Aric Almirola takes XFINITY win at Talladega after mishap

Aric Almirola won Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 XFINITY Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, surviving a pair of multi-car wrecks that took out several possible contenders.

The first of the accidents Almirola survived was one that he caused himself in his No. 98 Ford part-time XFINITY ride for the Biagi DenBeste race team. Almirola drives the No. 43 Ford full time for Richard Petty Motorsports in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, which will race Sunday at the 2.66-mile track (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX).

“They let me run this thing seven or eight times a year and I have so much fun, especially at the speedway races,” Almirola said. “Doug Yates (of Roush-Yates Engines) brings some awesome horsepower and our Ford Mustang was super-fast.

“I knew it right from the beginning of practice. We ran about 10 laps in practice and I said, ‘Put it on jack stands. We’re ready to go. This thing is fast.’ What an awesome day.”

It didn’t turn out so awesome for Ryan Reed.

On the final lap of Stage 2,  Almirola tried to give Reed a push from behind and instead ended up sending Reed’s No. 16 Ford into the outside wall, collecting the No. 62 Chevrolet of Brendan Gaughan in the process.

That sent several cars behind the lead pack scattering every which way, with the cars of pole-sitter Blake Koch, Cole Custer Chris Cockrum and Scott Lagasse Jr. all suffering major damage. Seven cars were involved in all.

Reed’s car was destroyed, while Almirola, who won Stage 1 of the Sparks Energy 300, escaped relatively unscathed and took the blame for causing the incident.

“Ah, I’m sorry. I was trying to give him a push,” Almirola said over his team radio.

Later, he added: “I feel really bad about the 16. I got in the back of the 16 and tore up a lot of cars there, but I got a good push and I got in the back of him. I was trying to help him, trying to make the Fords work together and I hooked him, so I feel sorry about that.”

Reed accepted the apology, but obviously remained frustrated by what transpired.

“I actually think a lot of Aric,” Reed said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a driver and as a person, but that just wasn’t cool.

“All he had to do was back off a little bit. He just got so aggressive with that push and then didn’t hit us square. He hit us off to the right side and when that happened the car was out from underneath me before I knew it.”

Gaughan told FOX Sports it was merely a byproduct of restictor-plate racing.

“We were in the front. I didn’t like what I saw, so we bailed out just in time to miss the (earlier) wreck with the people who were driving just over their head,” Gaughan said. “And then in the end here, we were running for the stage win with our (Richard Childress Racing) teammate Ty Dillon. We were in the right spot and had gotten ourselves back up there.

“But that’s restrictor-plate racing. Great race. Great racetrack, a fun place to be. I love being here — but that’s just the ills of restrictor plates. Sometimes it’s out of your control.”

Gaughan was referring to the first “Big One” of the day, which came with five laps left in Stage 1 when Brennan Poole got loose as he was to side-draft Daniel Suárez — setting off a chain reaction that led to him and Suarez making contact. Poole then got as Daniel Hemric and others tried to check up but couldn’t.

“I just wish people would be a little smarter driving that early in the race,” Hemric told FOX Sports.

On the final lap of Stage 2, Almirola tried to give Ryan Reed a push from behind and instead ended up sending Reed’s No. 16 Ford into the outside wall, collecting the No. 62 Chevrolet of Brendan Gaughan in the process.

That sent several cars behind the lead pack scattering every which way, with the cars of pole-sitter Blake Koch, Cole Custer Chris Cockrum and Scott Lagasse Jr. all suffering major damage. Seven cars were involved in all.

Reed’s car was destroyed, while Almirola, who won Stage 1 of the Sparks Energy 300, escaped relatively unscathed and took the blame for causing the incident.

“Ah, I’m sorry. I was trying to give him a push,” Almirola said over his team radio.

Reed accepted the apology, but obviously remained frustrated by what transpired.

“I actually think a lot of Aric,” Reed said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a driver and as a person, but that just wasn’t cool.

“All he had to do was back off a little bit. He just got so aggressive with that push and then didn’t hit us square. He hit us off to the right side and when that happened the car was out from underneath me before I knew it.”

Gaughan told FOX Sports it was merely a byproduct of restictor-plate racing.

“We were in the front. I didn’t like what I saw, so we bailed out just in time to miss the (earlier) wreck with the people who were driving just over their head,” Gaughan said. “And then in the end here, we were running for the stage win with our (Richard Childress Racing) teammate Ty Dillon. We were in the right spot and had gotten ourselves back up there.

“But that’s restrictor-plate racing. Great race. Great racetrack, a fun place to be. I love being here — but that’s just the ills of restrictor plates. Sometimes it’s out of your control.”

Gaughan was referring to the first “Big One” of the day, which came with five laps left in Stage 1 when Brennan Poole got loose as he was to side-draft Daniel Suárez — setting off a chain reaction that led to him and Suarez making contact. Poole then got as Daniel Hemric and others tried to check up but couldn’t.

“I just wish people would be a little smarter driving that early in the race,” Hemric told FOX Sports.

Almirola made the one mistake, obviously, but otherwise drove a very smart race in securing his third win in his 99th career start in the series.

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