Ryan Blaney appeared set to score his first career win, but Martin Truex Jr. was better over a sequence of late restarts to pick up the Go Bowling 400 victory Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, a race marred by a multi-car accident that sent Aric Almirola to hospital.
The win was redemption for Truex, who dominated this race a year ago before a fluky parts failure during a late pit stop cost him the potential victory. He led a race-high 104 of a possible 267 laps Saturday night to take his second win of the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series season.
“This team rocks, man, they’re so good,” Truex said. “We just stuck with it all night. We had an awesome race car. There’s times there we looked like we weren’t going to have a shot at it. We just kept fighting and made it happen.”
Brad Keselowski rallied from a loose wheel earlier in the race that dropped him two laps behind to finish second, followed by Blaney, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch, the defending race winner.
Beginning in the second stage, Blaney, who started on the pole, took control of the race leading 83 laps in total. His Wood Brothers Racing Ford was particularly strong on short runs, an advantage on a night that featured 15 cautions, which tied the track record.
It was short run, however, where Truex made his winning pass. On a restart with 19 laps remaining, he executed a nifty three-wide maneuver to grab a lead he wouldn’t relinquish despite two additional cautions that gave Blaney opportunities to get back around.
“You do 10 restarts, eight of them you get right, two of them you screw up,” Truex said. “You just hope the ones you screw up aren’t for the win. Today, we were able to get those ones right when it mattered.”
Along with Danica Patrick and Joey Logano, Almirola was involved in a fiery crash that saw all three drivers sustain significant impacts. Both Patrick and Logano evaluated by NASCAR’s medical team on-site and were released from the infield care center, while Almirola was airlifted alert and awake to the University of Kansas Medical Center.
The crash began when a mechanical failure believed to be a broken right-front brake rotor caused Logano’s car to veer into Patrick’s No. 10 Ford, sending her head-on into the outside Turn 2 wall. Almirola was trailing the accident and appeared to lose control as he came upon the crash site, skidding into the cars of Patrick and Logano. That contact caused a fireball to engulf Patrick’s car, which quickly extinguished.
“Something broke on my car,” Logano said. “I noticed it as I was trying to go in. I tried to back it off but you’re going 215 [mph] and it’s hard to check up. The car just took a bit step sideways into the corner and I hooked Danica.”
Immediately Almirola dropped the window net signifying that he was conscious, but track workers needed to cut the roof off the No. 43 car to extract the 33-year-old Richard Petty Motorsports driver. He was then removed from the car on a backboard and taken to an awaiting helicopter.
“I hope Aric is alright,” Logano said. “That’s the last thing you want to see, a big hit like that for anyone. It’s unfortunate for everyone. Let’s hope that Aric is alright.”