Truex Jr. wins at Kansas, Almirola injured in wreck

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Kansas Speedway was finally kind to Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday evening, as the driver of the No. 78 Toyota led a race-high 104 of 267 laps en route to his second win of the season, ninth in his career and first at the 1.5-mile Midwest tri-oval.

The Mayetta, N.J. native survived two late-race restarts, including one where he passed then-leader Ryan Blaney with an elevator move. He crossed the No. 21 over, moving from the apron to the middle of the race track and powering his No. 78 to the lead—and he never looked back.


TRUEX GITS ‘ER DONE

Larry The Cable Guy may have been the one who gave the command to fire engines for the GoBowling 400, but Martin Truex Jr. was the one that “got ‘er done” on Saturday evening. Three races prior at Kansas, Truex Jr. had led the most laps but failed to wind up in victory lane. But lady luck may be on MTJ’s side now, as he grabbed the checkered flag after 400 miles.

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“It feels great,” Truex Jr. said in victory lane to FS1. “(Kansas has) definitely been a thorn in our side. That’s for sure. You know for years and years even, before I was with this (Furniture Row) team, for whatever reason we always ran good here and never could close the deal. Proud to get these guys back in Victory Lane. This is our home race track — the guys from Colorado. Appreciate all the fans. We got a lot of fans from Colorado here today. I met a bunch of them before the race and hopefully they’re all psyched.”


THE FIELD

Brad Keselowski came home in second place after being two laps down at one point. The No. 2 did it without Paul Wolfe on top of the pit box, who was serving the third of his three-race suspension. Kevin Harvick came home third with Ryan Blaney fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. Busch, the defending winner dating back to 2016, also won stage one of the event.

Rounding out the top ten were Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Trevor Bayne. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth and Michael McDowell came home just outside the top 10, with Ty Dillon and Kasey Kahne rounding out the top 15.

Some other notable finishers included Kurt Busch in 19th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 20th, Denny Hamlin in 23rd, Jimmie Johnson in 24th and Chase Elliott in 29th after an early-race pit-road run in with McDowell which caused extensive damage to the front of the No. 24.


BLANEY COMES UP SHORT AGAIN

Ryan Blaney won the pole on Friday and looked like one of, if not the, best car all evening from Kansas. But when it counted, the second-year driver was bested by a savvy veteran in Truex Jr. At Texas, Blaney won both stages one and two and was the dominant car all afternoon, but failed to close out to earn his first career victory. Unfortunately, Saturday night was similar.

“I felt that we had a great short run car tonight, and I thought that was going to play right into our hands at the end,” Blaney, who led 83 laps and won stage two, told FS1. “(Truex) got us on that restart somehow. I don’t know. I was super loose there on the last restarts, and the No. 78 got me spinning my tires a little bit. It kind of stinks. I think that it says a lot about this team to go out and lead some laps and go have a shot at winning races.”


CAUTIONS WITH REPEAT OFFENDERS

Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Saturday night’s event saw a record-tying 15 yellow flags (one red flag). A whopping 61 of the 267 laps were run under caution, translating to 23 percent of the race. There were a lot of familiar faces throughout the event that kept bringing out the yellow flag, though.

Rookie of the year contender Erik Jones brought the yellow out three times for spins. In all three, he made no contact with the wall or other cars, and emerged unscathed. He finished 22nd in his No. 77 Toyota. Landon Cassill hit the wall twice, bringing out the caution twice. Corey LaJoie also brought the yellow flag out twice for slamming the wall in his No. 83 BK Racing Toyota, and Ty Dillon had two accidents.


ANOTHER BIG ONE LEAVES ALMIROLA INJURED

One would think, leaving Talladega and heading to Kansas, that big wrecks with carnage and cars getting airborne at high speeds were a thing of the past. But that was not the case.

On lap 200, Joey Logano and Danica Patrick were battling for position when the No. 22 reportedly had a brake rotor failure on his right front, sending his car to the left, straight into the right rear quarter panel of the No. 10. Those two cars hit the wall at over 200 mph.

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Leaving a trail of oil and not being able to yank the wheel left, Aric Almirola came barreling into the two cars at a high rate of speed and went airborne momentarily, before coming crashing back down to the ground. The red flag was displayed for more than 30 minutes due to the crash.

The 33-year old Richard Petty Motorsports driver from Zephyrhills, Florida remained in his car after lowering his window net, signaling he was alert, awake and okay. But he was hurt.

Safety crews did their job admirably, and ended up cutting the roof off the No. 43 Ford to extract Almirola from his vehicle safely and slowly. He was put on a stretcher and taken immediately to the infield care center for a possible diagnosis.

Photo: Getty Images

Almirola was airlifted to the University of Kansas medical center for further observation and no update was given on his condition until the wee hours of the morning. The next day, RPM provided a press release updating Almirola’s condition.

The T5 vertebra in his back was fractured, but he was able to fly back to North Carolina to be with his family. FOX Sports reported that he was at the shop, walking around upright on Monday. No timetable has been set for his absence and no fill-in driver has been announced.

Photo: Getty Images

As for the other drivers involved in the wreck, their nights were over, but they had their fellow competitor on their mind.

“Yeah, I’m OK,” Logano said. “Just saying a lot of prayers for Aric right now. A lot of us took a hard hit. Something broke on my car. I don’t know what it was. I noticed it as I was trying to go in (to turn 1). I tried to back it off but you’re going 215 (mph) and it’s hard to check up. The car just took a big step sideways into the corner and I hooked Danica.”

Patrick was upset at her bad luck continuing this season, while also expressing concern for Almirola.

“When (Logano) said he had a failure I can’t say it made me feel that much better in the moment,” Patrick said. “I am just frustrated for the lack of breaks I get. It seems like every time things are going better and something happens I get crashed or am in a crash.”


WHAT’S NEXT

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels back home to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Monster Energy All-Star Race. There will be a preliminary race, the Monster Energy Open, that will feature drivers who have not clinched All-Star race berths yet. Winners of each stage in the Open will transfer to the big show, along with the fan vote winner.

The winner of the race will earn a hearty $1 million check. Joey Logano is the defending winner. The race can be seen on Fox Sports 1 on May 20 with festivities starting in the late afternoon.