The Associated Press

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Aric Almirola capped an absolute Stewart-Haas Racing rout at Talladega Superspeedway with an overtime victory that earned him an automatic berth into the third round of NASCAR’s playoffs.

It also snapped a 149-race losing streak for Almirola and atoned for his oh-so-close moment in the season-opening Daytona 500.

“I just love racing at Talladega, and I came to the track with the mindset that we were going to go race and we were going to go give them hell, and if we wrecked, we wrecked,” Almirola said. “And if we win, we win. And we won. What a cool time to do it, too.”

The SHR Fords were untouchable all weekend. They swept qualifying, won every stage of Sunday’s race and used teamwork to pull away from the field. As the laps wound down, Kurt Busch led his three teammates in a straight line and pulled the train away from the pack, which could not organize itself behind the SHR group to mount any sort of challenge.

Almirola thought he had last week’s race at Dover won until a caution triggered by teammate Bowyer ruined his shot at the victory. A week later, he got his checkered flag and his stamp into the round of eight into the playoffs.

Bowyer finished second, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in a Ford from Roush Fenway Racing.

The playoff field will be trimmed from 12 drivers to eight after next week’s race at Kansas Speedway.

Also Sunday:

Torrence gets 4th straight Top Fuel NHRA victory: CONCORD, N.C. — Steve Torrence raced to his fourth straight Top Fuel victory to open the NHRA playoffs in the Carolina Nationals. Torrence beat defending series champion Brittany Force with a 3.703-second run at 329.67 mph. The first Top Fuel driver to win the first four races of the Countdown to the Championship, he has nine victories this season and 25 overall.

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