Kyle Busch Grabs an Improbable Win at Talladega

0
1094
Talladega Superspeedway, Lincoln, AL — April 23, 2023

The NASCAR Cup Series visits Talladega Superspeedway today. That, in itself, means excitement. Check out these race facts compiled by Racing Insights.

  • The last five Talladega races were won by five different organizations.
  • The driver who led the most laps has failed to win the last five Talladega races.
  • Thirty-one Talladega races were won with a last-lap pass, including five of the last six races and both in 2022.
  • Twelve drivers got their first Cup win at Talladega. For six of those drivers, it was their only win.

Talladega Superspeedway holds the all-time record in “Green Flag Passes” for the Lead in a single NASCAR Cup Series event with 219 green flag passes for the lead set on October 20, 2013.

Talladega Superspeedway also holds the all-time record in total “Green Flag Passes” in a single NASCAR Cup Series event, with 23,765 total green flag passes throughout the field set on October 20, 2013.

Construction began on what was then known as the Alabama International Motor Speedway on May 23, 1968. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway was held on September 14, 1969, and the event was won by Richard Brickhouse from Rocky Point, North Carolina. The average speed of the first race at the 2.66-mile track was 153.778 mph.

The name of the facility changed to Talladega Superspeedway in 1989, and the surface underwent its fourth repaving on September 19, 2006. In total, there have been 107 NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway, one series event in 1969, and two races per year since 1970.

Active NASCAR Cup Series Race Winners at Talladega Superspeedway

Driver  Wins Seasons
Brad Keselowski 6 2021, 2017, 2016. 2014, 2012, 2009
Joey Logano 3 2018, 2016, 2015
Chase Elliott 2 2022, 2019
Ryan Blaney 2 2020, 2019
Denny Hamlin 2 2020, 2014
Ross Chastain 1 2022
Bubba Wallace 1 2021
Aric Almirola 1 2018
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 1 2017
Kevin Harvick 1 2010
Kyle Busch 1 2008

Today’s Race

Talladega Superspeedway announced that the original “Alabama Gang” members Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison, and Red Farmer will serve as the Grand Marshals and will give the command to fire engines.

Sunday will mark a milestone 800th NASCAR Cup Series start for Kevin Harvick. The 47-year-old veteran will accomplish the feat when he takes the green flag for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Harvick is set to become the 10th driver to reach 800 starts, joining Richard Petty, Ricky Rudd, Dave Marcis, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Kyle Petty, Bill Elliott, Darrell Waltrip, and Jeff Gordon. The 2014 Cup Series champion will also be the fifth-youngest driver to get to 800 starts.

The 500 miles around the 2.66-mile consist of 188 laps. Stages are 60/60/68 laps. Ross Chastain is the defending race champion. Denny Hamlin sits on the pole, with Aric Almirola starting beside Hamlin in the front row.

Byron, Michigan native Erik Jones signs an autograph for a young fan prior to the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway / NASCAR Photo

Stage 1

Aric Almirola(10) led the first lap with a push from teammate Chase Briscoe(14). Joey Logano(22) was making a mad charge to the front on the outside when back in the pack Michael McDowell(34) spun off turn four.

McDowell said something broke in the rear end of the car. He hit the wall in turn four, flattened the right rear tire, and was fortunate not to be collected by another car in the incident. The team thought the right rear toe link was broken but could not identify the cause of the problem. McDowell lost a lap while the rear chassis was inspected by the crew while sitting on pit road.

A few drivers mid-pack took advantage of the McDowell caution to pit for fuel only. Almirola and Briscoe restarted on the front row. Briscoe jumped ahead and then dropped to the bottom row to form a line of Ford Mustangs working the shortest distance around the track.

Bubba Wallace(23) led a line of cars on the outside, swapping the lead with Briscoe. The remainder of the field followed two-by-two in formation all around the speedway. Wallace’s co-owner, Michael Jordan, sat atop the pit box watching the action.

Coming to the halfway point of the stage, the inside line pulled ahead slightly, with Wallace being pushed by Ryan Blaney(12). On the outside, Kyle Busch(8) was pushing Daniel Suarez(99), trying to stay abreast of the top spot.

Green flag pit stops began on lap 36 as Wallace pulled low off turn four. Tyler Reddick(45) turned down late and spun trying to get down to pit road speed. Everyone avoided him as he tapped the inside wall and bounced off across the pit road entrance.

As the Fords pitted on lap 41, Briscoe had a similar incident as Reddick. It appeared there was a brake issue on Briscoe’s car as he sped around the other Mustangs coming in for service. He finally locked up the front wheels, which caused him to spin in front of his fellow drivers, who all managed to avoid the incident.

