TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Aric Almirola earned the third Xfinity Series victory of his career Saturday by holding off a hard-charging pack in the closing laps at Talladega Superspeedway.
He knew just minutes into practice at Talladega that he had a Ford capable of winning.
"We ran about 10 laps in practice and I said, 'Put it on jack stands. We're ready to go. This thing is fast,'" Almirola said.
The car was indeed fast, and Almirola used a fuel-only stop to earn his first series victory since Daytona last year.
A caution for debris set up a restart with 11 laps remaining, and they were frantic at the front of the field. Justin Allgaier, Joey Logano, Elliott Sadler and Almirola all made plays for the Saturday win. Allgaier gave up the lead to Logano on a Logano crossover move, but Almirola got by him.
Almirola had to drive using his rearview mirror to fend off attacks for the lead from every lane. Sadler gave it one last push at the finish line, but Almirola held on for the victory in a Ford.
"I made a mistake inside the car coming to the white that probably cost me a shot at winning the race. I should know better," Sadler said after his second-place finish.
Logano was third, followed by Ben Kennedy in fourth, then Erik Jones, Matt Tifft and Michael Annett.
"Man we were so close, aggravating," Logano said. "The draft is so crazy and different. The runs come so quick and it's hard to block them. You have to physically block them with your car and it's really tight."
Allgaier slipped to eighth.
"When you are the lead car, you are trying to do everything you can to hold everyone off," Allgaier said.
JR Motorsports retained its hold at the top of the Xfinity Series standings as Sadler, Allgaier and William Byron are 1-2-3 for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team.
More AP Auto Racing: racing.ap.org