Almirola edges Allgaier to win Xfinity race at Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) The record book shows Aric Almirola had one career Xfinity Series victory before Friday night's win at Daytona International Speedway.
He never counted that win, at Milwaukee in 20007, refused to take the trophy and felt it was a black mark on his record all these years.
Now he's got a real win to his name.
Almirola was declared winner of Friday night's race when NASCAR determined he was the leader when the caution flag froze the field shortly before the finish line. It was technically the second win of his career, but he doesn't accept that win because he was replaced midway through that race by Denny Hamlin and it was Hamlin who drove the car to victory lane.
''For me, this is my first Xfinity win,'' he said. ''I know I have a win, but there's always been an asterisk next to it. I hated the fact that I got credit for that. I did not like that. I didn't take the trophy when they called me the winner. I didn't take any of the credit all along.
''I didn't feel like I deserved to win that race because I wasn't in the car when that race was over. But tonight I was. Tonight, we went to victory lane and I'm here and I was in the car. So this is my first Xfinity win.''
Almirola now has wins in all three of NASCAR's national series.
He celebrated this latest victory, the first since he won a rain-shortened Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona in 20014, by taking the checkered flag and running alongside his Ford Mustang as it was pushed to victory lane. He was met there by his young son, who pouted earlier in the day when he had to leave the playground but was promised his dad would win a trophy if he went inside and ate his dinner.
''I told him that if he came in and ate his dinner, that Daddy was going to go race in the Xfinity race and we were going to get a trophy tonight. And we got a trophy!'' said Almirola as his son, Alex, high-fived him.
The race had already been sent to a two-lap overtime shootout when a multi-car accident on the backstretch clouded the final running order. A four-car pack led by Almirola and Justin Allgaier hurtled toward the finish, but NASCAR had to freeze the field because of the accident that happened behind them.
''I knew it was close. I knew it was really close,'' he said. ''I knew they wrecked behind us. I was like, `When are they going to throw the caution?' I knew I was in front of him.''
The cars were brought down pit road as NASCAR reviewed the running order, and Tampa native Almirola was given the win.
Allgaier, in a Chevrolet, had thought he was the winner until NASCAR made the call for Almirola.
''I guess it just depends on what replay you look at,'' he said. ''We definitely had the momentum down the back there. ... When you lose them by that little bit, it definitely is frustrating. When you can be disappointed with second, though, it's still a good day.''
Before the overtime finish, NASCAR said Darrell Wallace Jr. did not maintain speed and forced him to swap positions with Allgaier before the race went green. He finished 20th and took to Twitter to blast NASCAR's race control.
''Got the muppets up there officiating tonight!'' he wrote. ''Never know how to react under pressure... Whatta joke.''
Ryan Sieg finished third and Joey Logano was fourth.
Brendan Gaughan was fifth and followed by Ryan Reed, Jeff Green and Spencer Gallagher. Chase Elliott and Erik Jones completed the top 10.
The finish was reminiscent of the May race at Talladega, where Elliott Sadler and Brennan Poole both waited in their cars at the finish line for NASCAR to declare the winner. It went to Sadler, who had a shot to win Friday night until the race went to overtime and he had to stop for gas.