Briscoe’s right front tire was down, and as he attempted to drive toward his pit stall, the car would not move. He shredded the rear tires trying to get forward movement but remained locked in place, blocking the entrance to the pits. NASCAR was forced to wave the caution flag to get the car out of a potentially dangerous position.

There was no mechanical issue. The car was so low on the right front it would not move with a flat tire, and Briscoe needed to be assisted to his pit. The crew check the car over and gave the ok to return to racing, but they lost laps during the process and joined McDowell two laps down to the field.

When the pack returned to racing, the running order was jumbled. With 10 laps to go in the Stage, Alex Bowman(48) led. Chase Elliott(9), Kyle Larson(5), Ross Chastain(1), and Suarez made up the top five.

Elliott and Bowman swapped the top spot as Kyle Busch was leading a third lane on the high side, trying to catch the leaders. A drag race down the front tri-oval saw Elliott take the green and white checkered flag for the Stage win as cars spread out five wide behind him, fighting for positions and Stage points.

Stage 1 Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 9 Chase Elliott 10
2 48 Alex Bowman 9
3 1 Ross Chastain 8
4 24 William Byron 7
5 5 Kyle Larson 6
6 2 Austin Cindric* 5
7 42 Noah Gragson 4
8 22 Joey Logano* 3
9 99 Daniel Suarez 2
10 36 Todd Gilliland* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage 2

Hamlin, the race leader after pit stops, lined up on the outside with Kevin Harvick(4) behind him. Justin Haley chose the inside beside Hamlin, with Chastain following. Haley and Hamlin swapped the lead as the field was back to side-by-side racing. Hamlin got a slight advantage and dropped down in front of Haley, allowing Harvick to run the outside lane into the lead.

Leaders shuffled positions, trying to get lined up with a teammate or manufacturer partner. The Fords of Harvick and Logano ended up on the high side, with Martin Truex Jr.(19) and Hamlin on the bottom. Neither lane has established itself as the clear favorite to run in. Yet!

Green flag pit stops began on lap 104 as the Hendrick Motorsports drivers came in together. Almost all stops were for fuel only. Almost the entire field pitted over the next two laps.

Joey Logano was flagged for going too fast exiting pit road. He was forced to return to the pits for a drive-thru penalty at pit road speed. Logano remained on the lead lap after his return to pit road. However, with Logano running alone on the track and laps in the Stage winding down, he goes a lap down.

Logano was able to merge into traffic and stayed in the lucky dog position as the first car a lap down. Giving him a free pass back onto the lead lap when the end of Stage caution flew.

Coming to the line at the end of the Stage, the leaders spread out five wide. Almirola snuck through the middle of the group to take the Stage win, just edging out Elliott.

Stage 2 Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 10 Aric Almirola* 10
2 9 Chase Elliott 9
3 4 Kevin Harvick* 8
4 23 Bubba Wallace 7
5 21 Harrison Burton* 6
6 41 Ryan Preece* 5
7 19 Martin Truex Jr. 4
8 11 Denny Hamlin 3
9 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2
10 42 Noah Gragson 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

So far, there has been a spirit of give and take among the drivers in the field. That will disappear as the race enters the Final Stage. Blocking will begin, and maintaining position will become more important. There are 35 cars remaining on the lead lap, and in the two-by-two pack, they are separated by a mere two seconds.

The lead continues to change between the outside and inside lines. With 50 laps to go, it was Harrison Burton(21) on the inside and Blaney on the outside line.

With 47 laps to go, Burton got a tap to the rear bumper from Noah Gragson(42) at the end of the backstretch. Burton went around and spun off the track, thereby avoiding the big one. Austin Dillon(3), Zane Smith(38), and Austin Hill, running back in the pack, were involved as the field checked up to avoid contact.

With the caution out, everyone came to the pit road to refuel for the final sprint to the checkered flag.

On the restart, Wallace (outside) and Blaney (inside) led the lines. Erik Jones formed a third line on the outside and began moving to the front. Ryan Preece(41) pulled out in front of Jones, and the entire field chose their preferred line as they raced three wide.

With 30 laps to go, the third line fell apart, and it was back to two-by-two racing. Blaney, in the lead, was being pushed by Almirola. Ty Gibbs ran the high side with Wallace tight on his rear bumper. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) gave the top side a try, and Corey LaJoie(7) joined to push with more drivers joining in.

With 15 laps to go, the inside line was pulling away. The outside line was dragging the middle line backward. The guys in the center groove tighten up and effectively made the outside line disappear. Gibbs is holding the throttle wide open, and Blaney is massaging the gas pedal to stay in contact with Almirola behind him.

