Social roundup: Aric Almirola’s violent wreck prompts wave of driver concern

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NASCAR drivers reacted en masse on Twitter to the wreck that sent Aric Almirola to the hospital Saturday night. Richard Petty Motorsports released a statement early Sunday that the driver was in stable condition and held overnight for observation.

Almirola’s No. 43 Ford briefly went airborne after colliding with the cars of Joey Logano and Danica Patrick during the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway.

NASCAR said Almirola was airlifted to the University of Kansas Medical Center for observation.

Here’s a selection of the well wishes for Almirola:

Who will win the fan vote to race in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race? You decide

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The polls are open and waiting for your vote.

It’s time choose your favorite driver to run in next weekend’s 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The race takes place May 20th and the single driver that earns the most fan votes will receive an automatic berth in the main event.

Voting is currently taking place.

Fans can vote once per day at NASCAR.com/fanvote, and votes shared on Facebook or Twitter count double. Also, don’t forget to use the hashtags #AllStarRace and #FanVote on social media.

Voting closes May 19 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Here’s the list of eligible drivers that are on the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race Fan Vote ballot:

AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chase Elliott, Timmy Hill, Erik Jones, Corey LaJoie, Michael McDowell, Paul Menard, Danica Patrick, David Ragan, Reed Sorenson, Daniel Suárez and Cole Whitt.

Bump & Run: Who is next driver to snap long winless drought?

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman, who appear on NASCAR America from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET today, join Nate Ryan and Dustin Long, to answer this week’s questions.

This season has seen two drivers snap winless droughts of more than 90 races: Phoenix winner Ryan Newman (127-race winless drought) and Talladega winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (158-race drought). Who is next to win among drivers who have gone more than 90 starts without a Cup win? (* list below)

Parker Kligerman: Well the easiest answer here is Clint Bowyer. From the doldrums of outside top-30 equipment to now being a part of one of the top organizations in the sport, I can’t imagine a world in which Clint does not win. With that out of the way, I feel Austin Dillon could be a moderate shot of breaking a winless streak, but that may be better said as getting his first win. Lastly, Kasey Kahne is approaching 100 races winless at one of the largest, most successful race teams in the entire world. As Kyle Petty has said “Where is Kasey Kahne” I think Kasey has to be asking “Where is Victory Lane?” 

Dale Jarrett: The two that I look at are Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray. I think they are both performing well enough that it can happen, pretty much any place and any time. I really give the edge to Jamie McMurray. I think that team and that organization right now, with the way Kyle Larson has performed and Jamie has too, he’s performed and continued to get better. If I look at the two restrictor-plate races to this point, I think he maybe had the fastest car. I think there’s a good chance that he might win Daytona or Talladega, but I think he might win even before then. Bowyer, I believe, is going to win before the year is out.

Nate Ryan: Jamie McMurray. If they were rerunning the final 10 laps of Talladega today, he might be ending this streak now. Kansas Speedway would mark a nice homecoming of sorts, too, for the Joplin, Missouri, native who is providing confirmation that points leader Kyle Larson’s success is indicative of across-the-board improvement at Chip Ganassi Racing.

A close second for the next first-place finisher is Clint Bowyer, then Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne and Aric Almirola.

Dustin Long: Jamie McMurray has shown more speed and more consistency and is a good bet to be the next among this group to end a winless drought. He has six top-10 finishes in the first 10 races. Now it’s just a matter of turning those into more top fives as teammate Kyle Larson has done.

* DRIVERS WINLESS IN AT LEAST THE LAST 90 CUP RACES

Reed Sorenson (271)

Landon Cassill (233)

Michael McDowell (223)

Paul Menard (206)

Danica Patrick (164)

Clint Bowyer (159)

David Ragan (144)

Trevor Bayne (138)

Austin Dillon (131)

Jamie McMurray (122)

Cole Whitt (122)

Aric Almirola (100 races)

AJ Allmendinger (96 races)

Kasey Kahne (93 races)

NASCAR competes on 1.5-mile tracks the rest of the month with Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway and the following two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600. What driver(s) and/or team(s) will you be watching close the rest of the month?

