Aric Almirola, who entered Sunday winless and 27th in points, now has a seat at the NASCAR Cup Series playoff table.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver held off Christopher Bell to win Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which ended eight laps short of its scheduled 301-lap distance due to oncoming darkness.
With his first Cup win outside of a superspeedway, Almirola snapped a 98-race winless streak. He also shocked the playoff landscape as NASCAR enters a two-week hiatus for the Tokyo Olympics.
His victory knocked Tyler Reddick to the 16th and final playoff position. Reddick holds that position by just five points over Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon. But most important of all, Almirola changed the course of what had been one of his worst Cup seasons to date.
“… We’ve been through so much, and I’ve just stood the test and kept the faith,” Almirola told NBC Sports. “The team, everybody’s been working so hard. … My pit crew did a phenomenal job on pit road.