Talladega Superspeedway is known for being a crazy, action-packed race. This rendition of the GEICO 500 was no different. Rain pushed the race to Monday, we saw a red flag, and the wrecks came in spades during the final stage. Lightning not only struck the track yesterday but today, lightning struck twice for Ryan Blaney. For the second straight time at Talladega, Blaney won in a photo finish in overtime to capture his first win of the season.
Before the race, emotions ran high as the NASCAR community came together to support Bubba Wallace after a noose was found in his garage after Sunday’s rainout. Everyone came to stand with him on pit road before the race and it was a tear-jerking moment.
The competition caution was called at lap 25 and Team Penske dominated the first 25 laps to finish one, two, three respectively as Joey Logano used the push from Brad Keselowski and Blaney to take the lead. After the competition caution, Denny Hamlin, who was battling Logano for the lead, suffered a flat tire late in stage one.
Teamwork really came into play for the next 30 laps. Penske was running single file to push Logano toward the front while Chevys got a late push to contend with the Fords of Penske. Tyler Reddick took the lead, but the race came under a red flag on lap 58 due to rain. After the rain delay that lasted 58 minutes under the red flag, stage one finished under caution and Reddick picked up his first stage win of his Cup Series career. Alex Bowman, Logano and Jimmie Johnson finished second through fourth.
Stage two saw a lot of aggressive maneuvers to get to the halfway point where the race became official at lap 94. Penske once again ran together to outduel the Busch brothers among others for the lead. Once the race became official, John Hunter Nemechek spun to bring out the caution.
After the caution, it became an epic battle between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Blaney. Both drivers went back and forth. Blaney, with about 10 laps left in stage two, got way loose but was able to make an incredible save. He then proceeded to get into the lead. A caution was called with six laps left, and on the restart, Blaney and Stenhouse once again battled for the lead. Stenhouse barely edged out Blaney to pick up his first stage win of 2020.
During the caution after stage two, Bowman and Chase Elliott only took fuel and led those that pitted. The final stage resumed with Elliott and Kevin Harvick battling for the lead. About 10 laps into the final stage, Elliott was sandwiched between Keselowski and Logano, causing him to crash and bring out the caution. Austin Dillon was caught up in it as well. This is yet another incident between Logano and Elliott in their running feud this season.
With 50 laps left, Brennan Poole and Joey Gase crashed to bring out the caution. Blaney fell back on the restart and with 38 laps to go, William Byron took the lead ahead of Logano. Hamlin proceeded to take the lead over Byron before being passed by Wallace. Logano would pass Wallace with 26 laps left. The Chevys would surge with 25 laps to go as Bowman, Ryan Preece and Reddick would lead the pack.
Reddick would hold the lead for a time but with four laps to go, Blaney would retake the lead. One lap later, Harvick made contact with Johnson and caused him to spin out, bringing out the caution. While most cars needed to fuel up, Blaney, Harvick and Keselowski stayed out for the overtime restart.
On the final restart, Harvick took the lead but his car slowed down and Blaney took the lead. Erik Jones gave a late push but he spun out after making contact with Blaney. Stenhouse made a late push to battle Blaney like they have done most of the race. Like last year’s Talladega race in October, Blaney barely won in a photo finish.
Wallace finished 14th as he hung around in the top 10 throughout the final stage but ran out of fuel before the final caution and had to pit. Stenhouse had a strong run all day and finished a very close second to pick up his third top-five finish of the season. Aric Almirola crashed into third place to pick up his second top-five finish this season. Harvick finished 10th to pick up his 10th top-10 finish with his strong final stage.
The Cup Series heads to Pocono, Pennsylvania for a double header next week.