Parker Kligerman: This is a tough one as there are so many I will be keeping a close eye on. 

  • First would have to be Joe Gibbs Racing and seeing if they can finally get into victory lane. 
  • Second would be Ganassi. I want to see if this race team can continue to display the raw speed that they have early in this season, as the races get hotter and the tracks shift toward 1.5 miles in length. This will be the litmus test if they are truly championship material. 
  • Lastly, our newest winners in Roush Fenway Racing. Can this race team continue to show performances that warrant them being a part of the playoffs in what feels like a generation ago when they were a lock for such a berth. 

Dale Jarrett: I’m watching the drivers at Joe Gibbs Racing. What are they going to do? This has been their strong suit, especially over the six months at the end of 2015 and then all of last year, they performed at a high level at these types of tracks.

This is just in my mind thinking that it seems that they have been more to the conservative side with the skew and the rear end where others have been willing to take that chance, get their win and then maybe they back off a little from that. It just seems like they haven’t given that much to their drivers, and are they going to bite the bullet and say, ‘OK, this is what it is going to take, we’ve got to figure out a way to do this.’ I know they don’t like getting caught pushing the issue too much, but I really believe it’s going to take something like that. I’m going to keep my eye on them because Kansas and Charlotte are places that they perform well whenever their team is at their peak.

Nate Ryan: Joe Gibbs Racing. After Denny Hamlin predicted last week that Talladega would be his best chance at a win for “a few months” and identified 1.5-mile tracks as the team’s major Achilles’ heel, it naturally put some focus on how JGR does at the next three events and tracks that comprise two of the five 1.5-mile ovals in the playoffs (and two-thirds of the second round).

Kansas and Charlotte will serve as a barometer of how much teams need to improve their aerodynamics/horsepower combinations to be championship contenders four months from now.

Dustin Long: Naturally, Joe Gibbs Racing. I want to see how they perform, what kind of improvement they’ve shown on the 1.5-mile tracks. Another team I’ll keep an eye on is Hendrick Motorsports. Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. start to come back from his slow start? What about Kasey Kahne? Can Chase Elliott continue his strong runs on 1.5-mile tracks. Can Jimmie Johnson show more strength?

Watch Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET on NASCAR America on NBCSN.

What Drivers Said after Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

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Racing at Talladega — and how the race typically winds up — usually leaves NASCAR Cup drivers talking a lot.

And after Sunday’s Geico 500 was no different, as drivers had plenty to say about how the race wound up, being involved in a big wreck and more.

Here’s What Drivers Said:

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished first: “We’ve been terrible for a long time. This year, every race we’re getting better and better. We knew that Talladega was a good racetrack for us. It’s been a good one in the past and I’m just glad we parked it for my buddy, Bryan Clauson. He was with us on that last lap. This Fifth Third Bank Ford was so fast today – qualified on the pole and got the win. I can’t say enough about the guys. It’s cool to have Jack Roush back in Victory Lane. This is cool. The closest race track to my hometown and the fans were out here this weekend.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished second: “I thought it was super hard to pass today. I don’t know how everybody else felt. Until the tires wore out and the cars started sliding around, it was just three wide, and there really wasn’t anywhere to go. I actually raced with Kyle (teammate Kyle Larson) in about 30th for quite a bit of the race because there was no holes. It seemed like as the tires wore out and it got down to two lanes that you could kind of make people three wide and make some passes. It’s super circumstantial on the track of who’s in front of you, who’s behind you. Like there’s times when you feel like you’re going to have a good run and you don’t, and then there’s other times that it happens. So it was a good overall day for us.”

