Almirola grabs lead on overtime restart and wins at Martinsville in Xfinity Series

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — Aric Almirola grabbed the lead by going three-wide on the outside in a two-lap dash to the finish and won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday night.

Almirola, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, outran Sam Mayer and teammate Chandler Smith before a crash by Riley Herbst made the race official. Carson Kvapil was fourth in his Xfinity debut and Justin Allgaier was fifth in a race that featured 15 lead changes, eight different leaders and 11 cautions.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you coach, for calling me to give me this opportunity to come and have some fun. It still scratches the itch of racing but I get to spend a lot of time with my family,” Almirola said after climbing from his car. “I get so much pressure to win. I mean, I think everybody expected me to just get in and go win, but the reality is it’s really hard to jump in these cars and race against the guys that do it week in and week out.”

Almirola led six times for 148 laps in his fifth career victory in the series. He also won $100,000 as the top finisher among four drivers eligible for the Dash for Cash.

Mayer had the lead for the overtime restart with Almirola to his outside, and when Sheldon Creed tried to dive underneath Mayer, Almirola went to the outside and cleared both.

“On that restart, I knew it was going to be tough, but I was really thankful to be able to hold on,” Almirola said.

Mayer, who led twice for 11 laps, was not as thankful.

“Got one I feel like stolen from me there," he said. ”A tough deal but we’re going to move on to — I don’t even know where we are next week. Probably a good track for me so I ain’t worried about it. We’re going to go there and try to haul the mail there."

Smith started from the back after crashing in practice on Friday.

“Really proud of everybody in Joe Gibbs Racing. They took this car right here that I decided to wad up in the fence last night, took it back home to the race shop and worked til 2 o’clock morning, showed back up at five,” he said.