Aric Almirola says he feels he let his team down so many times this season, but on Sunday at Talladega he finally sealed the deal when he won the 1000Bulbs.com 500.
The win was Almirola's first of 2018 and guarantees him a spot in the next round of the NASCAR playoffs.
He was part of a four-car Ford tandem that dominated the entire race. "At Talladega. I've been so close so many times this year". Before that restart, Harvick, who had led 46 laps, had to pit for fuel. Still, those decisions affected the results of several playoff drivers, including Busch, who finished in 14th place while running on fumes.
Almirola almost won the season-opening Daytona 500 but was wrecked while leading on the final lap.
Almirola was part of a dominant performance by Stewart-Haas Racing, with team members winning every stage of the race and the overall title.
SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said the effort started after Dover when the drivers were urged to work together at Talladega as teammates. All four SHR drivers are in the playoffs and trying to position themselves to advance next week into the third round. Stage two went to Kevin Harvick.
Bowman crashed in the closing laps, meaning he is absolutely facing a must-win scenario next Sunday. Larson was already in danger of being knocked out of the playoff field in next week's elimination race at Kansas.
Larson had been having a long weekend at Talladega because his Chevrolet lacked speed. He had to start at the back of the field because of unapproved changes to his auto after inspection. As he tried to correct the swerve, Johnson's vehicle went spinning onto the apron and hitting the inside wall.
Hendrick Motorsports announced earlier this week that Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus will split at the end of this season, their 17th together. Note: won a race in the round of 16.
Kurt Busch has led a Stewart-Haas Racing sweep of the first stage of Sunday's playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway. In particular, Kurt Busch expressed his displeasure at what he saw as inconsistent decisions to start and stop the race. Then came another accident, while he was still leading in overtime, and NASCAR did not call a caution.
Clint Bowyer was second in the stage, followed by Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola. They finished in second and fifth in their #14 Ford and #22 Ford, respectively, and both drivers now sit ahead of the round of 8 cut line.
9th #2 Brad Keselowski 3065 points -18 below the cutoff, has one stage win. "We were able to salvage a decent finish, but the Fords are so fast here and can rack up a lot of stage points". The lowest finishing round of 12 who now sits above the round of 8 cut line but has not yet clinched a spot in the round of 8 was Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick. On the restart Kurt Busch held onto the lead with Almirola right behind him and it looked like he was heading for the win when his engine sputtered, opening the way for Almirola to zip by him and cross the finish line.105 ahead of teammate Clint Bowyer.