Almirola scores upset NASCAR Cup win in chaotic New Hampshire race
Aric Almirola claimed a surprise NASCAR Cup victory at New Hampshire, securing an unlikely berth in the playoffs during a rain-interrupted race.
Almirola entered Sunday’s race 27th in the series standings and with no chance to make the 16-driver playoffs without a victory.
With Stewart-Haas Racing’s struggles this season, Sunday’s race on the 1.056-mile oval did not appear to present an obvious opportunity to pick one up.
But with darkness closing in due to an earlier 1 hour, 42-minute rain delay and no lights at the track, Almirola moved into the lead for the first time on Lap 246 of a planned 301.
Almirola had caught Keselowski for second-place and passed him on Lap 237, trailing leader Blaney by about a second.
On Lap 244, Almirola had closed to Blaney’s rear bumper and began trying to work around him for the lead - which he duly did so to first stake his credentials in the lead.
Following a later round of green-flag pit stops, Almirola got around Brad Keselowski to reclaim the lead then held off a charging Christopher Bell for the win as NASCAR cut the race short to 293 laps due to darkness.
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Rheem/Watts, Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Ford Mustang eCascadia
Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images
The win is the first for Almirola since the 2018 season, third in his career and his first that didn’t come on a superspeedway.
Bell felt after the race that the reduced run-time had cost him a shot at a second victory of the season, although the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has already booked his place in the playoffs.
Keselowski, the winner of stage two, ended up third, while Penske team-mate Joey Logano rallied from a two-lap penalty - as his crew worked on his car during the red flag - to finish fourth as Blaney rounded out the top-five.
Blaney had secured victory in the first stage of the race, after the race was paused for rain after just seven laps of running.
Almirola’s SHR teammate Kevin Harvick finished sixth after contending for the stage-two victory with Keselowski,
Kyle Larson finished seventh ahead of Ross Chastain, while Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin - who was forced to pit twice after a lug nut got caught behind one of his wheels in the gap between the final two stages - completed the top 10.
NASCAR Cup Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 race results - 293 laps
|12||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||3:08'19.197||26.720|
|15||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Chevrolet||3:08'23.608||31.131|
|16||Kurt Busch||Chevrolet||3:07'54.130||1 Lap|
|17||Austin Dillon||Chevrolet||3:07'54.589||1 Lap|
|18||Chase Elliott||Chevrolet||3:07'55.999||1 Lap|
|19||Erik Jones||Chevrolet||3:07'58.634||1 Lap|
|20||Daniel Suarez||Chevrolet||3:08'02.095||1 Lap|
|21||William Byron||Chevrolet||3:08'02.155||1 Lap|
|22||Ryan Preece||Chevrolet||3:08'04.807||1 Lap|
|23||Corey Lajoie||Chevrolet||3:08'08.927||1 Lap|
|24||Ryan Newman||Ford||3:08'11.452||1 Lap|
|25||Michael McDowell||Ford||3:08'19.028||1 Lap|
|26||Bubba Wallace||Toyota||3:08'21.893||1 Lap|
|27||Chase Briscoe||Ford||3:07'57.049||2 Laps|
|28||Justin Haley||Chevrolet||3:08'11.241||2 Laps|
|29||Chris Buescher||Ford||3:07'59.104||3 Laps|
|30||B.J. McLeod||Ford||3:08'07.009||5 Laps|
|31||Cody Ware||Chevrolet||3:08'19.831||8 Laps|
|32||Anthony Alfredo||Ford||3:08'21.979||8 Laps|
|33||Garrett Smithley||Chevrolet||3:08'24.755||10 Laps|
|34||Josh Bilicki||Ford||3:08'08.591||13 Laps|
|35||Quin Houff||Chevrolet||2:18'22.869||106 Laps|
|36||James Davison||Chevrolet||40'45.024||253 Laps|
|37||Kyle Busch||Toyota||6'54.646||285 Laps|
|View full results|
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