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NASCAR at New Hampshire 2021 Results: Aric Almirola Wins Race Shortened by Darkness

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 19, 2021

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Aric Almirola took home the Loudon Lobster trophy.

Almirola paced the field in Sunday's Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, outlasting Christopher Bell in a thrilling finish to a race that was slightly shortened because of darkness.

It appeared to be Almirola's race to lose at various times during the third stage, but Bell made a late charge to create a tension-filled final 10 laps.

NASCAR @NASCAR

CHECKERED FLAG: Have a day!<a href="https://twitter.com/Aric_Almirola?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Aric_Almirola</a> upsets the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NASCARPlayoffs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NASCARPlayoffs</a> field and wins the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Foxwood301?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Foxwood301</a> at <a href="https://twitter.com/NHMS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NHMS</a>! <a href="https://t.co/l2WeVaFT1A">pic.twitter.com/l2WeVaFT1A</a>

There were plenty of storylines coming into Sunday's race, including whether Kurt Busch would be able to build on his surprise victory in Atlanta and whether Kyle Larson would notch his fifth victory since May 30 (counting the All-Star Race).

Brad Keselowski was also looking to defend his crown in this event, and points leader Denny Hamlin was aiming for his first win in 2021 and figured to have success with three wins and six runner-up finishes in New Hampshire in the past.

However, all the storylines took a backseat right out of the gate when a rain shower in the opening laps led to a crash that included Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Hamlin. Busch and Truex were out ahead, while Hamlin was battling for position prior to the wreck that ended Busch's day.

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

OH MY GOODNESS.<br><br>It started raining at <a href="https://twitter.com/NHMS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NHMS</a> and many people, including race leader Kyle Busch, started wrecking. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NASCAR?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NASCAR</a> <a href="https://t.co/N5cAQp8UpK">pic.twitter.com/N5cAQp8UpK</a>

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"It never should have went to green to begin with," Busch said on the NBC Sports Network broadcast. ... "There's no sense in saying what I want to say. It doesn't do you any good."

With the opening drama in the rearview mirror once racing resumed after a weather delay of nearly two hours after the crash, Ryan Blaney won Stage 1 by passing Chase Elliott. It was his fourth stage win of the year.

NASCAR @NASCAR

Friends off the track. Competitors on it. 🤝<a href="https://twitter.com/Blaney?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Blaney</a> passes <a href="https://twitter.com/chaseelliott?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@chaseelliott</a> for the top spot at <a href="https://twitter.com/NHMS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NHMS</a>! <a href="https://t.co/ZLtAB0latv">pic.twitter.com/ZLtAB0latv</a>

There was no shortage of drama in the second stage, which Keselowski captured for his second stage win of the year.

Ryan Newman bumped into Quin Houff, which inspired the latter to pull even with the No. 6 car and send something of a message. Almirola also talked some trash to Elliott as the tempers began to rise in the race's second half.

What's more, Bubba Wallace spun out and collected Chris Buescher as both fell further behind.

NASCAR @NASCAR

We're serving beef on the menu for <a href="https://twitter.com/P1_Houff?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@P1_Houff</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/RyanJNewman?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RyanJNewman</a>. 🥩 🍽️ <a href="https://t.co/zJpAG1KFrd">https://t.co/zJpAG1KFrd</a> <a href="https://t.co/a6qMZxIsVB">pic.twitter.com/a6qMZxIsVB</a>

NASCAR @NASCAR

Tempers are very high today at <a href="https://twitter.com/NHMS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NHMS</a>. 😅<a href="https://twitter.com/Aric_Almirola?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Aric_Almirola</a> 😡 <a href="https://twitter.com/chaseelliott?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@chaseelliott</a> <a href="https://t.co/MaTBwXhrdy">pic.twitter.com/MaTBwXhrdy</a>

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace get together, and Chris Buescher has nowhere to go. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NASCAR?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NASCAR</a> // NBCSN <a href="https://t.co/lQjkAslzVx">pic.twitter.com/lQjkAslzVx</a>

The biggest question heading into the final stage after Keselowski's win was how many laps would be completed before darkness became an issue. That was the backdrop as Blaney passed his teammate and retook the lead early in the stage.

Keselowski and Blaney battled at first, but it was eventually Almirola who made a desperate charge to the front of the pack as he attempted to beat his fellow racers and the darkness.

As Keselowski and Blaney traded leads again, Matt DiBenedetto decided not to pit and made a late charge without enough fuel to finish, with the hope he would be bailed out by darkness. That added another variable as the Nos. 10 and 2 cars battled for position among those who did pit.

However, the early darkness call he was hoping for never came, and DiBenedetto eventually had to pit and relinquish the brief advantage.

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

WHAT A RACE.<br><br>Aric Almirola gets back by Brad Keselowski for what will be the race lead when the pit cycle completes! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NASCAR?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NASCAR</a> // NBCSN <a href="https://t.co/wR2Wro6jFk">pic.twitter.com/wR2Wro6jFk</a>

NASCAR @NASCAR

"Brad's had his chances." <br><br>It's go time for <a href="https://twitter.com/Aric_Almirola?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Aric_Almirola</a>! <a href="https://t.co/mB4c5qYhLv">pic.twitter.com/mB4c5qYhLv</a>

NASCAR @NASCAR

.<a href="https://twitter.com/Aric_Almirola?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Aric_Almirola</a> to the lead at <a href="https://twitter.com/NHMS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NHMS</a>! <a href="https://t.co/L7ZCu8yLCc">pic.twitter.com/L7ZCu8yLCc</a>

That set the stage for a showdown between Almirola and the late charging Bell as NASCAR announced there would be just 10 laps remaining because of darkness. The decision cut off fewer than 20 laps from the total race but added an element of chaos to the ending.

Fortunately for Almirola, he held off the fast-charging runner-up and clinched a playoff spot.

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