Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, AL — October 14, 2019
Today’s NASCAR Playoff race from Talladega is the wild card in Round 2 of the postseason. With the “Big One” always lurking, anything can happen and often does on the circuit’s biggest track. At the end of the day, it will be crystal clear what it takes to advance to the Round of Eight as next week’s Hollywood Casino 400 from Kansas Speedway will cut four more of the championship contenders from the current field of 12 drivers.
Chase Elliott(9) sits on the pole for 1000Bulbs.com 500, his teammate Alex Bowman(88) starts beside him. Chase will have two more teammates on the row behind him as Hendrick Motorsports swept the top 4 qualifying positions. Six Ford Mustangs line up behind them to round out the top 10. Lots of talk about manufacturer cooperation during the race today to improve the chances of a specific model ending up in victory lane.
Stages for the 188 laps that make up the 500 miles this afternoon are 55/55/78 laps. Aric Almirola(10), in a Ford Mustang, won the race last year. The pole-sitter, Elliott, won here in the spring race. Ryan Blaney(12) needs a strong run today as he starts 22 points behind the playoff cut line. Everyone else is in a tight competitive race for the eight advancement positions.
Earnhart Senior’s Famous #3 Returns to Talladega in Stirring Fashion
Prior to the race, Richard Childress drove the iconic #3 race car that Dale Earnhardt Sr. piloted to victory lane for his 76th and final victory in the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Much to the delight of the fans, Childress circled the track in stirring tribute to the late NASCAR Champion.
As expected, the lines of race cars quickly formed into manufacturer drafts as the teams hoped to gain an advantage by working together. The lead swapped several times as drivers proved that driving to the front was possible with assistance. Denny Hamlin(11) started from the rear due to an engine change and drove to the front in just six laps around the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway.
Green flag pit stops started 35 laps in with Blaney leading a Ford contingent in for mostly gas-only stops. Blaney spun entering pit road and was last to exit, he earned a pit road speeding penalty and lost a lap serving the drive-thru back to pit road.
Spencer Boyd(52) had a mechanical problem and slowed to a stop on the track just as pit stops were concluding. The yellow flag displayed, a big break for Blaney as he was able to return to the lead lap thanks to the lucky dog. Pit strategy was impacted by those needing Stage points willing to stay out to gain track position.
Racing three-wide for the lead, Erik Jones(20) had a problem with the right rear of his car as sparks trailed out behind the rear bumper. Jones was able to keep the car under control, get out of the draft, and head to the pits avoiding a major crash.
The three and four-wide racing continued to the green and white checkered flag as William Byron(24) won the Stage with Joey Logano(22) and Bowman chasing him across the line.
Stage 1 Results
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||7|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
Rain began to fall during the cool-down laps and the pits were closed. The cars continued to circle the track until NASCAR brought out the red flag on Lap 57. It will not be an official race until the conclusion of Stage 2. Track drying crews worked to get the race restarted only to have the skies open up washing out the event and forcing a postponement until 2:00 pm on Monday afternoon.
More of the same in the 2nd Stage as three and four-wide racing continued. Runs to the front by the different teams and manufacturers kept the lead changes going. Blaney led the Ford contingent on two different occasions for a race-high 28 laps out front.
The Big One happened with four laps to go in the Stage. Clint Bowyer(14) was pushing Logan to catch the leader, Bowman. They had a huge run on the top side of the track when Bowman moved up to block. Logano made contact with the bumper of the #88 car and sent him spinning in front of the entire pack. Kurt Busch(1), Kevin Harvick(4), Elliott, Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr.(19), Michael McDowell(34), Larson, Ryan Preece(47), Jimmie Johnson(48), and Bowman were all involved in the Turn 3 incident.
The Stage ended under caution with Bowyer taking the win and the 10 bonus points.
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
At the start of the Final Stage, drivers seemed willing to line up and make laps. Bubba Wallace(43) and Blake Jones(77) got together at the back of the pack, the bumper tag brought out the caution on lap 121. Still too early to make it to the end of the race on fuel, some of the drivers opted to visit pit road for more repairs to the damage caused in the big wreck.
On the restart, it was back to side-by-side racing. Martin Truex Jr. had a left front tire explode on the backstretch on Lap 131, debris on the track brought out another yellow. Most of the field came to pit road for fuel and tires. If multiple cautions continue someone may choose to try and stretch their fuel to the end.
With 35 laps to go, Bowyer had a tire go down and he spun to the bottom of the track in Turn 3. Unfortunately, he got his bumper stuck on the banking, lifting the rear wheels of the car off the track. He had to wait for safety crew assistance and ended up losing two laps, severely damaging his playoff hopes.