Kyle Busch – Finished third: “Stenhouse got a really good run and a good push and got by us there and then it was just about retaliation to get back on him and I just never had enough help from behind and just never got together. We did all we could here today and it’s all circumstantial on how you win these things. Unfortunately our circumstances didn’t quite go our way, but we go to a real race track next week and we’ll try to win there.”

Aric Almirola – Finished fourth: “I thought I was right where I wanted to be. My car was really good through the middle of the pack and I didn’t want to get shuffled to the bottom. I was adamant about that, but I thought we had some pretty good runs toward the end and I thought we were gonna have a shot at it, but just getting side drafted and stuff we got stalled out. All in all it was a great day for our Fresh from Florida Ford Fusion and another Blue Oval two days in a row goes to Victory Lane.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished fifth: “We were a little better the closer we got to the front. We were trying hard, I just couldn’t push the car in front of me, so we weren’t really going as far as we wanted to go. But, it was still a great run for our UniFirst team. We ran up there throughout the last half of the race and that was pretty good. Congrats to Ricky (Stenhouse, Jr.) and Roush and those guys. They deserve it they have been working really hard.”

Kurt Busch – Finished sixth: “I felt like we had a nice bit of strength today. It was good to come back to a restrictor-plate race and battle and defend what we did in Daytona. We got sixth today. Had a really good run with (Jamie) McMurray down the back straightaway, and I thought we were going to do some great things coming to the front straightaway. We just didn’t keep that draft with him. Awesome day for Ford and the way that (Ricky) Stenhouse won and how all of us worked together. It’s good teamwork for the Blue Oval.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished eighth: “We had a very solid race car all day long. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, everybody on this Lowe’s car and just great teammates to work with out there. Great Chevy’s to work with and we finished a plate race and I don’t even think there is a scratch on this thing.  I mean that is like a double victory even though we finished eighth.”

David Ragan – Finished 10th: “Yeah, a team effort for sure. We had a really good car. It was a calm race until the last 50 laps. You just didn’t know when to be aggressive and when not to. We wanted to take care of our Camping World Ford. We got a little bit of damage there at the end and got damage from one of those wrecks and had to spend some time on pit road. The team did a great job fixing it up. The car still drove great at the end.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 13th: ”It was an intense 500-mile race, but I think our Geico Chevy ran well. It was tough to find cars to stay with us today, but we were able to move our way into the top ten on a couple occasions and even get out front to lead a few GEICO 500 laps. The car was a little tight, but overall, it was a strong day for this Germain Racing team.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 14th: “It was just an up-and-down day for us. Frustrating because we were fast and didn’t get to race for the win. It was cool to lead laps, though. We had a great First Fusion.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 22nd: “It was very disappointing. In traffic, it wasn’t very good at all. We didn’t run many laps inside the Top 5 or Top 10 all day because the car just really didn’t have a lot of speed doubled-up with everybody side-by-side. We’ve just got to try to work on that if we can. The car runs great by itself. But anytime we got a bit close to the front, those guys around me were just a little stronger to do things to put us in some bad spots and drop us back to the back. It happened time and time again. We’ll just have to see what we’re doing with the car and what we can improve.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 23rd: “I really don’t know what it was (the race-long vibration his car had), but it stayed with us all day. I didn’t know what to do. To have a car that can lead laps and run up front, this time we just happened to wreck up front. Solid performance from the team, just bad luck.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 30th: “(Allmendinger) just apologized. I don’t know that it was really his fault, per se. He had a big run, and he kind of got to my bumper and just happened to be in a bad spot coming up off the corner and was skewed a little bit to my left rear. And when that happens, it just unloads these cars too much.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 31st: “Yeah, I’m fine (after his wreck). I’m happy I didn’t get hit upside down. I’m all good. Our race team does a great job with safety. It’s just Talladega. It’s all it is. I think (Kevin) Harvick got behind me, and we were shoving, and Chase opened the door and then kind of closed it, and I tried to check up just a little bit and tapped him and when I checked up, it was a big wreck after that. I barely tapped (Elliott). And then I tried to get off him, but at that point, it was too late. It was just one of those things battling for the lead.”

