New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Aric Almirola wins wet and dark NASCAR Cup Series race

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With darkness closing in, Aric Almirola sprung to life late Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and pulled off the unexpected victory, the first of the year for Stewart-Haas Racing.

“There is no doubt we have struggled,” Almirola said. “But guess what? We’re going playoff racing.”

The victory was a required lift for Ford and played ruin with the playoff field with just four races left before the 16-driver field is set. The race was postponed almost two hours by downpour and NASCAR called it right on time because of murkiness, leaving it eight laps short of its scheduled conclusion.

New Hampshire was scheduled for 301 laps and 318.46 miles.

Almirola, who entered 27th in the points standings, dashed to his third career Cup triumph and first since 2018 and was the principal driver out of the SHR pack that incorporates Kevin Harvick, Cole Custer and Chase Briscoe to take the checkered flag. Almirola had just two top 10s this season.

“There have been so many people that have supported us through the crappiest year ever,” Almirola said. “Man, this feels so good for them.”

He separated the Team Penske party — Brad Keselowksi and Ryan Blaney had a good time to and fro for the lead at a certain point — and Christopher Bell couldn’t get him.

Ringer won the Xfinty Series race Saturday and was second. Keselowski, Joey Logano and Blaney made it a 3-4-5 completion for Team Penske.

Almirola laid his head on the vehicle in nearly shocked skepticism that he secured his season finisher spot.

“I love this race track,” he said. “I had this race won a couple of years ago and I lost it. We’ve been through so much and I just stood the test.”

Almirola snapped a 98-race winless streak and added New Hampshire to a rain-shortened win at Daytona in 2014 and Talladega in 2018 for his third success in 374 career races.

Passage drivers took five of the main six spots.

NASCAR began the race under wet conditions and that choice transformed into a disaster when Kyle Busch, the polesitter, turned on the smooth track and destroyed just six laps into the race. Joe Gibbs Racing partners Martin Truex Jr. what’s more, Denny Hamlin likewise turned and the warning was waved to stop the race. Truex and Hamlin got back to race. Busch’s race in the No. 18 Toyota was finished and he kept quiet on NASCAR’s call to begin the race.

“It never should have gone green to begin with, but then it kept getting worse and worse lap over lap,” Busch said. “We’ve been talking about it for two laps that it was raining. There’s no sense in saying what I want to say, it doesn’t do you any good.”

Hamlin said, “this is just a bad look.”

NASCAR leader VP Steve O’Donnell said on NBC Sports races have begun in the fog yet the track “got slick in a hurry.”

RAIN DELAY THEATER

New England Patriots return specialist Gunner Olszewski, the privileged speed vehicle driver, and drivers Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie threw the football around with fans during the postponement.

SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT FOR WINNING

Chase Elliott was all the while absorbing his Saturday night when he raced head-to-head against his NASCAR Hall of Fame father and won the Superstar Racing Experience at the old Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

He outwitted 65-year-old Bill Elliott despite the fact that his dad is a SRX standard. Tony Stewart was second and the senior Elliott was third.

“We were literally racing for the win of the race last night, and that was no fluke or joke or setup thing,” Chase Elliott said. “We were legitimately racing 1-2, which is incredible. Tony has been a hero of mine forever. To share the podium with both of them, I couldn’t have asked for anything to be any more special than that.”

Pursue Elliott, the prevailing Cup champion, said NASCAR should race at the Fairgrounds over the more far off Nashville Superspeedway.

“I’ve always felt that way, but that other track is not the answer,” he said. “The energy is right there in town, and we don’t need to search any further. That’s it for that city. No doubt.”

Kyle Larson won $175,000 and the renowned Kings Royal soil race in the World of Outlaws series on Saturday night and Harvick, who has his own management team, saw customer Miesha Tate emerge from retirement and win a UFC fight.

UP NEXT

Summer vacation! With NBC occupied with Olympics inclusion, NASCAR requires an uncommon fourteen day break and doesn’t return until Aug. 8 at Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen was bumped from the timetable last season in view of the pandemic. Elliott dominated the keep going race out and about course in 2019.