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Almirola wins Talladega in Stewart-Haas rout

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Aric Almirola capped a Stewart-Haas Racing rout at Talladega Superspeedway with an overtime victory that earned him an automatic berth into the third round of NASCAR’s playoffs.

Almirola was part of the four-car SHR contingent that was untouchable all weekend at Talladega. The four Fords swept qualifying, won every stage of Sunday’s race and used teamwork to pull away from the field.

SHR had the race in control until a caution with three laps remaining sent the race into overtime. Then the fuel pressure light on Kurt Busch‘s car began to flicker, and Kevin Harvick‘s light followed. As the field roared to the green flag, Harvick forfeited a shot at victory by pulling off the track to get enough gas to make it to the finish.

Busch stayed out as the leader with Almirola and Clint Bowyer looking for a slot to slip past him for the victory. Then Busch ran out of gas headed to the checkered flag and Almirola zipped past him for his first victory of the season, first since joining SHR this year as the replacement for Danica Patrick.

Almirola thought he had last week’s race at Dover won until a caution triggered by teammate Bowyer ruined his shot at the victory. A week later, he got his checkered flag and his stamp into the round of eight into the playoffs.

“I just love racing at Talladega and I came to the track with the mindset that we were going to go race and we were going to go give them hell, and if we wrecked, we wrecked,” Almirola said. “And if we win, we win. And we won. What a cool time to do it, too.”

Bowyer finished second, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in a Ford from Roush Fenway Racing.

Busch faded to 14th and Harvick wound up 28th — a disappointing end because SHR was poised for a 1-2-3-4 finish before the race went to overtime.

UP NEXT: The elimination race of the second round of the playoffs, at Kansas Speedway, where Kevin Harvick won in May and Martin Truex Jr. won last October. Harvick, Truex and Kyle Busch have combined to win the last five races at Kansas.

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