Aric Almirola passed Todd Bodine and Kyle Busch three-wide through the middle with seven laps left in Saturday's VFW 200 and held on to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
Bodine finished second and retained his series lead by 55 points over Almirola, who won for the second time this season in Billy Ballew's No. 51 Toyota. Busch ran third, followed by Ron Hornaday Jr. and polesitter Austin Dillon, who overcame a late pit-road penalty to post his second straight top five.
“I didn't think it was the greatest place to be,” Almirola said of his middle position after a restart on lap 93 of 100. “But I knew we were going to run wide open through the corner. We were either going to crash, or we were going to make it out the other side – because I knew how important clean air was.
“I knew that was my only shot to get out in the lead, and if I didn't get out in the lead, there was no chance of us winning the race. So I went down in Turn 1, and I knew I was going to run a shorter distance than Todd (who was on the outside), so I just tried to hang tight on Kyle's door and get him loose, which I did.
“By the time we got off Turn 2, I was almost clear of Todd, and then when we went through (Turns) 3 and 4, I cleared him. So I think that was the move of the race, as far as I'm concerned.”
In a race that featured a track-record 20 lead changes, Almirola didn't go to the front until his pass on lap 93. Bodine had held the lead for a restart on Lap 89 and had begun to pull away when Nelson Piquet Jr. spun through the frontstretch grass to bring out the fifth and final caution of the afternoon.
“Maybe it caught me a little off guard,” Bodine said of Almirola's pass for the lead. “Aric's a hell of a racer, and they had a good truck when it counted. On a short run like that – especially as many laps as we rode around under caution, with the tires cooling down – everybody's handling pretty good for three or four laps, five laps.
“I really believe that, if this race was 10 laps longer, I probably would have beat him," added Bodine, who congratulated the winner in victory lane (above). "But, guess what, there weren't another 10 laps.”
The race was red-flagged for 40 minutes, 12 seconds because of a rain shower that caused the third caution on lap 34. Timothy Peters finished sixth and remained third in the standings, 165 points behind Almirola. Matt Crafton retired after 83 laps with an engine failure and fell three spots to 10th in points.