Aric Almirola Wins 3rd Xfinity Career Race at Talladega

After the stint of short-track races, we were at the opposite end of the spectrum at Talladega Superspeedway for the Xfinity Sparks Energy 300 race. This track has always rewarded aggressiveness and chance taking, so the race had the potential to show a first-time winner here in Alabama – and it started with Koch’s first ever race pole in his 8 year career.

Being able to bump draft was so important here as no bumper to bumper contact was allowed, and on lap 1, we saw it start to happen when Kahne got ahead of Kennedy and Logano from the green flag. Allgaier was up to 2nd, followed by Sadler in 3rd. Kennedy swapped back with Sadler as aggression started to come into play.

On lap 3, it was Kahne ahead of Kennedy and Koch. There was three-wide racing and the cars were bunched up nicely as they all used their aerodynamics and drafting in order to get momentum. The cars showed a lot of energy as drivers were swapping between grooves, and not simply sticking to the bottom. Sadler nearly wrecked out as he hit the wall, when Logano got into the back of him on lap 5. The cars were all terribly unstable. Kennedy lead the way on lap 6.

Shortly after with 17 laps to go, the yellow flag came out for fluid on the track, possibly from Ray Black Jr. Cars took the chance to pit, and Sadler had some right-side damage. With 12 to go in the Stage, Kahne was leading ahead of Suarez and Koch. Suarez then gained a load of momentum with 11 to go on the outside lane and stormed ahead of Logano and Kahne. Logano and Suarez were then doing a lot of swapping around for the top spot with 9 laps to go. With 6 laps to go, it was Logano who was leading in front of Almirola and Kahne. There had already been seven different lead changes by five different drivers.

The “big one” struck when there was a huge wreck with 5 laps to go in Stage 1. It took out Hemric, Bubba, Poole, Lagasse, Brandon Jones, Suarez, Reddick and the whole back end of the field consisting of 9 cars in total. The Xfinity Twitter even went so far as to post a video of the crash with the caption “not enough Twitter Characters to list everyone involved.” It was some bump drafting that had gone wrong when Poole came up to side draft from the middle. Contact was made and the chain reaction was set into motion. The red flag came out to clean up the track.

Restarting with 2 laps to go, Almirola was on the pole, followed by E Jones and Logano. The back half of the field was incredibly disorganised from the restart. With 1 lap to go, Logano thought he had a run as he moved off the bottom groove to the middle. It didn’t pay off as Allgaier filled Logano’s spot and took 2nd off him for half a lap. Almirola held onto the lead and won ahead of Logano, Allgaier, E Jones, Koch, Annett, Gaughan, Kahne, Yeley and Sieg in the top 10.

Ahead of Stage 2, Almirola led drivers who hadn’t pitted during the caution, down pit road. Many stayed out. Stage 2 started on lap 33 and Annett and Ty Dillon were on the front row. Custer and Ty were running in different lanes and were swapping over for 2nd until Ty got some incredible momentum on lap 9 and flew ahead and into 1st, in front of Logano and Reed. It was three-wide and Logano had impressively worked his way up from outside the top 10 to 2nd in just a couple of laps.

Lagasse showed how effective the draft was, because even with a very wounded car, he was able to still run within the lead pack. Allgaier helped Logano by pushing from behind and Logano took the lead with 11 laps left. With 4 to go, the pace was intensifying and Logano lost 1st place to E Jones 1 lap later. Allgaier, and Reed were also being incredibly aggressive as they were all fighting for 1st. Kasey Kahne was added into that top mix and with 2 to go and Allgaier was leading ahead of team mate Kahne and Ty Dillon.

On the final lap, Ryan Reed was out and a ginormous wreck happened. Custer, Koch, Reed were all involved. Reed received contact from behind in a bump draft that went wrong by Almirola. Reed was heard over his radio saying he didn’t know what happened. Almirola was heard over the radio saying “I’m sorry. I was just trying to give him a little push. It was my bad.” Allgaier won the stage under caution. Followed by Ty Dillon, Kahne, Almirola, Logano, E Jones, Reddick, Annett, Kennedy and Tifft in the top 10.

With 62 laps to go in Stage 3, drivers took to pit road. With 58 laps to go, the green flag was in the air as Allgaier took the outside lane and got a good push from Ty Dillon behind him. He led ahead of E Jones and Ty Dillon. Further back and there was some three-wide racing as drivers bunched up and fanned out across the track. With 53 laps to go, Kahne was leading ahead of Allgaier and Logano. All the cars were chopping and changing for positions before getting four-wide further back. Darrell Wallace Jr had gained 14 spots from the restart with 51 laps to go. He was the biggest mover and was now inside the top 10.

The first 6 spots had now broken away from the rest of the field with 44 to go, and drivers were due to pit very soon. The first 6 drivers stayed in single file as the pit window opened, and Erik Jones and Almirola stayed out with 43 to go. Team mates Kahne and Allgaier made contact on pit road despite Allgaier’s great entry. With 42 to go, Erik and Almirola made a trip down pit road too.

With 36 laps to go, J Green was leading ahead of Suarez and Yeley temporarily until the pit cycle was complete. Behind them, Logano flared out and up the track in a daring move with 33 to go in order to shake the debris off his grill. He lost some momentum and had to slot back into the pack. He did well to keep up and tag back onto the end.

Ty Dillon dropped all the way from top 5 down to 24th after an unscheduled pit stop due to his front right tyre going flat. He did well to fan out and get down pit road safely and before substantial damage happened. With 24 laps to go the rest of the scheduled green flag pit stops happened – including the front runners who were yet to pit.

Chastain inherited the lead very briefly before Allgaier took the lead ahead of E Jones and Annett with 23 laps to go. With 16 laps to go, another caution came out, making that the 5th of the day. This was for debris on the track. Some guys took to pit road shortly after to make one final stop before the crucial last laps of this race.

Back to green with 12 to go and it was Allgaier and E Jones on the front row. Allgaier took the lead ahead of Sadler and Sieg. The driving was incredibly close as the cars closed up and swapped grooves and positions. It was a metal cluster of speed and aggression that was being handled brilliantly by these talented drivers.

With 9 to go, Logano managed to get momentum from Almirola and gain that top spot with Almirola just behind. It was four-wide and the field had split into a smaller pack at the front and a bigger pack further back. Erik Jones was hungry for the lead as managed to lead very briefly before Logano snatched it back from his grasp. With 5 to go, Erik Jones then got an incredible surge of energy and blasted ahead of the pack with Almirola and Sieg behind him. Logano dropped back and was swallowed up into a three-wide formation by the jaws at the front of the pack.

EAL

With 4 to go, Logano was a daringly close behind Almirola and they got a massive rush of momentum which swung Almirola right up to 1st. Logano then fell back into the pack. With 2 to go, furiousness was at an all-race high and drivers were pushing harder than ever. Almirola made some bold blocks ahead of Logano and Sadler. There was a wreck on the final lap involving Bubba Wallace and a few other drivers, but the green flag stayed out as drivers crossed the finish line. It was Almirola who won ahead of Sadler, Logano, Kennedy. E Jones, Tifft, Annett, and Allgaier. This was Almirola’s 3rd win of his Xfinity racing career and it was for an underdog team.