Almirola takes win at Talladega

NASCAR notebook: Fuel shortage foils Kurt Busch' chances

The bottom four drivers on the playoff grid without a win will be eliminated next weekend by the end of the race at Kansas Speedway.

Brad Keselowski is 18 points back, Ryan Blaney, is 22 points back, Kyle Larson trails by 26 points, and Alex Bowman faces a 68-point deficit. That could mean hanging it all out in true "checkers or wreckers" fashion.

One nice thing about putting all of a team's cars in the top four spots? It's not hard to get lined up and into a single file group to put some space between you and the pack.

David Gilliland ran a 53.032 - second lap to claim the pole position for Saturday's Fr8Auctions 250 at Talladega Superspeedway as the Camping World Truck Series Wraps up round 1 of their playoffs. But the Stewart-Haas drivers orchestrated themselves to nose to tail at the front of the preferred inside line. Stage two went to Kevin Harvick.

Clint Bowyer was second in the stage, followed by Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola. As a result, he got to control the start and took the lead before Jimmie Johnson went around.

"Strong" might not be good enough.

Just when it appeared the stage would end with no drama of any sort, Larson blew a tire and went around with less than seven to go.

Fuel was an issue for several drivers especially after a wreck with three laps left forced overtime.

Almirola got the ticket into the Round of 8 with the victory, but Busch leaves Talladega 30 points above the cut line, a relatively comfortable margin.

"I came to the track with a mindset that we were going to go race and were going to give them hell and if we wreck, we wreck, if we win, we win", said Almirola, who joins Chase Elliott as bearers of automatic Round of 8 berths.

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William Byron, with some help from Daniel Suarez, finally did something for the first time all afternoon: Making a pass to the outside of the leader. Instead, he led the field to green in overtime — an additional two more laps around the 2.66-mile track — as teammate Kevin Harvick forfeited the gamble and ducked to pit road for gas.

Team Penske quickly regrouped, however, and pretty soon Keselowski was back in front, briefly with help from Joey Logano before he dropped off the pace.

Then came his post-race assessment in which he criticized NASCAR for blowing two calls that led to him being short on fuel.

The boss made sure to keep Almirola's spirits high every chance he got, including a pre-race pep talk Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Considering this is Talladega we're talking about, the race was unlikely to stay green the rest of the way, and it did not.

Busch faded to 14th and Harvick wound up 28th - a disappointing end because SHR was poised for a 1-2-3-4 finish before the race went to overtime.

The SHR cars were already conserving fuel, and those additional laps drained their gas tanks to almost bone dry. Why?

Bowyer added, "Great day for Stewart-Haas". Ron Capps won in the Funny Car.

Kurt Busch is not the most sympathetic figure. In particular, Kurt Busch expressed his displeasure at what he saw as inconsistent decisions to start and stop the race. Improbably, Almirola got his first win as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing and locked himself into the Round of 8.

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