Aric Almirola advances in playoffs after ‘wild and crazy’ Roval experience

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CONCORD, N.C — Aric Almirola thought his day and his playoff hopes were destroyed.

Being in a 15-car pileup with six laps left in a race can do that to a person.

Almirola believed he had avoided the wreck in Turn 1 of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. Then Bubba Wallace plowed into the back of his No. 10 Ford and sent him into a group of cars that had appeared in front of him.

Even before the crash, Almirola’s maiden voyage on the 17-turn, 2.28-mile course, and the weekend leading up to it had been a nightmare. Or as Almirola called it, “adversity.”

In practice Friday and Saturday, he spun in Turn 3, backing his car into the same area of the wall.

“I was really anxious all week leading into it, and I’ll be honest, I prayed a lot just for ‑‑ just hoping that everything would work out,” Almirola said. “I kept telling myself to quit making mistakes like I did in practice. … It was just one of those weekends. It was just wild and crazy and out of control.”

On Sunday, Almirola hit the frontstretch wall with five laps to go in Stage 1 while trying to avoid William Byron as he lost his right front tire. He then brought out the caution on Lap 70 after being forced off track in Turn 6 by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and running through a Bojangles’ advertisement.

After all that and the Turn 1 pileup, his team was able to make his car raceable for the final three laps.

“That last restart they told me I was ‑6 points and that I needed to go,” said Almirola, who “rifled” his car into Turn 1 and passed three cars even after wheel-hopping.

“Then we came back to the start‑finish line and they told me I needed three more spots, and those last couple laps I was able to get those three spots,” said Almirola, who passed Daniel Suarez for 19th entering Turn 1 on the last lap. “I had one more in my sights, and somebody spun off of the infield Turn 4, and it was just a cloud of smoke. I couldn’t see where I was going, so I checked up because the last thing I needed to do was wreck.”

When he came across the finish line in 19th, Almirola was told he was in a tie with Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson with 2,097 points.

Johnson was eliminated after finishing eighth due to his last-lap incident with Martin Truex Jr. Larson advanced after passing a stalled Jeffrey Earnhardt right before the start-finish line.

Thanks to his finish at Richmond (fifth), Almirola advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time.

“I told (crew chief) Johnny Klausmeier going into this weekend all I really cared about was leaving here +1,” said Almirola. “It turns out +0 is good enough.”


Penalty report from Bristol Motor Speedway

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NASCAR has issued three fines to Cup Series crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts following Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, Alan Gustafson, crew chief on Chase Elliott‘s No. 9 Chevrolet and Michael Bugarewicz, crew chief on Clint Bowyer‘s No. 14 Ford, have each been fined $10,000 for having one unsecured lug nut.

Those fines are in addition to the points penalties against Tyler Reddick‘s Xfinity Series team (10 driver and owner points) for failing pre-qualifying inspection four times.

NASCAR also indefinitely suspended Bayley Currey for violating its substance abuse policy.

Michael McDowell to honor Jimmy Means with Darlington scheme

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Front Row Motorsports is changing things up on its No. 34 Ford for the Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway next week (6 p.m. Sept 1 on NBCSN).

After three years of using the same retro Love’s Travel Stops paint scheme, the team will show up in Darlington next weekend with Dockside Logistics as Michael McDowell‘s primary sponsor. With that sponsor comes a tribute to long-time NASCAR owner and former driver Jimmy Means.

McDowell’s car will be made to look like the No. 52 Alka-Seltzer Pontiac Means owned and drove part-time from 1989-91 in the Cup Series.

One of Means’ cars, which was driven by Mike Wallace, is located in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car graveyard.

More: Retro Rundown of Southern 500 paint schemes

Front Row Motorsports was originally known as Means-Jenkins Motorsports, based on a partnership between Means and current FRM team owner Bob Jenkins. Their relationship began with Jenkins sponsoring Means at Bristol with his local Taco Bell franchise, which led Jenkins to a partial ownership of Means’ race team. The team was active for one year before Jenkins separated and founded Front Row Motorsports.

“Throwback weekend at Darlington is one of my favorites of the whole year,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s fun to recreate some of the most well-known paint schemes throughout the history of our sport. Our owner, Bob Jenkins, has always admired Jimmy Means, and the Alka-Seltzer car is definitely a favorite of his. I’m really excited that we can honor their friendship with our No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford.”

Corey LaJoie to carry ‘Scooby Doo’ paint scheme at Martinsville

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Popular cartoon character Scooby Doo will be featured as the theme on Corey LaJoie’s No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford Mustang for the First Data 500 on Oct. 27 at Martinsville Speedway.

Long-time team sponsor Keen Parts/ will transform the team’s usual paint scheme to what it’s calling “the Mystery Machine” for the Martinsville race, which will be four days before Halloween.

“Scooby Doo was my favorite cartoon growing up, so when Tom and TJ (team co-sponsors Tom and TJ Keen) asked what I wanted to do for Martinsville, there was no doubt that I wanted to be driving the Mystery Machine,” LaJoie said in a media release. “They always have really cool themes behind their Halloween-weekend schemes and I’m excited to be part of this one and thankful for all that they do for our team.”

For last year’s fall race at Martinsville the team and sponsor combined for a purple and black Peanuts scheme that featured Snoopy and quickly became a much-talked about fan favorite.

“We are super excited to present this paint scheme to Corey to run at Martinsville,” said lTJ Keen. “This cartoon was his favorite as a kid and I bet it still is today. We cannot thank the team enough for letting us do these schemes and we hope you fans will enjoy it.”

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Richard Childress resigns from National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors

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On Monday, Richard Childress submitted his resignation letter as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Rifle Association and a handful of the organization’s committees, NBC Sports has confirmed.

The resignation came two days after the owner of Richard Childress Racing helped give the command to start engines  for the Cup Series night race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which was co-sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and the NRA.

“At this time, it is necessary for me to fully focus on my businesses,” Childress said in his letter. “I owe that to my employees, our partners, my family, and myself. Since proudly agreeing to serve on the NRA Board, I have supported the organization and its important mission to preserve and protect our Constitutional rights. But when, as now, I am no longer able to be fully engaged in any commitment I have made, it becomes time for me to step down. I have reached that point in my ability to continue to serve the NRA. As such, I must resign.”

According to the Washington Post, Childress is the sixth member of the Board of Directors to resign since May. The Board of Directors totals more than 70 members.

Childress was elected as the NRA’s second vice president in 2015 and had also served as the first vice president until he stepped down in April of this year.

Childress will retain his NRA membership moving forward.