this race that began at the drop of the green flag with the Stewart-Haas Racing quartet running nose to tail at the front of the field for nearly the entire event. Others like Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing utilized the same strategy of riding together and not pushing the envelope for fear of falling out of line and dropping back or getting swept up in a multi-car accident. It resulted in one of the more tame Talladega races in some time.
Quotable: "If we wreck we wreck, if we win we win," Aric Almirola
Notables: Almirola was officially credited with leading one lap on Sunday…It was the third time in four plate races this year the winner led only one lap…Almirola was the 47th driver to win at Talladega…Johnson came back from a tire challenge and subsequent spin in his last Talladega race with crew chief Chad Knaus to finish seventh.