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NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon were all involved in a crash during the closing laps of Stage 1 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Almirola was leading on Lap 57 of the YellaWood 500 when he was turned by second-place driver Bowman on the backstretch. Both received significant damage after hitting the outside wall. Busch spun while trying to avoid the collision. The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota came across the backstretch and got hit in the left side by the No. 12 Team Penske Ford of Ryan Blaney.
Almirola was forced to retire after taking the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford back to pit road to survey the damage. Bowman, Busch and Blaney visited pit road multiple times to make repairs and were able to continue, staying on the lead lap in the process. Bowman ultimately finished 14th while Blaney was 25th and Busch 27th.
Logano and Dillon were able to continue on without any significant damage. Logano finished 26th and Dillon was 12th.
Almirola came into Sunday’s Round of 12 race with a 27-point deficit on eighth-place driver Bowman. Almirola left Talladega in last place among the 12 playoff drivers, 48 points below the cutline.
“I got hit from behind and got turned into the outside fence,” Almirola told NBC after being checked and released from the infield care center. “… Unfortunate. I don’t know if he got in the back of me and hooked me or how that worked out. My car just made a hard right into the fence.”
The caution came out again for debris on Lap 67 when the left-front tire went down on Busch’s car due to a severe tire rub. Busch’s team were able to make more repairs to stay on the lead lap.
The caution put an end to Stage 1 as Chris Buescher earned the victory, followed by Logano, Dillon, Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones to round out the top five in order.