TALLADEGA, Ala. – Aric Almirola said he put the disappointment of Dover behind him by Tuesday, but there’s a good chance that he won’t forget Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway in the rearview mirror anytime soon. That’s because he passed Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch on the final turn to win the 1000Bulbs.com 500 and clinch a spot in the Round of 8.
Almirola, who posted his second career win, was part of a dominant SHR foursome that swept the top four spots in qualifying and held those positions for much of the race. Busch won Stage 1 and Kevin Harvick took Stage 2, and it looked like they would post a 1-2-3-4 finish, but an overtime finish brought fuel mileage into the equation which spoiled that opportunity.
As the field was coming to the green for the final restart, Harvick hit pit road as he reported no fuel pressure. Busch was low on fuel as well, but opted to stay out as the leader. He held that spot with Almirola behind him until his tank finally ran out coming off the final turn. That enabled Almirola to go by and take the checkered flag with Clint Bowyer in second and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in third, giving Ford a sweep of the top three positions.
Ford was dominant at the front all afternoon, leading 184 of the 193 laps, and when caution came out for an accident that collected William Byron and Alex Bowman, it prevented a potential Ford sweep of the top nine positions.
In the end, Ford had five top-10 finishers as Joey Logano finished fifth and Paul Menard ninth. The decision to pit by Harvick resulted in a 28th-place finish, but secured his spot in the Round of 8 as he has an insurmountable 63-point advantage on ninth-place heading to Kansas. Unfortunately, the news wasn’t all good in the Ford camp as Brad Keselowski was forced to pit before the final restart for fuel, along with Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney. As a result, Keselowski finished 27th, which puts him 18 points behind eighth-place Martin Truex Jr. going into the elimination race. Blaney and his 29th-place showing puts him 10th in the Playoff standings, 22 points behind Truex.
The Round of 12 concludes at Kansas Speedway on Sunday at 2 p.m. on NBC.
MONSTER ENERGY CUP RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st -- Aric Almirola
2nd -- Clint Bowyer
3rd -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
4th -- Denny Hamlin
5th -- Joey Logano
6th -- AJ Alllmendinger
7th -- Jimmie Johnson
8th -- Erik Jones
9th -- Paul Menard
10th -- Regan Smith
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
13th --Trevor Bayne
14th --Kurt Busch
27th --Brad Keselowski
28th -- Kevin Harvick
29th -- Ryan Blaney
30th -- Matt DiBenedetto
39th -- David Ragan
40th -- Michael McDowell
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Bacon For Life Ford Fusion
“I felt like I kept giving it away and I was so disappointed for all these guys behind me because they’re awesome. 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.”
KURT BUSCH, No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion
“It was a very different Talladega for me. I really enjoyed leading the race, working with my teammates. I’m really happy a Stewart-Haas car won, but the four of us, I’ve never seen so much synergy. We knew we were gonna have to race when we got to Kansas. It would have been nice to have the win. We’re here to win. That’s what Monster Energy wants. Thanks to them. That’s what Team Haas wants. Thanks to Gene, Tony Stewart, everybody. But there were two human element calls there at the end. I don’t know why we ran an extra lap under yellow and why there wasn’t the yellow for a dispatch of an ambulance.”
GOOD TEAMWORK AND YOU HAVE A 30-POINT CUSHION GOING TO KANSAS. “That’s good stuff. We had 21 coming into this and if you can bank nine and get the heck out of Talladega, that sounds good. I’m headed home.”
THOUGHTS ON THE SITUATION AT THE END. “I was pulling out all the information I could. My team did an incredible job to tell me about the different situations and we came up a little shy on fuel. Wow, what a car. Thanks to Doug Yates and everybody at Ford. Very impressive.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion
“Those Stewart-Haas cars drove great and they were really, really fast. They showed it in qualifying and they were so committed to each other and they did a great job. They probably would have finished 1-2-3-4 if they didn’t run out of gas, so they were definitely quick. We had a pretty good Shell/Pennzoil Ford, not the winning car, but definitely a top-five car, the best of the rest you could call it. We scored some stage points and then a solid top five, so I’m proud of that. I don’t know where that puts us in points, but I think it puts us in a decent spot to where we can go to Kansas and race hard, so not that we didn’t race hard today, but it was just gonna take a lot to beat the teamwork and the cars that they had today.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE LAST LAP? “We ran out of gas from what I could tell, so we’ll go through and look at it and see.”
