Almirola wins Talladega pole as Fords dominate


TALLADEGA, Ala. — Aric Almirola gave Stewart-Haas Racing a much-needed boost as Ford drivers swept the top three spots and seven of the top 10 in qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Almirola earned the sixth pole of his career with a lap of 181.656 mph in Saturday’s qualifying session. SHR only qualified Kevin Harvick for this year’s playoffs and Harvick, who is retiring at the end of the season, was eliminated at the end of the first round.

It has left SHR fighting only for its first Cup win of the season for the four-car organization over the final six races of the season. SHR came to Talladega with “Talladega Nights” paint schemes on the cars of Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece, who have been in full character all week promoting the sponsorship.

Briscoe qualified third, one spot behind reigning Cup champion Joey Logano of Team Penske. Logano was eliminated from the playoff field at the end of the first round.

Kyle Larson was the highest-qualifying playoff driver at fourth in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He was followed by Brad Keselowski, a six-time Talladega winner, in an RFK Racing Ford.

Riley Herbst, in a Ford prepared by SHR but fielded by Front Row Motorsports, qualified sixth ahead of Austin Cindric of Team Penske.

William Byron, the only driver locked into the round of eight following his win last week at Texas, qualified eighth and was followed by fellow playoff drivers Bubba Wallace in a Toyota for 23XI and Ryan Blaney as all three Penske drivers qualified inside the top 10.

Ross Chastain, at 32nd, was the lowest-qualifying playoff driver.

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