Aric Almirola wins first race in four years with last lap win

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"The next four races are some of our strongest tracks".

"I've been so close so many times this year", Almirola told NBCS after the race.

Kyle Busch elected to stay out, but almost every other lead lap auto came to the pits, with Kurt Busch beating Keselowski off pit road. Busch, who led 108 laps, was in the lead, but then he ran out of fuel on the final lap.

Almirola was also leading on the final lap in overtime of the season-opening Daytona 500 until he was wrecked by victor Austin Dillon.

Going into the playoffs, Rhodes wanted to have redemption from his 2017 run. This time Harvick got to lead the way, and Almirola's fourth-place finish left him just two points behind the cut line for the Round of 8.

SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said the effort started after Dover when the drivers were urged to work together at Talladega as teammates. Stage two went to Kevin Harvick.

Kyle Larson's championship chances took a huge hit when he crashed during the playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway. At one point with a full second advantage on the entire field. Larson was already in danger of being knocked out of the playoff field in next week's elimination race at Kansas. We finally got all four cars to the cream of the crop.

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So, what's really happening between Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus?After 17 years, seven championships and a two-year contract extension signed earlier this summer, Hendrick Motorsports decided.

Their partnership is the longest active driver and crew chief pairing in current NASCAR, and the most successful of their era. They stayed that way though stages 1 and 2, winning both (Busch the first and Harvick the second). All that could prevent a Stewart-Haas runaway was a wreck, and while it wasn't quite the big one, it arrived with three laps to go and had serious consequences - particularly for Alex Bowman, already in dire need of a win. Losing the lead pack threatened to put the Team Penske driver a lap down, something that happened in short order.

3rd #4 Kevin Harvick 3128 points +63 above the cutoff, has three stage wins. That's exactly how the four Fords lined up at the start and they remained in line to the end of the stage.

9th #2 Brad Keselowski 3065 points -18 below the cutoff, has one stage win. He was the lowest finishing playoff driver in the first stage.

Timothy Peters won the battle on Saturday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway, but he wasn't in the war.

"He had that race won last week, and it was me that brought out the caution, so I feel like he got a little redemption there", Bowyer said.

All four SHR drivers are still part of the 12-driver championship field, which will be trimmed by four following next weekend's race at Kansas.

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