The “Big One” at Talladega occurred with 20 laps to go in the Geico 500. The massive wreck narrowed the list of contenders and for the 11th time, a driver scored their first Cup win at NASCAR’s longest track. Not that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. needed the additional help. He started the race from the pole and showed he had the fastest Ford all afternoon. Stenhouse dominated early and drove back to the front despite being shuffled back in the pack mid-race. The win came in Stenhouse Jr.’s 158th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start. It was also the first win for Roush-Fenway Racing since the 2014 season.
The Blue Oval teams ran well showing the Ford horsepower that has won five of the first 10 races this season. Aric Almirola finished fourth, Kurt Busch sixth, and Brad Keselowski seventh. Former Talladega winner David Ragan placed 10th. Keselowski’s top 10 was remarkable considering he was caught up in the big multi-car accident. His Fusion sustained minor damage to the front end but was able to continue after pit repairs. The wreck on lap 168 took out Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, and Danica Patrick. Ryan Blaney exited eight laps earlier in a single-car crash.
The leader at the white flag, Kyle Busch, finished third. Continuing Busch’s 2017 run of tough luck. Jamie McMurray took second with a daring move up the middle, three-wide down the backstretch on the final lap. Clint Bowyer finished 14th and Kevin Harvick 23rd, the last car on the lead lap. Harvick suffered significant damage in the melee 23 laps from the finish.
As Talladega often does, the playoff points standings were scrambled after the race. However, the biggest news occurred well before the green flag waved. Joey Logano’s Team Penske Ford was found to have an illegally assembled rear suspension after last week’s win at Richmond. NASCAR penalized crew chief Paul Wolfe fining him $65,000 and suspending him for three races. Most significantly, Logano’s win was deemed encumbered and will not automatically qualify him for the playoff. The team also had 25 championship points deducted from their season total. The 22 cars’ 32nd place finish at Talladega also dropped Logano in the standings.
Keselowski sits third in playoff points, Logano moves down to sixth. Harvick is in seventh, Bowyer holds down ninth, and Stenhouse moves to 12th. Blaney in 13th, Kurt Busch 15th, and Bayne in 16th give Ford eight of the 16 playoff spots. Almirola’s fourth place finish positions him one point behind Bayne in 17th.
Next week the Monster Energy Series visits Kansas Speedway for the Go Bowling 400 on Saturday night. Before taking a break for the All-Star Race, the following Saturday in Charlotte.