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Almirola hangs on in overtime to win NASCAR Xfinity race at Martinsville

Sam Mayer led on the restart to overtime, but Sheldon Creed dived inside of Mayer to make the field three-wide as he tried to get him and Almirola. Instead, Creed nearly caused himself and Mayer to spin out.

That allowed Almirola to pull away to the lead and his victory was secured when NASCAR was forced to throw a caution on the final lap for a multi-car wreck.

Almirola also collected the season’s first $100,000 Dash4Cash bonus as the highest finishing eligible driver.

The win was redemption of sorts for Almirola, who is running a partial Xfinity schedule this season for Joe Gibbs Racing after retiring from full-time Cup competition in the offseason.

Almirola’s first career Xfinity win technically came for JGR in 2007 at Milwaukee but Denny Hamlin was driving the car when it crossed the finish line. Hamlin had missed the start of the race and got in the car midrace, but Almirola remained the driver of record.

“Man, this is so awesome to win for Joe Gibbs Racing,” Almirola said. “I’ve had an asterisk next to a win for Coach (Gibbs) for 17 years and it’s so awesome to finally put a real win banner up inside the shop at Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you Coach for calling me and giving me this opportunity to come and have some fun and still scratch the itch of racing but still get to spend a lot of time with my family.

“I’ve had so much pressure to win. I think everybody expected me to get in and just go win and the reality is that it’s really hard to jump in these cars and race against the guys that do it week in and week out.”

Mayer ended up credited with second, Chandler Smith third, Carson Kvapil was fourth in his series debut and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five.

Completing the top 10 were Sheldon Creed, Cole Custer, Sammy Smith, Jesse Love and Josh Williams.

Mayer, Chandler Smith, Allgaier and Creed are eligible for the Dash4Cash bonus next weekend at Texas.

Stage 1

Almirola held off a late charge from Creed by 0.197 seconds to take the Stage 1 win. Custer was third, Mayer fourth and A.J. Allmendinger completed the top five.

Stage 2

Allgaier grabbed the lead with eight of 60 laps remaining and held off Almirola to claim the Stage 2 win. Sammy Smith was third, Kvapil fourth and Custer rounded out the top five.

Brandon Jones missed a shift on a restart to start the stage which triggered an accident that collected more than a dozen cars, including Allmendinger, Corey Heim, Almirola and Austin Hill.


Stage 3

During the break between Stages 2 and 3, the lead lap cars all elected to pit with Almirola just edging Sammy Smith off pit road. Almirola led the way when the race returned to green with 120 laps remaining.

NASCAR placed the race under caution on lap 171 for a large piece of debris in the racing groove in Turn 3.

All of the lead lap cars pit except for Kligerman, who inherited the lead. Almirola was the first car off pit road.

Kligerman led Almirola, Creed and Custer when the race resumed with 73 laps remaining. Almirola quickly powered back to the lead on the restart.

Garrett Smithley spun around entering Turn 1 on lap 196 to place the race back under caution for the eighth time. Most of the lead lap cars remained on the track and Almirola led the way on the restart with 46 laps to go.

With 20 laps remaining, Almirola had built a 2-second lead over Chandler Smith as Mayer moved into third.

On lap 234, Ryan Sieg lost it entering Turn 1, spun around and ended up stopped alongside the outside wall which brought out a caution.

Almirola led Chandler Smith, Mayer, Creed and Allgaier on the restart with 11 laps to go.

Chandler Smith powered quickly to the lead only to see Almirola stay close and then nudge Smith out of the groove to reclaim the top spot.

Mayer gained on both and got around Almirola on lap 243 before a multi-car wreck in Turn 4 brought out another caution. The wreck sent the race into overtime with Mayer leading Almirola.

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