The caution allowed everyone the opportunity to get fresh tires and enough Sunoco Racing Fuel to finish the race. Byron, Kurt Busch, Buescher, Aric Almirola(10) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) led the pack back to the green flag.
The Big One #2
Kurt Busch was pushing Byron down the backstretch when the #24 car turned sideways and ran into the left rear of Logano. The wreck involved Kurt Busch, Erik Jones(20), Paul Menard(21), Daniel Suarez(41), Preece, and Austin Theriault(51). Logano’s car was hurt badly, his crew repaired what they could with high-speed tape sheets and he was able to continue one lap down.
A spin by Suarez brought out another caution leaving only 13 laps to go when the race returned to green. Suarez was far behind the pack trying to get his car back up to speed after extensive repairs on pit road. He took the race car to the garage after making it back around to the tri-oval.
The Big One #3
David Ragan pushed Stenhouse to a slight lead on the restart. Matt DiBenedetto pushed Kurt Busch past Stenhouse on the next lap. Busch and Stenhouse battled side by side until Kyle Busch went three-wide for the lead with 7 laps to go. Kyle Busch dropped down in front of his brother Kurt hoping for a push, which he got. However, the #18 got sideways and the third major wreck of the day happened at the front of the field.
Brendan Gaughan(62) was making a run past Kyle Busch for the lead. Gaughan got clipped and went airborne doing a complete flip. Fortunately, he landed on the wheels but the car was destroyed. Brad Keselowski nursed his car back to the pits and then across the finish line to pass two cars involved in the wreck. It gave Keselowski two position points in the final standings.
Extensive damage to a number of cars and debris covering the track forced NASCAR to display the red flag with six laps to go. Kurt Busch, DiBenedetto, David Ragan(38), and Truex all sustain enough damage to take them out of the race.
When the race restarted Blaney was in the lead and there were only two laps left before the checkered flag waves. Cars scrambled to find drafting partners and make runs. Ryan Newman(6), with a push from Hamlin, surged to the lead in the final corner. Blaney got beside Newman and the pair drag raced to the finish line.
In a photo finish, Blaney edged Newman by inches. Almirola finished 3rd, Hamlin 4th, and McDowell 5th. Brendan Gaughan summed things up pretty well in his interview after exiting the track medical center.
At the start of the race, Blaney was in last place among the 12 remaining playoff drivers and 22 points behind the cut line. The win advances him to the Round of 8 joining last week’s winner Kyle Larson.
Hamlin, Truex, Kyle Busch, and Harvick are almost a lock baring a last-place finish next week at Kansas. That still might not eliminate any of the Top 6. The rest of Team Penske will move on with solid finishes. Unless one of the bottom four pulls off a miracle win. Despite his misfortune, Logano and his crew earned an 11th place finish and sits 18 points ahead of 9th place Alex Bowman.
Byron, Bowyer, Elliott, and Bowman need Stage points, a strong finish next week, and a lot of luck if any of the four are to advance past this round.
|Rank||Driver||Points||To Cut Line|
|No. 1||Kyle Larson||3,069||In-Win|
|No. 2||Ryan Blaney||3,056||In-Win|
|No. 3||Denny Hamlin||3,114||+56|
|No. 4||Martin Truex Jr.||3,106||+48|
|No. 5||Kyle Busch||3,099||+41|
|No. 6||Kevin Harvick||3,094||+36|
|No. 7||Brad Keselowski||3,078||+20|
|No. 8||Joey Logano||3,076||+18|
|Playoff Cut Line|
|No. 9||Alex Bowman||3,058||-18|
|No. 10||Chase Elliott||3,054||-22|
|No. 11||Clint Bowyer||3,052||-24|
|No. 12||William Byron||3,049||-27|
Results of the 1000Bulbs.com 500 from Talladega SuperSpeedway
|1||12||Ryan Blaney (P)||—||188|
|4||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||0.061||188|
|8||9||Chase Elliott (P)||0.289||188|
|9||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||0.333||188|
|11||22||Joey Logano (P)||0.401||188|
|17||4||Kevin Harvick (P)||16.604||188|
|19||18||Kyle Busch (P)||75.313||188|
|23||14||Clint Bowyer (P)||-2||186|
|25||2||Brad Keselowski (P)||-6||182|
|26||19||Martin Truex Jr (P)||-6||182|
|33||24||William Byron (P)||-26||162|
|37||88||Alex Bowman (P)||-82||106|
|39||42||Kyle Larson (P)||-82||106|
P = Playoff Drivers