tampabay.com

NASCAR: Win but no finish for Almirola

The Tampa driver has to step aside after 59 laps; Denny Hamlin takes over and finishes first in the Busch Series AT&T 250.

By Times wires
Published June 24, 2007


WEST ALLIS, Wis. - The record books will show that Tampa's Aric Almirola earned his first victory in NASCAR's top three levels Saturday night. But he got no trip to Victory Lane.

Brandon-born Denny Hamlin, who missed the start because his helicopter couldn't find a place to land, rallied to take the checkered flag in the Busch Series AT&T 250 at the Milwaukee Mile. Hamlin flew in from Sonoma, Calif., where he was practicing for today's Nextel Cup race.

Because Almirola started, NASCAR credits him with the victory.

In Victory Lane, Hamlin said it wasn't his decision to kick Almirola out of the car. "I didn't want to do it, " Hamlin said. "I knew he would be really upset."

Almirola, who got out of the car on Lap 59, refused interview requests, took a side exit and left the track without comment.

Hamlin steadily sliced through traffic throughout the race and finally took the lead with 78 laps to go — then saw of his biggest competitors fall out of contention seconds later when Busch Series points leader Carl Edwards pulled off for an unscheduled pit stop to change an apparent flat tire.

Hamlin was shuffled back to fourth on the final round of pit stops, giving Scott Wimmer the race lead. But Hamlin charged back into the lead on an aggressive move with 13 laps to go, squeezing past both Wimmer and Jason Leffler in Turn 1. Wimmer finished second and Leffler third.