Joey Logano – Finished 32nd: “I saw Chase tank-slapping it down the backstretch. I was hoping he’d turn to the left when he started spinning, but he went up the racetrack, and I was just sitting there in the outside lane saying, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be the first one there, and I can’t get away from him.’ So we got into the crash, unfortunately. That’s kind of a bummer. It’s part of it and part of superspeedway racing. Sometimes you win these things, and sometimes you get caught up in them. We’ll move on and hit the next race.”

Erik Jones – Finished 33rd: “I’m fine (limping after race). My heel is just a little bit hot from the race and hard to step on them when they’re cooking. I’m fine. It’s just unfortunate, I thought we had a good run going today, and I thought we had a car that was definitely capable of running in the top-10. I was up on the high side and saw the 24 (Chase Elliott) get loose and just can’t really do much, and there’s really nowhere to go. I wasn’t able to avoid it and got caught up in it.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 34th: “I’m not really sure. It kind of happened a few rows in front of me. All I saw was the No. 24 (Chase Elliott) coming back across the race track. I’m not sure how he got spun, but he ended up on the hood of the Winn-Dixie Chevrolet and unfortunately, just enough damage to not get it re-fired. The car wasn’t that bad, but must have done something to the motor there because I couldn’t get it fired up.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR – finished 35th: “It felt like we were in pretty good position most of the day. We got shuffled to the outside one time there and got in a bad spot and then they started wrecking. It’s a shame, it’s the way it goes here. Unfortunately for us, it’s been a tough one to finish, but we did get stage points today so that’s a bonus and at least it’s better than running all day and crashing out and not getting anything. All in all, it’s one of those deals, and it’s Talladega. Looking forward to Kansas next week for sure.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 36th: “I just saw somebody come across the field there and started checking up. I got kind of pushed back into it. I mean, it was just Talladega, it’s part of it. We are three-wide trying to get as much position as we can there at the end, and we were just too far back and we got in (it).”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 37th: Days of Thunder smoke, I think (on what he saw in the big wreck). I wasn’t trying to drive through it contrary to the way the video looks. I tried to get checked up, but you don’t have very good brakes at superspeedways, but I was on them as soon as I saw the smoke there. It’s just really hard to navigate. I stayed up high kind of hoping it would hit the wall and wash down and it didn’t. It stayed right up in front of me and I couldn’t see what I was driving into, but we had a really fast Ford this weekend. We qualified well with it. We ran up front all day and did all the things we needed to do.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 38th: “I was told to go low, and I just got spun. There was a lot of smoke, and it was hard to see. I really thought that everybody was doing a great job all day long. We were running two, three, four-wide all day long and nobody was getting too crazy. It’s to be expected. That’s part of the excitement of superspeedway racing. We had another really fast Aspen Dental Ford, we just couldn’t get to the finish.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 39th: “I have no idea (what happened in his late-race crash). We all kind of checked up, and I just got turned and destroyed. It figures. I haven’t gotten torn up too much here in the past, and I guess I was due one, but it wasn’t the week we needed. It’s been a few rough weeks in a row, but all you can do is get over it and move on.”

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Ricky Stenhouse wins first career NASCAR Cup race, captures Geico 500

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took the lead on the final lap and then held on to win his first career NASCAR Cup race, capturing Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The race finished in overtime at 191 laps, three laps past the scheduled 188 laps.

Jamie McMurray finished second, followed by Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola and Kasey Kahne.

Sixth through 10th were Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard and David Ragan.

Stenhouse, a former two-time Xfinity Series champion, earned the victory in his 158th career NASCAR Cup start and becomes the 11th first-time winner at Talladega. The win broke Roush Fenway Racing’s 101-race winless streak (last victory was June 22, 2014 at Sonoma) and was the organization’s 136th all-time win.

