Talladega Superspeedway, Lincoln, AL — April 28, 2019
Today’s Geico 500 from Talladega Superspeedway will be the first race on a 2.5 mile or longer track without restrictor plates since 1987. NASCAR’s rules for 2019 were to have eliminated the need for the device. However, when speeds in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series first practice topped 202 mph, the sanctioning body responded. A 1-inch wide “T” called a wicker was added to the top of the rear spoiler. It worked qualifying speeds were lowered to the 191 mph range.
Eight cars were sent to the rear of the field for the start of today’s race. Including all four Joe Gibbs Racing entries. The penalties were for unapproved adjustments. Starting at the rear is not as big a disadvantage as it is at the tracks where it is harder to pass. Still, avoiding the big wreck while working back to the front is always a concern.
The 500 miles is made up of 188 laps around the 2.66-mile Superspeedway. Stage lengths are 55/55/78 laps. Joey Logano(22) was last year’s winner in this event. Team Penske has won six of the last 9 Talladega races. Austin Dillon(3) sits on the pole for the drop of the green flag, Aric Almirola(10) joins him on the front row.
Brad Keselowski(2) came from 4th starting position to the lead at the end of the 1st lap. Ford Mustangs held the first six spots at the end of Lap 1. The rest of the field strung out three wide behind the leaders.
On Lap 11 Bubba Wallace(43) tapped the rear bumper of Ryan Blaney(12), Bubba got loose and spun in turn 1. The cars of Denny Hamlin(11), Clint Bowyer(14), Michael McDowell(34), and Kevin Harvick (4) all got caught up in the incident.
Pit road opened on Lap 14 and everyone came to get fuel, as they should be able to complete the stage without making another stop. Pit road speeding penalties sent Chase Elliott(9), Ryan Blaney(12), and Kyle Busch(18) to the rear of the field for the restart.
Joey Logano and Daniel Suarez(41) brought the field to green for the restart. Stage One saw 13 lead changes among 10 different drivers. With Ty Dillon(13) taking the green and white checkered flag for the stage win.
Several drivers were close to running out of fuel and opted to slow down and conserve as opposed to racing to the finish and running out on the track.
Martin Truex Jr.(19) was penalized for too many men over the wall during his stop and had to restart at the rear of the field.
Stage 1 Results
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||3|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
Elliott led the race off pit road, he and Alex Bowman(88) paced the rest of the pack to the restart line at the beginning of Stage 2. Bowman led briefly until Keselowski returned to the front with what appeared to be the fastest car on the track.
Pit stops began at mid-Stage. With the Ford strategy, championed by Mark Rushbrook of Ford Performance, proving to be so successful. A total of 11 Chevrolets pitted together. The Mustang drivers followed suit a few laps later. As tire wear is not a big factor, most stops were for fuel only.
Chase Elliott won the stage, with Alex Bowman again finishing 2nd.
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Having avoided the “Big One” through the first two stages, the final 78 laps could get intense. The front row remained the same after Stage ending pit stops. With Elliott and Bowman on the point.
With 57 laps to go, NASCAR brought out the caution for debris on the backstretch. This gave the leaders an opportunity to pit for tires and fuel. Michigan’s Erik Jones(20) grabbed the lead off pit road, Blaney restarts next to Jones. Three and four wide racing jumbled the field behind Jones as drivers shuffled for position looking for teammates to help push.
The cars of Team Penske, Logano, Keselowski, Blaney, and Paul Menard(21) got together and raced off to the lead.
Final Pit Stops
Pit stops began with 34 laps to go as the Chevrolets again pitted in mass. The Fords pitted on the next lap. Keselowski locked up the brakes coming to pit road and spun around facing the wrong way. Remarkably, his pit stall was at the beginning of pit road and he slid into his pit perfectly positioned. Keselowski’s crew serviced the car, he spun it around and exited down pit road. The cool maneuver cost Brad a significant amount of track position.
After pit stops cycled through Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) held the lead with Logano in 2nd. With 21 laps to go Logano was back out front. He effectively blocked the advancing lines behind him as the leaders diced three-wide.
The Laps Wind Down
With 15 laps to go Logano Led Almirola, DiBenedetto, Kurt, and Kyle Busch. Down to 10 laps from the finish, Logano still led Kyle Busch, Stenhouse, Truex and Kurt Busch made up the top 5.
The big one was not that big. With 7 laps to go Almirola nudged Chris Buescher spinning him down the backstretch. The cars of DiBenedetto, Truex, and Justin Haley(77) were involved in the wreck. NASCAR displayed the red flag to clean up the mess and allow the race to end under the green flag.
When the race went back under yellow, several of the lead pack pitted for fresh tires. The green waved with 4 laps to go. Bowman pushed Elliott past Logano and into the lead, pushing and shoving began in the closing laps scramble.
Stenhouse spun in the tri-oval as the leaders took the white flag. Several cars tangled going down the backstretch.
NASCAR was forced to display the yellow flag just as the cars began their race to the finish in Turn 3. Elliott the leader at the time of the caution was declared the winner. A wild finish would likely have gotten crazier had the race been able to finish under green. Big shout-outs to rookies Daniel Hemric(8) in 4th and Ryan Preece(47) who finished 3rd, just behind another young gun, Alex Bowman in 2nd.
Next week the series visits Dover International Speedway. The Monster Mile is sure to keep the excitement level high in the Gander RV 400.
Results of the Geico 500 from Talladega Superspeedway
|20||19||Martin Truex Jr||Wreck||188|
|25||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Wreck||187|
Points / Playoff Standings
|5||Martin Truex Jr.||328||1|
|Playoff Cut Line|
|19||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||220||0|
* Ford Mustang Drivers