It’s not Talladega unless you’re holding your breath for the majority of the race. All drivers and fans know this and go into Talladega weekend with expectations a wild, nail-biting race with massive wrecks (known as “The Big One”) involving anywhere from 5 to 20 cars. However, we’re not sure anyone expected the sheer carnage that was this fall’s race, which featured 48 lead changes, 3 “Big Ones”, and 2 red flags – one of which was for rain and managed to postpone the final two stages of the race until they could run on Monday afternoon.
LAP 1: Team loyalty was on full display from the drop of the green flag as Chase Elliott, who started on pole, pulled in front of his 3 Hendrick Motorsports teammates of Alex Bowman, William Byron, and Jimmie Johnson. Unfortunately for them, the loyalty didn’t pay off as their line was quickly passed by Brad Keselowski leading a string of Fords on the outside.
LAP 3: The #11 of Denny Hamlin started the race in 40th position after an engine failure before qualifying. By the 3rd lap, Hamlin miraculously was in 6th place, making up 34 spots using the draft.
LAP 19: The inside line organized and started picking up momentum, pushing Ryan Blaney out to the lead followed by a freight train of Ford Mustangs.
LAP 35: A handful of Fords came to pit road including the leaders of Blaney, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and others. Blaney locked up the tires on the entrance to pit road, wheel hopped, and then spun into the infield grass. The caution was not called as Blaney righted himself and continued with his pit stop, though he was penalized for speeding on the entrance to pit road. The Chevrolets picked up the lead with Chase Elliott back out front.
CAUTION – LAP 37: The #52 of Spencer Boyd stopped on track in the front stretch with an apparent engine failure.
LAP 50: Erik Jones in the #20 suffered a blown right-rear tire and dropped out of the draft. Jones went to pit road where he was put a lap down after changing the tire and returning to the track without drafting help.
STAGE 1 END – LAP 55: William Byron won the stage after Elliott got shuffled out of the draft. Byron picked up valuable points considering he was on the playoff cutline. Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the Top 5.
As soon as the green-checkered flag flew, rain drops started to fall. Cars were brought down pit road where NASCAR originally thought the race would have a chance to resume once the rain stopped. However, given the size of Talladega Superspeedway (2.66 miles) and that the track is not lit for night races, it was impossible to wait out the rain and dry the surface before nightfall. As such, the remaining 2 stages were postponed until Monday afternoon. It was announced that Paul Menard, driver of the #21, would have to exit the race due to neck pain and Matt Crafton would be filling in when the race resumed the following day.
MONDAY – LAP 58: The green flag was back in the air after drivers made their pitstops under yellow, where Byron maintained the top spot.
LAP 84: Denny Hamlin dropped back through the field to 33rd place due to a failure of the right hood flap that detached from the car and smashed on track. This not only hurt Hamlin’s aero but also the safety of his #11 Camry as the flaps are designed to slow the car down in the event of an accident.
CAUTIOM – LAP 106: Alex Bowman in the #88 was shoved out far into the lead on the inside lane. Bowman drifted up to lead the outside lane that was being pulled by Joey Logano. Logano got a run and moved to the left to go around Bowman, just as the #88 went to the left as well. Logano turned Bowman and triggered a large wreck that collected Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr, Michael McDowell, Kyle Larson, Ryan Preece, and Jimmie Johnson. Many were out of the race including Bowman, Johnson, and Larson.
STAGE 2 END – LAP 110: The stage ended under caution. Clint Bowyer picked up the stage victory when Logano slipped to 2nd place just seconds before the yellow flag flew due to the previous contact with Bowman.
CAUTION – LAP 122: Bubba Wallace in the #43 made an evasive move to avoid the #00 of Landon Cassill. Wallace slid up the track and hooked himself across the nose of the #77 of Blake Jones.
CAUTION – LAP 131: The left front tire on the #19 of Martin Truex Jr quite literally exploded on the backstretch, dropping a lot of debris and rubber which caused a caution flag. The entire field opted to pit, putting Ricky Stenhouse Jr in the lead, followed by Joey Logano.
LAP 140: Despite being caught up in ‘The Big One’ on Lap 106 and having major right rear damage, Chase Elliott rallied to 5th place. The damage seemingly did not hinder the performance of his #9 Camaro.
CAUTION – LAP 152: The #14 of Clint Bowyer spun in Turn 4 after making contaact with the wall a few laps prior. Bowyer spun towards the apron and became stuck as the rear of the car lodged on the banking of the track. The #14 was put 2 laps down while the track crew towed the car out of its position.
CAUTION – LAP 162: The second ‘Big One’ happened after a domino-effect of bumps starting with Kyle Busch who tapped the rear of Chris Buescher on the inside lane. Buescher bumped Kurt Busch, who in turn bumped William Byron. Byron was not prepared for the push and spun towards the outside wall, collecting numerous drivers including Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Preece, Matt Crafton, and Austin Theriault. Byron, a playoff driver, was out of the race, putting him in a precarious situation heading into the cutoff race at Kansas next week.
CAUTION – LAP 171: The 9th caution of the race came out for Daniel Suarez in the #41, who spun in Turn 4.
CAUTION – LAP 182: The third and final “Big One” of the day was the biggested wreck in the entire race and brought out a red flag. It started when Kyle Busch made an aggresive block on his brother Kurt in the middle lane. The two bumped repeatedly, with Kyle’s #18 Camry becoming noticibly squirrely. Stenhouse Jr, who was leading the inside lane, pulled up to sidedraft the #18, but with Kyle Busch’s car already on edge, the change in airflow sent the #18 into the outside wall and collected Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Hemric, Chris Buescher, David Ragan, Ryan Preece, Matt DiBenedetto, and Brendon Gaughan. Gaughan went airbourne and flipped in the air before landing back on all 4 tires.
LAP 185: The race went back to green with 2 laps to go and Ryan Blaney in the lead. Ryan Newman restarted in 4th position, but pulled out of line to attempt the win.
CHECKERED FLAG – LAP 188: Coming to the checkers, Blaney got under Newman and the two drag-raced to the finish line. The nose of Blaney’s #12 Ford was just inches ahead of Newman and the 0.0070-second margin of victory was the sixth-closest in the history of Talladega. With this win, Ryan Blaney safely locked himself into the Round of 8.
- Ryan Blaney
- Ryan Newman
- Denny Hamlin
- Aric Almirola
- Michael McDowell
- Austin Dillon
- Corey LaJoie
- Chase Elliott
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr
- Ty Dillon
- Joey Logano
- Ross Chastain
- Matt Tifft
- Landon Cassill
- Parker Kligerman
- Paul Menard
- Kevin Harvick
- Ryan Preece
- Kyle Busch
- Chris Buescher
- Daniel Hemric
- Reed Sorenson
- Clint Bowyer
- Bubba Wallace
- Brad Keselowski
- Martin Truex Jr
- Brendan Gaughan
- Kurt Busch
- David Ragan
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Blake Jones
- Daniel Suarez
- William Byron
- Erik Jones
- Austin Theriault
- Joey Gase
- Alex Bowman
- Jimmie Johnson
- Kyle Larson
- Spencer Boyd