DO YOU FEEL GOOD GOING INTO KANSAS? “It’s certainly not ideal, but it is what it is.”
HOW COME THE SHR CARS RUN THAT SKEW SO GOOD? CAN YOU BUILD YOUR CARS LIKE THAT OR IS THERE SOMETHING ELSE THAT THEY HAVE THAT THEY’RE ABLE TO DO THAT? “It sounds like they have some really good engineering.”
IT SEEMED NOBODY WORKED WITH YOU WHEN YOU WERE TRYING TO MAKE A MOVE. “Yeah, the 88 was in there and he was kind of bonsai, win at all costs and just kept making moves that killed everybody else and didn’t help himself. Without that we were kind of shot. I kept trying to get my teammates with me and everytime we about got lined up somebody would bonsai them and we just couldn’t do anything.”
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion
“I’m just really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. Mine sputtered there on the fuel pressure and it dropped down in the red and they did the right thing of coming in and pitting and not taking a chance. You just need to put yourself in a position to where you’re good for next week and just glad that one of our cars won and happy for Aric.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU GUYS STAYED TOGETHER ALL DAY? “We planned on working together and I think knowing how fast our cars are it all worked out really well today, so sometimes that doesn’t all go as planned.”
ABOUT TODAY. “I want to thank everybody from the engine department at Roush Yates for all the work and effort that they put in to everything that goes on the race track. This is all about cars and people and engines and everything that goes and when you can have a group of guys that work together like we did today, you can control the situation in the race a lot more than just battling it out amongst each other. I’m really, really happy for Aric. He works his butt off. Those guys have done a great job all year and to see them get to Victory Lane is a lot of fun.”
WAS IT SURPRISING THE RACE WAS SORT OF CALM? “The race was pretty clean here last time too just because the handling comes into play so much and I think that’s really what makes it get strung out is when you have to start letting off the throttle.”
HOW SATISFYING IS IT FROM A POINTS STANDPOINT TO BE OK GOING INTO NEXT WEEK? “We’re good to the next round points-wise, so that was really our goal coming into today to try to do everything that we could to put ourselves in a position to go to Kansas and just race. That’s great for the team mentally to give the guys and Rodney and everybody kind of a mental break in this part of the season to just go to Kansas and be able to race the car and not have to worry about points or stage points or anything like that is what you want to do. For us, we did a good job last week, we did a great job today and wound up in a good position for Kansas. It’s all about survive and advance at this point.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 SunnyD Ford Fusion
“We definitely had to fight hard today. 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.”
DOUG YATES, CEO, Roush Yates Engines
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THAT WITH 9 GUYS UP THERE AT THE FRONT ALL DAY? “No, and it all started yesterday in qualifying with the Stewart-Haas guys sweeping the top four and they were just dominant. They executed their plan perfectly today. It was shaping up there at the end that we were gonna finish first through ninth, but we had that caution. I’m just so proud of all the hard work at Ford Performance, all the things that Mark Rushbrook is doing leading our group, and everybody at Roush Yates Engines and the dedication they put in to the plate racing here at Talladega and when we go to Daytona. It takes a total team effort and I’m just proud to be part of the team. It’s an incredible day here at Talladega.”
THESE PLATE RACES MEAN MORE TO YOU DON’T THEY? “Yeah, absolutely. My dad loved racing here. We raced here together a lot and it kind of started back when we had Davey Allison as our driver in the 28 car. It was interesting, I asked Aric yesterday I said, “Maybe we should put a 28 on the side of this car.’ You know he had a little bad luck last week. I thought he was gonna win the race and I asked him if he’d mind to carry that 28 to Victory Lane today and to be here with him is amazing. I’m trying to carry on what my dad, Robert Yates started, and our family tradition of plate racing and just really proud to have my daughter Olivia here with me today and carrying on the family tradition. Hopefully, we can celebrate more of these in the future, but we’re sure gonna take time to celebrate with Aric Almirola and Stewart-Haas today.”