Blaney is saving fuel and managing the runs at the front of the pack. The third line formed again on the outside, with LaJoie leading the rush. With six laps to go, Logano went high to join them, and LaJoie tapped his bumper Cars started spinning. Riley Herbst(15), Burton, William Byron(24), Stenhouse, and Suarez were also involved in the incident.

At the choose cone, Blaney and Almirola went low, while Gragson and Chastain went high. The restart will come with two laps to go. A green-white-checker finish in NASCAR overtime awaits.

The Finish

A big push from Chastain sent Gragson to the lead. Blaney closed quickly, and Chastain tried to go up the middle. Blaney cleared everyone. But Chastain, Gragson, and Almirola got together.

Gragson spun, Larson turned sideway, and Preece hit Larson at full speed, turning both cars into junk. Chastain, Harvick, and Gibbs suffered minor damage from contact with those involved.

With overtime number two coming, fuel is becoming a concern for many of the leaders. Blaney and Almirola are again on the inside. Kyle Busch and Wallace are outside. Busch was told by his crew he needed to come in for fuel. The driver declined to comply.

At the drop of the green, Ty Gibbs ran out of Sunoco racing fuel and stalled in the middle of the track. As drivers scrambled to avoid the slower car, Busch snuck away into the lead. Almirola ran out of gas, causing more havoc in the middle of the pack. Wallace passed Busch for the lead, and Blaney followed. Blaney went to make a move around Wallace, who tried to block the pass. Blaney hit Wallace, spinning out the #23 car, and lost enough momentum to allow Busch to get back in front.

As cars began spinning and wrecking, NASCAR put out the caution giving Busch the improbable win. The Ford Mustangs of Blaney and Chris Buescher(17) finished second and third. Michigan’s Erik Jones came home in the sixth position.

Busch was unable to perform a burnout in celebration of the win, his car ran out of fuel.

Playoff Standings

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 Kyle Larson 295 In Win(2)
2 Kyle Busch 290 In Win(2)
3 William Byron 245 In Win(2)
4 Christopher Bell (Points Leader) 331 In Win(1)
5 Tyler Reddick 289 In Win(1)
6 Joey Logano* 268 In Win(1)
7 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 246 In Win(1)
8 Ross Chastain 320 +91
9 Kevin Harvick* 311 +82
10 Martin Truex Jr. 281 +62
11 Ryan Blaney* 276 +57
12 Denny Hamlin 272 +53
13 Alex Bowman 269 +40
14 Brad Keselowski* 267 +38
15 Chase Briscoe* 243 +14
16 Chris Buescher* 240 +11
NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Cut Line
17 Daniel Suarez 229 -11
18 Austin Cindric* 213 -27
19 Michael McDowell* 202 -38
20 Ty Gibbs 199 -41
21 Bubba Wallace 191 -49
22 Todd Gilliland* 189 -51
23 Corey LaJoie 186 -54
24 Aric Almirola* 170 -70
25 Erik Jones 165 -75

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Gieco 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 8 Kyle Busch 196
2 12 Ryan Blaney 1.166 196
3 17 Chris Buescher 2.949 196
4 14 Chase Briscoe 4.278 196
5 6 Brad Keselowski 4.278 196
6 43 Erik Jones 4.279 196
7 24 William Byron 4.394 196
8 20 Christopher Bell 4.533 196
9 99 Daniel Suarez 4.533 196
10 36 Todd Gilliland 4.534 196
11 51 JJ Yeley 4.536 196
12 78 BJ McLeod 4.841 196
13 45 Tyler Reddick 4.858 196
14 9 Chase Elliott 5.035 196
15 11 Denny Hamlin 5.059 196
16 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 5.144 196
17 77 Ty Dillon 5.155 196
18 48 Alex Bowman 5.173 196
19 31 Justin Haley 5.421 196
20 4 Kevin Harvick 6.772 196
21 10 Aric Almirola 12.837 196
22 1 Ross Chastain 13.237 196
23 62 Austin Hill 13.452 196
24 7 Corey LaJoie 18.118 196
25 15 Riley Herbst 21.065 196
26 2 Austin Cindric 190.250 196
27 19 Martin Truex Jr. 193.313 196
28 23 Bubba Wallace 195
29 16 AJ Allmendinger 195
30 22 Joey Logano -1 195
31 54 Ty Gibbs -2 194
32 42 Noah Gragson -7 189
33 5 Kyle Larson -7 189
34 41 Ryan Preece -7 189
35 34 Michael McDowell -7 189
36 21 Harrison Burton -13 183
37 38 Zane Smith -55 141
38 3 Austin Dillon -55 141