Talladega wreck puts Almirola in playoff hole

TALLADEGA, Ala. — As the old saying goes, Talladega giveth and Talladega taketh away. Aric Almirola knows this too well. In 2018, Talladega Superspeedway gaveth to him when he punched his ticket to the Round of 8 with a win. Sunday at Talladega, however, tooketh away from him.

Almirola led the YellaWood 500, Sunday, with three laps to go in Stage 1. Exiting Turn 2, Joey Logano pulled to Alex Bowman‘s bumper and pushed him down the backstretch. They caught Almirola while he wasn’t looking in his mirror, made contact with his right-rear corner panel and turned him into the outside wall.

This triggered a five-car incident on Lap 58.

“I’m just disappointed,” he said. “We were doing everything we needed to do. We were closing in to the end of stage one and it looked like we were gonna score a lot of points there, which is exactly what we needed to do.”

Almirola finished the day 37th. He led three times for a total of nine laps.

The rate of attrition limited the points hole Almirola will face next Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With 27 points between him and Kyle Busch in ninth, however, he’s realistically in a must-win situation.

Compounding the matter, he earned zero stage points.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “I had a lot of confidence going into today. I thought we were gonna have a good shot to win. Our car was so fast, but unfortunately the Good Lord had different plans for us today. We’ll go onto the Roval and try one more time.”

Austin Dillon finished the best of the drivers involved in that wreck, coming home with a 12th-place finish. Alex Bowman rebounded and finished 14th, despite the damage done to his left-front wheel well. Busch and Logano were caught up in late-race wrecks that relegated them to 26th (Logano) and 27th (Busch).