Talladega NASCAR: Ryan Blaney wins crash-strewn race for Penske

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney booked his spot in the next stage of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with victory at Talladega, in a race of high attrition.

The race, suspended after just one stage on Sunday due to poor weather, boiled down to a two-lap shootout for the win after a red flag was thrown on lap 181 of 188 following a big accident for the leading pack of cars.

Kurt Busch hit brother Kyle, which triggered a chain-reaction that flipped Brendan Gaughan in the Beard Motorsports Chevorlet and also ended the afternoons of frontrunners Brad Keselowski, David Ragan, Matt DiBenedetto and Kevin Harvick.

After the debris was cleared, Blaney led the restart, until Ryan Newman came charging past on the final tour of the 2.66-mile circuit, curtesy of a push from Denny Hamlin.

Blaney managed to edge his #22 Ford Mustang back into the lead later in the lap, with a photo finish required to separate the two.

Newman’s #6 Roush Fenway Mustang was just 0.007s behind Blaney, who became the second Cup driver to book his place in the ’round of 8′ after last week’s Dover race winner Kyle Larson.

The second stage of the race followed the script laid out in the first on Sunday, with manufacturers grouping together around the superspeedway to try to help their drivers in the draft.

In the second 55-lapper, running was consistent with the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Keselowski taking turns out front, until a lap 106 crash brought things to a premature end.

Reigning Cup champion Joey Logano’s Penske Mustang made contact with Alex Bowman’s Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevrolet, causing big damage to Bowman’s car and ending his strong run. Larson was also collected in the crash, the #42 destroyed by the impact, with Johnson’s race also ending.

Clint Bowyer took his first stage win of the year as a result, as the field reset ahead of the final 78-lap stage, ahead of Logano and Keselowski.

The race remained a slipstream fest, as Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Bowyer, Logano and stage one winner William Byron all took turns leading, until lap 162 when the second big crash occurred.

Leader Byron was hit by Kurt Busch, who then speared into Logano. The champion was lucky not to flip, but his Ford suffered severe damage to the left-rear fender and Penske had to make running repairs to get him to the end.

After a seven-lap caution period, Stenhouse hit the front until the lap 181 red flag incident that suspended running for around 20 minutes while the circuit was cleared.

Denny Hamlin, who had started the race at the back following an engine failure in practice, made up 33 places within four laps in Sunday’s running and continued the strong showing on Monday as he took a third-place finish in the #11 Joe Gibbs Toyota Camry.

Hamlin nabbed third by just 0.001s from Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola as only 16 drivers finished the race.

Michael McDowell scooped a season equal-best finish of fifth for Front Row Motorsports, with Austin Dillion registering sixth in the #3 Richard Childress entry.

Elliott took eighth behind Cory LaJoie’s second top 10 result of the season for Go Fas Racing’s Ford Mustang.

Stenhouse and Ty Dillion rounded out the top 10, as Logano limped home in 11th, but banked precious stage points to leave him 18 points ahead of current cutoff going into the final race in the ’round of 12′ at Kansas next Sunday.

Race result

Pos Driver Team Car Laps Gap
1 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 188 3h39m35.s
2 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing Ford 188 0.007s
3 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 188 0.059s
4 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 188 0.060s
5 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 188 0.150s
6 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 188 0.179s
7 Corey LaJoie Go FAS Racing Ford 188 0.250s
8 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 188 0.289s
9 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford 188 0.333s
10 Ty Dillon Germain Racing Chevrolet 188 0.370s
11 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 188 0.401s
12 Ross Chastain Premium Motorsports Chevrolet 188 0.650s
13 Matt Tifft Front Row Motorsports Ford 188 0.767s
14 Landon Cassill StarCom Racing Chevrolet 188 1.016s
15 Parker Kligerman Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota 188 7.842s
16 Paul Menard Wood Brothers Racing Ford 188 9.137s
17 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 188 16.604s
18 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 188 49.770s
19 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 188 1m15.313s
20 Chris Buescher JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 187 Accident
21 Daniel Hemric Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 187 1 Lap
22 Reed Sorenson Premium Motorsports Chevrolet 187 1 Lap
23 Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 186 2 Laps
24 Darrell Wallace Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet 185 3 Laps
25 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 182 Accident
26 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 182 6 Laps
27 Brendan Gaughan Beard Motorsports Chevrolet 181 Accident
28 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 181 Accident
29 David Ragan Front Row Motorsports Ford 181 Accident
30 Matt DiBenedetto Leavine Family Racing Toyota 181 Accident
31 Blake Jones Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 179 9 Laps
32 Daniel Suarez Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 168 Accident
33 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 162 Accident
34 Erik Jones Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 162 Accident
35 Austin Theriault Petty Ware Racing Ford 162 Accident
36 Joey Gase MBM Motorsports Toyota 161 Accident
37 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 106 Accident
38 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 106 Accident
39 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 106 Accident
40 Spencer Boyd Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 53 Engine
Matt Crafton Wood Brothers Racing Ford 0 Relief

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