NASCAR Cup Series: Talladega Review
Talladega Superspeedway is a track that is never short on action when NASCAR’s Cup Series comes there twice a year.
Even with it being the first race at the speedway with the Next-Gen Car, Sunday’s running of the GEICO 500 once again lived up to the hype, with Ross Chastain picking up a dramatic victory to continue his breakout season.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. shared the front row as the green flag dropped in front of a passionate and energetic Alabama crowd.
Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace would work toward the front and battle for the stage victory in the closing laps of Stage 1.
Wallace and Larson raced side-by-side with cars pushing two-by-two behind them, and with four laps to go in the opening stage, the race’s first caution flew.
Daniel Hemric blew an engine in the middle of the pack, causing him to get turned onto the apron and then back into traffic where he collected Chase Briscoe and Chris Buescher in a violent crash.
The caution ended the stage under yellow, with Wallace – Talladega’s most recent winner – picking up the stage win.
A lap 89 restart saw one of the race’s defining moments, as Joey Logano got turned into the wall as the field was coming up to speed and bump drafting on the restart. Logano pounded the wall and then shot back down into traffic, collecting Ty Dillon, Daniel Suárez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and others in what turned out to be a nine-car crash in total.
Things calmed down a little bit after that incident, with all four Hendrick cars – led by William Byron – moving to the front of the pack. Byron hung on to pick up the Stage 2 win, in front of teammates Chase Elliott and Larson.
The field would go back green with 63 laps remaining, setting up the calm before the storm. Ryan Blaney would lead a chunk of the race prior to green flag pit stops with around 30 laps to go.
Those pit stops would be the demise of the pole sitter, Bell, who made contact with teammate Kyle Busch and spun exiting pit road, taking him out of contention for the win.
Denny Hamlin then led briefly before Larson retook the lead on lap 171. Larson led the bottom line around the speedway, with Erik Jones being shoved out in front on the top line.
After side-by-side battling for several laps, Jones eventually cleared Larson and jumped to the bottom, taking the lead with four to go. The pack got disbanded momentarily behind them, leaving the lead cars single-file entering the final lap.
Jones continued to lead as the field entered turn 3 for the final time, with the trailing cars trying to form runs and make a move. Larson backed up to the front bumper of third-place runner Chastain as the field exited turn 4, giving him a massive run into the trioval.
Larson took the run to the outside, but Jones attempted to block, forcing Larson into Kurt Busch and putting Busch hard into the wall before he bounced off and collected his 23XI Racing teammate in Wallace, who also took a brutal hit.
With Jones and Larson running each other up the track, the door was open for Chastain to drive by on the bottom and take the victory, leading only the final lap in the process.
Chastain was able to rally from an early speeding penalty and falling a lap down to become the season’s second two-time winner, and continue the breakout season for both he and Trackhouse Racing.
Chastain’s patented watermelon celebration would make another appearance, as he celebrated victory while Jones and so many others were left to wonder what could have been.
Kasey Kreider is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism, to contact him, email email@example.com.
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