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.
|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|