Roger Diez: Sweet redemption for Almirola
October 19, 2018
Last Sunday was sweet redemption for Aric Almirola, as he took the checkered flag at Talladega to advance to the round of eight in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup playoffs. Almirola, remember, almost had his first win for the No. 10 Stewart Haas Racing Ford at Daytona until Austin Dillon put him in the wall on the last lap. So the Talladega win was doubly sweet. Not so sweet was the L1 penalty issued to the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy of Kyle Larson for violating NASCAR's Damaged Vehicle Policy following an on-track incident. The team's first appeal was denied, and a final appeal was to be heard after deadline for this space. If the penalty is upheld, the team faces a $25,000 fine for crew chief Chad Johnston, a one-race suspension for car chief David Bryant, and the loss of 10 owner and driver points. The loss of points puts Larson 36 below the cut line and in a "must win" position to advance to the next round.
The Talladega race was free of the usual drama, with no "big one" and only a few minor incidents. Almirola joins Chase Elliott as a lock for the next playoff round, with Kevin Harvick 63 points to the good and only having to take the green flag to lock in. Kyle Busch is pretty much a sure thing 46 points above the cut line, while Joey Logano is also fairly safe with 39 points in hand. Everybody behind them is in jeopardy, including Kurt Busch (+30), Clint Bowyer (+21), and Martin Truex Jr. (+18), especially if we have a new winner who's currently below the cut line. Alex Bowman, 68 points in arrears, can only advance with a win.
In the crop of past Kansas winners among currently active drivers. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have each won three of the 25 races, while two time winners are Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, and Matt Kenseth. Drivers who have visited victory circle once at Kansas are Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski. Harvick and Truex have one the last four Kansas races with two each. While both are having good seasons, Truex's performance has been off as of late, so the no. 78 Furniture Row Toyota needs a good result on Sunday.
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