Aric Almirola wins Xfinity race at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Aric Almirola held off Elliott Sadler and Joey Logano on the last lap to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway.

It is Almirola’s third career series win. 

This victory is special for Almirola. He’s given credit for winning at Milwaukee in 2007 because he started that race but he was pulled from the car when Denny Hamlin arrived from Sonoma and drove the car to the win. Last July, Almirola won at Daytona, nosing Justin Allgaier by inches when the caution waved in overtime.

Saturday, there were no questions or doubts about his victory.

“This one was ours fair and square,” Almirola said. “We led a lot of laps. We won the first stage, and we got up there in the end. There was no caution at the end. We crossed the start/finish line first and those are the most gratifying to win.”

Sadler, who finished second, lamented his actions at the end.

“I made a huge mistake coming to the white,” Sadler said. “Me and my spotter were so focused on (Logano). I kind of made a mistake where I was on the track.”

Logano finished third. Ben Kennedy placed fourth in his first series race of the year. Erik Jones was fifth.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points report 

STAGE 1 WINNER: Aric Almirola

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allagier

HOW ARIC ALMIROLA WON: He had a strong car throughout the day and put himself in the right spot to withstand challenges in the final four laps.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD DAY: Points leader Elliott Sadler finished second after hitting the wall early in the race. … Ben Kennedy placed fourth in his first series start of the year. … Jeff Green finished 10th for just his second top-10 result in the last decade.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Brennan Poole lost his 12th starting spot for unapproved adjustments, ran into the back of a car early and then hit Daniel Suarez, triggering a nine-car crash to bring out the red on Lap 21. He finished 24th. … Daniel Hemric, coming off a career-best third last week at Richmond, was collected in a nine-car crash and finished 38th. … Ryan Reed, who won at Daytona, finished 29th after a wreck triggered by a bump from Aric Almirola.

NOTABLE: Biagi-Denbeste scored its third career Xfinity win. All have come at restrictor-plate tracks.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Aric got careless there and he took the blame for it, but I think it being Saturday and him not racing here that often, he was a little more careless. I don’t think if it was Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. or somebody he races with every week in front of him that he would have done that,’’ Ryan Reed said of Aric Almirola after a bump from Almirola caused Reed to crash (Almirola apologized for the incident).

NEXT: The Xfinity Series is off until May 27 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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Matt Kenseth: Brickyard 400 restarts ‘kind of ridiculous’

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Matt Kenseth came close to winning Sunday’s Brickyard 400, but ultimately finished fifth.

Kenseth called the race “kind of ridiculous” down the stretch because of the several restarts that brought about further havoc and wrecks.

Kenseth competed in his final Brickyard 400 for Joe Gibbs Racing. With his future uncertain and whether he’ll be able to continue racing in 2018, could Sunday have been the final Brickyard 400 of his career, much like good friend Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is retiring after this season?

Check out the video above for Kenseth’s comments on the race.

Rick Hendrick on Kasey Kahne’s future: ‘Our plans are not set for the No. 5 car’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Brickyard 400 winner Kasey Kahne has a contract for 2018 at Hendrick Motorsports but possibly doesn’t have a job next season.

Team owner Rick Hendrick confirmed Sunday night that “our plans are not set for the No. 5 car” after Kahne ended a 102-race winless streak in the Cup Series.

“There’s nothing concrete or done, and that hasn’t changed,” Hendrick said. “We’ll see how things shake out the rest of the year.  There’s a lot of things involved, sponsors and a lot of things we look at.  We’re going to try hard.  But there’s no decisions made at this time.”

Kahne felt the 18th victory of his career helped him make a case for staying in the No. 5 Chevrolet.

“I think this shows I still want to win races,” he said. “It shows I gave it all that I can to get a win and shows that I’m passionate about driving stock cars, and that I can still win races, too.

“I have a deal through 2018 with Hendrick Motorsports. I hear a lot of things, but it’s tough to say exactly what’s going to happen. I don’t know at this point and time. I know me and Mr. H will figure it out. I think this shows that I want to be and still have the drive and passion to do it, so I’m going to keep trying hard I know that.”

During a Sunday morning pre-race news conference to formally introduce Alex Bowman as the replacement next season for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick said he planned to run four cars next season but deflected a question about Kahne’s status (“that’s for another day”).

Xfinity Series rookie William Byron, who is under contract to Hendrick, would be an option for the No. 5 Chevrolet, but Hendrick said “we’re not ready to cross that bridge yet” when asked about Byron’s Cup future.

Kahne is ranked 22nd in the points standings with only four top 10s in 20 races this season.

“When you’ve had a rough road, your confidence gets down,” Hendrick said. “He said, ‘I know I can do it. The harder I try, the more it seems like I have this rough bad luck.’

“Something like this (win) can be really good for any guy to have, the whole team, to have confidence.  … All I can say about Kasey is he shows up, he shows up on time, and he shows up on time with his game face on, and he puts in the effort. Sometimes it just takes a break.  But he’s done everything.  I know in his heart he wants to do it.  He’s trying, so … ”

Ryan Newman on Brickyard 400: ‘That’s not racing, just craziness’

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Ryan Newman was in the right place at the right time in Sunday’s Brickyard 400, finishing third.

It was Newman’s second-best finish of 2017 after his win earlier this year at Phoenix.

But Newman, who is never afraid to speak his mind, did just that after Sunday’s race. Even with his strong finish, he echoed the comments of several other drivers that the racing action — particularly restarts — by saying, “That’s not racing, just craziness.”

Check out what Newman had to say in the video above.

Joey Logano’s fourth-place finish is bittersweet as playoff chances dip

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Joey Logano had a bittersweet day in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

He finished a strong fourth in the incident-filled 24th edition of the Brickyard 400. It was just Logano’s second top-five finish and third top-10 showing in the last 11 races.

But there was also bad news, too.

Kasey Kahne‘s win knocked Logano further back in his bid to rejoin the top-16 drivers eligible for the upcoming NASCAR playoffs. With Clint Bowyer dropping out of the top-16 and Kahne moving into playoff contention, Logano has slipped back to 18th place in the playoff-eligible standings.

As a result, Logano all but has to win one of the next six races to qualify for the playoffs — unless he can point his way in with continued strong top-five finishes.

Logano talked about the situation he faces with NBC Sports after Sunday’s race. Click on the above video to see what he had to say.