Aric Almirola shocks playoff landscape with New Hampshire win

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Aric Almirola, who came into Sunday winless and 27th in points, now has a seat at the NASCAR Cup Series playoff table.

Almirola held off Christopher Bell to win Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The victory snapped a 98-race winless streak for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver.

The race ended eight laps short of its 301-lap schedule distance due to oncoming darkness.

That prospect was put into play due to a one-hour, 41 minute red flag period. The red flag came after rain hit the track just six laps into the race and led to a multi-car incident for Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin.

Busch and Truex, running first and second at the time, both spun into the wall. Hamlin, racing for fifth, also spun but avoided the wall and continued on.

Busch was eliminated in the crash. Hamlin finished 10th. Truex Jr. salvaged 12th with a damaged car.

Due to the extended stoppage, NASCAR announced after the end of Stage 2 that the race would continue “until conditions dictate otherwise.” If the race had to be shortened, officials would announce 10 laps to go to the checkered flag with no overtime.

That announcement was made at Lap 282 with Almirola leading Bell. During the final 10-lap run, Almirola had to maneuver through lapped traffic – even driving Austin Dillon up the race track with six laps to go – in order to get away.

Team Penske’s trio of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

This story will be updated…

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ryan Blaney

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Logano’s fourth-place finish came after drawing a two-lap penalty. Logano was penalized after a Team Penske crew member removed debris from the linkage of Logano’s No. 2 Ford during the red flag. No. 2 team crew chief Paul Wolfe told NBC Sports that the debris had kept Logano from going full throttle during the opening laps and that the fix had to be made.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Busch ended up finishing last in the 37-car field after his misfortune with Mother Nature. The setback ends a four-race streak of top-three finishes that included a win in the second race at Pocono.

NOTABLE: Sunday’s race was the fifth of the season to be impacted by rain (Daytona 500, Bristol Dirt, Martinsville, COTA).

NEXT: Sunday, Aug. 8 – Watkins Glen International (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

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Aric Almirola shocks playoff landscape with New Hampshire win originally appeared on NBCSports.com