Brad Keselowski led the most important lap at Talladega, the final one. In a wild, pitched battle for the win, Keselowski got a huge push from Michael McDowell and Kevin Harvick to eke out his 6th Talladega win over Matt DiBenedetto. DiBenedetto (P5) once again came up just short for his first ever Cup win after leading 28 laps and “winning” Stage 1.
The Big One never really materialized even though there was one spectacular crash which sent Joey Logano flipping in the air and bouncing off the top of Bubba Wallace’s car. Late in Stage 1, cars were bumper to bumper and playing the accordion drafting game when Denny Hamlin pulled out and got tagged in the bumper by the 47 of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. That was all it took to push Hamlin into the 22 and the next thing you know, Logano was airborne. Being at the front of the field, it looked like this was going to be a repeat of the Ryan Newman Daytona crash but miraculously the 22 car missed hitting most of the other cars but tagging the 23 car of Bubba Wallace. The in-car camera from the 23 showing the 22 flipping in front of it and just hitting the top of the 23 is incredible video.
Joey Logano, one of the biggest blockers there is, complained about the form of racing at the super speedways. Shades of Mark Martin! I can’t completely disagree with him, but auto racing is an inherently dangerous sport. I am sure with seeing the Newman crash last year and this Logano wreck, NASCAR will once again take a look at the aero package on these cars. Once you approach 200 mph and get a car sideways, that right rear corner tends to lift off the ground. The closing rates with this package also forces drivers into dangerous situations as they block. How can you eliminate blocking? All the drivers do it, some better than others, but it happens. A lot. Blocking at these speeds and with this aero package is difficult and dangerous.
Things once again got hairy at the end of Stage 2, won by Bubba Wallace, as cars once again got loose, sending Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. into each other and collecting a few other cars and making it a bad day for Hendrick Motorsports. Somehow Truex survived well enough to be competing in the Top 10 later in the race before wrecking at the end.
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The drivers finally got their heads out of you know where and decided enough was enough and drove around in single file for a little while. It didn’t take long for the battle to begin again. The incredible closing rates make drivers think they can pass, and then they pull out and find themselves going backwards. Without a pushing train of cars, there was little passing for the lead.
Good on ya, mate
It was really interesting to see a lot of drivers who do not normally run in the Top 10 battling for the win. Part of that is Talladega, but this lack of practice that forces teams to figure out the track on the fly has really made this year interesting. Nice races, nine different winners. Who doesn’t like that?
William Byron (P2) led 12 laps and was lucky enough to be up front when the mad dash for the checkers ended.
Michael McDowell (P3) proved to be one of the best pushers all day.
Matt DiBenedetto (P5) led 28 laps and had another heartbreaking race. So close.
Kaz Grala (P6) benefitted from keeping his car out of trouble and being lucky when the final lap dash began.
Tyler Reddick (P7) was near the front when it mattered.
Austin Dillon (P8) is still having a pretty decent year.
Ryan Blaney (P9) was up front most of the day and led 11 laps while being a pusher most of the day. He lost out on a Top 5 finish in the final melee.
Cole Custer (P10), Chase Briscoe (P11) and Anthony Alfredo (P12) benefitted from this being Talladega and avoiding the crashing at the end of the race.
Bubba Wallace (P19) led 16 laps and proved that this team has what it takes on the super speedways. He got left out of the draft in the closing laps.
Harrison Burton (P20) made his Cup debut and managed to do pretty well.
Kyle Larson (P40) blew his engine after a piece of metal was reportedly left in between the grill and radiator that caused his engine to overheat and expire just 3 laps in.
Chase Elliott (P23) was a race favorite but got caught up on the Stage 2 crash and was lucky to finish.
Alex Bowman (P38) had a decent car but also got caught in the Stage 2 wreck and was unable to continue.
Kurt Busch (P35) had a better day than his finish shows after losing an engine late in the race.
Aric Almirola (P15) needed a better race and was unable to capitalize on his up front position earlier in the race.
Kyle Busch Watch
Kyle (P18) looked like he had a competitive car most of the day. His was the only Toyota that didn’t have to start from the rear after a late decision by NASCAR to send all of the Toyota’s to the rear after an unapproved adjustment. But the late race melee wasn’t kind to him or any Toyota for that matter.
We may finally see Denny Hamlin in Victory Lane this weekend as he has won 2 of the last three Kansas races. Last five winners: Logano, Hamlin, Hamlin, Keselowski, Elliott and Harvick. Sound familiar?
Kyle Busch has 4 Top 10 finishes in the last 6 Kansas races.
My dark horse for the Kansas race is Kyle Larson. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alex Bowman or William Byron in the Top 5. Both drivers have shown speed.
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)