“We’ve been terrible for a long time, but this year, every race, we’re getting better and better,” Stenhouse told Fox Sports. “This car was so fast today, qualifying on the pole, get the win. It’s cool to have Jack Roush back in victory lane. This is cool, closest track to my home town and man, the fans were here this weekend.”

MORE: Results, stats for Geico 500 at Talladega: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. breaks through

MORE: Cup points standings after Talladega: Kyle Larson widens lead

The win marked Stenhouse’s third top-five finish and fifth top-10 in the last seven races.

“Stenhouse got a real good run and good push and got by us and then it was about retaliation, to get back on him,” Busch told Fox Sports. “I just never had enough help from behind. … We did all we could today. Unfortunately, circumstances didn’t go our way.”

MORE: Fords dominate Stage 1 at Talladega: Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finish 1-2

MORE: Denny Hamlin wins Stage 2 of Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

A multi-car wreck – the only big one of the race – occurred with 20 laps to go, resulting in a red flag that lasted 26 minutes and 51 seconds. Eighteen cars – nearly half of the 40-driver field – were involved.

Those involved were : A.J. Allmendinger, Michael McDowell, Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne, Danica Patrick, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, Kurt Busch, Cole Whitt, Brendan Gaughan, Corey LaJoie, Chase Elliott and Gray Gaulding

It appeared that Allmendinger was trying to push Elliott forward in the draft when the former hooked the latter around. Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick hooked Allmendinger’s car, too.

While Elliott rode the top of the wall while Allmendinger’s car wound up on its roof, and safety workers had to pull the car on its wheels before he unstrapped and climbed out. Allmendinger walked to the ambulance under his own power.

“I was battling for the lead, the 18 and 24 were leading the two packs, and the 4 was just on me,” Allmendinger told Fox Sports. “Once I got to Chase, I got loose, I barely tapped him, I tried to get off him and at that point, it was just too late.”

Elliott added to Fox Sports, “He just apologized. I don’t know if it was really his fault, per se. He had a big run, got to my bumper and was kind of in a bad spot.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the winningest active driver at Talladega with six wins, suffered a loose wheel 14 laps to go and limped back to pit road for service, finishing 22nd.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

STAGE 2 WINNER: Denny Hamlin

HOW STENHOUSE WON: Having the fastest car of the weekend was a major factor. Stenhouse has been steadily climbing up the performance ladder this season, led 14 laps in Sunday’s race and emerged with his first winner’s trophy of his Cup career after more than six years of trying.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Jamie McMurray got past Kyle Busch on the final lap, but didn’t have quite enough to reach Stenhouse. Another lap, and maybe he might have. … Aric Almirola won Saturday’s Xfinity race and rallied to finish fourth in Sunday’s race, tying his highest finish this season of fourth in the season-opening Daytona 500.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Several drivers suffered poor finishes due to being involved in wrecks, including Chase Elliott (30th), Joey Logano (32nd), Erik Jones (33rd), Martin Truex Jr. (35th), Austin Dillon (36th), Trevor Bayne (37th), Danica Patrick (38th) and Ryan Blaney (39th).

NOTABLE: The No. 43 Ford of Aric Almirola failed post-race inspection. He finished the race one point out of 16th place — the last playoff-eligible spot — but now faces a potential 35-point penalty. Also, the No. 7 of Elliott Sadler was found to have one lug nut not secured. … Joe Gibbs Racing had strong runs from Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, but remains winless in the first 10 races of the 2017 season. … Kasey Kahne’s fifth-place finish was his second top-5 of the season. He finished fourth at Atlanta in the second race of 2017.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We go to a real race track next week and try to win there.” – A disappointed Kyle Busch, who couldn’t hold off Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the win and finished third.

WHAT’S NEXT: Go Bowling 400, Saturday, May 13, 7:30 p.m. ET, Kansas Speedway

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