Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Denny Hamlin hung in the back all race long and allowed the field to crash before surging in the final laps to win at Talladega.
The NASCAR Cup Series held a pivotal Round of 12 playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway. With chaos potentially ensuing, playoff drivers’ hopes of a championship could be dashed at any second.
The chaos ensued immediately on lap one as Christopher Bell cut a tire in turn three and collected Tyler Reddick. Ty Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Bubba Wallace also collected damage in the incident.
Stenhouse would later be turned by John Hunter Nemechek down the frontstretch on lap 9, ending Stenhouse’s day.
Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin remained out front for 23 of the first 25 laps before the competition caution came out on lap 26.
Soon after the restart, Hamlin and other championship frontrunner Kevin Harvick bailed from the lead pack due to the hectic battles going on out front.
The lead would exchange 10 times as the stage wound down but with three laps to go, Joey Logano gave a huge push to Alex Bowman, who ended up turning Aric Almirola and causing a massive wreck. Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney were also involved in the crash.
The first stage ended under caution and Chris Buescher ended up being the beneficiary to score his first career stage win. Logano, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch received stage points.
Early in stage two, Busch’s day went from bad to worse as he cut a tire to bring out another caution.
Stage two looked to be without calamity. The only caution came out for a flat tire for Ryan Blaney until 13 to go in the stage when Clint Bowyer turned Jimmie Johnson in the tri-oval and took the rest of the field with them. Kurt Busch took a scary ride as his car was completely airborne. Austin Dillon and Keselowski were other playoff drivers involved. The red flag was displayed immediately.
The aggressiveness from the drivers continued as drivers jumped from lane to lane and forced drivers below the yellow line. Logano was penalized for forcing Matt DiBenedetto below the line and did not receive stage points.
Martin Truex Jr. went on to win the stage. Keselowski and Elliott were other playoff drivers receiving stage points.
Wallace became a frontrunner late in the race and held his own out-front for multiple laps. However, with six to go, the Fords of Logano, DiBenedetto and Keselowski got a strong run to retake the lead. As Wallace stayed on the outside line, Ryan Preece turned him into the wall, ending his chances of winning.
The race went to overtime and as the leaders were about to take the white flag, a massive wrecked ensue, involving Harvick, Kyle Busch, Truex Jr. and Logano.
The drivers failed to complete the race once again as Preece turned Wallace, wrecking him. Blaney was also caught up in the accident.
On the third overtime, DiBenedetto and Buescher got the early advantage but Hamlin got around for the advantage and held on in a photo finish to win his seventh victory of 2020. DiBenedetto and Elliott suffered penalties for pushing cars to the yellow line, dropping them to the back of the lead lap.
Playoff driver results:
Denny Hamlin: 1
Austin Dillon: 12
Alex Bowman: 14
Brad Keselowski: 18
Kevin Harvick: 20
Chase Elliott: 22
Martin Truex Jr.: 23
Joey Logano: 26
Kyle Busch: 27
Kurt Busch: 32
Clint Bowyer: 33
Aric Almirola: 37
The NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Charlotte Roval in the round of 12 elimination race next Sunday.