Almirola hangs on for XFINITY win at Talladega – Nascar

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Aric Almirola emerged from a late-race scramble Saturday to score a NASCAR XFINITY Series win at Talladega Superspeedway.

Almirola led three times for 13 of the 113 laps in the Biagi-DenBeste No. 98 Ford to win the Sparks Energy 300. His first victory of the season was the third win of his XFINITY career and his first on the 2.66-mile Alabama track.

“They let me run this thing seven or eight times a year and I have so much fun, especially at the speedway races,” said Almirola, making just his fourth XFINITY start of the season. “Doug Yates brings some awesome horsepower and our Ford Mustang was super-fast.  I knew it right from the beginning of practice.”

Series points leader Elliott Sadler finished second, just .142 seconds behind at the finish. Joey Logano, Ben Kennedy and Erik Jones completed the top five.

The race was slowed by a pair of multi-car crashes that caused a red flag in each of the opening stages. The first snared nine cars, triggered by contact involving Tyler Reddick, Brennan Poole and Daniel Suarez on the end of the backstraight on Lap 20.

Eight more cars wound up damaged by the second big stack-up, which eliminated several contenders, including Daytona XFINITY winner Ryan Reed and first-time pole starter Blake Koch. Almirola, the Stage 1 winner, accepted the blame for the crash after nudging Reed sideways on Lap 49, the final lap before the Stage 2 break.

“I have a lot of respect for him as a driver and as a person, but that just wasn’t cool,” Reed said of Almirola. “All he had to do was back off a little bit. He just got so aggressive with that push and then didn’t hit us square. He hit us off to the right side and when that happened the car was out from underneath me before I knew it.”

Said Almirola: “I feel really bad about the 16 (Reed). I got in the back of the 16 and tore up a lot of cars there, but I got a good push and I got in the back of him. I was trying to help him, trying to make the Fords work together and I hooked him, so I feel sorry about that.”

The XFINITY Series’ next race is scheduled for May 27 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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