Blaney Back To Back at Talladega
(TALLADEGA, AL - JUN 22, 2020 - RIS) Ryan Blaney overcame rain, fuel mileage doubts and challenges to win the Geico 500 in front of NASCAR's first race before paying customers since March. "I just kind of blocked, just trying to block the best we could," said Blaney in Victory Lane. "Ride the top, ride the bottom. The 20 got to my outside and I tried to go up there to slow him down and I'm not sure, I don't know three-wide, I hate that I hit him, but just kind of trying to beat and bang to the line and things like that. We just edged it out, but I'm really proud of this whole Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang team. It's been a cool year so far and I'm really excited to get our first win of the year at a cool place. Thank you everybody for coming. I appreciate it you sticking around. That was a lot of fun."
Threatening weather west of the speedway pushed the start of the Geico 500 forward a few minutes at Talladega, with Bubba Wallace's car sitting at the head of pit road after a noose was found in his garage stall. In support of his driver, Richard Petty attended the race, in spite of the Covid-19 risk to the 83-year-old winner of 200 NASCAR Cup races. The entire garage area pushed and followed Wallace's No. 43 Chevy to the head of pit road before the race in a show of support for 'Bubba' after a noose was found in his garage space.
After 54 laps, heavy rain on the first turn of the track, combined with lightning, put the race under the red flag with Tyler Reddick heading Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. After being forced to start at the back of the field because the car failed pre-race inspection, William Byron had advanced to tenth place at the halt. Reddick held the lead for the laps under caution to end the stage, Leaving the pits, Alex Bowman edged out Jimmie Johnson for the first position at the green flag. Denny Hamlin, who lost a lap earlier with a flat tire, was the lucky recipient of a wave around after being the first car behind the pace car.
Kyle Busch moved into the lead briefly before Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Matt DiBenedetto hooked up their Fords and drafted into the lead in the high lane. a few laps later and Busch used a push from DiBenedetto to get back in the lead, then Blaney with a push from Logano grabbed the lead.
After 77 laps in the race, there had been 31 lead changes with the first 29 cars separated by less than two seconds.
John Hunter Nemechek spun in the fourth turn with a flat left rear tire just before the halfway point, bringing out a caution and setting up a Penske one-through-four of Blaney, Keselowski, Logano and DiBenedetto at the front of the pack with Christopher Bell fifth. The spin did no real damage to the car and a few laps into the green, he was running in tenth place.
A fifth caution flew with six laps to go in the second stage, for a piece of metal on the back straight. The top 17 cars did not pit, with two laps left in the second stage and Blaney holding the lead until a push gave Stenhouse the stage win over Blaney and Kyle Busch, with WIlliam Byron moving into the lead then back to tenth in one lap.
A push from Brad Keselowski on Chase Elliott's rear bumper went bad, spinning Elliott off the outside wall and into the path of Austin Dillon. Somehow, no other cars got involved and the field continued under caution with Elliott's crew attempting repairs but Dillon's car in the garage immediately, followed by Elliott when the car could not maintain the minimum speed.
Blaney continued to lead, until Brennan Poole spun, with Joey Gase getting damaged in the incident. Most of the leaders pitted during this caution. Christopher Bell stayed on the track to lead with Erik Jones, Cole Custer, Gray Gaulding and Corey LaJoie filling the top five positions.
On the restart, Harvick led, with Hamlin next and Byron, Johnson and Custer all in the pack.
Christopher Bell earned a pass through penalty for forcing Hamlin below the yellow line, while Kyle Busch suffered a flat right rear tire and pitted.
William Byron, after setting the fastest lap of the race so far, moved in to the lead over Logano, with a seven car pack breaking away on the low lane with Byron, Logano, Hamlin, Harvick, Johnson, Wallace and Custer starting to pull away from the rest of the field.
Hamlin got the lead thanks to a push, then Bubba Wallace got the lead from a push by Logano, while Byron faded to fourteenth, then Logano used a push from the line behind him to take the lead again. Alex Bowman took the lead, then Ryan Preece led in the outside lane with a push from Kurt Busch.
Fuel mileage seems to be the main topic of discussion between crew chiefs and drivers, with most cars apparently one to five laps short on fuel. Blaney used a push from Almirola to move up from mid-pack to the top five, then Stenhouse shoved Blaney into the lead with four laps left and several teams about to run out of fuel when Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson touched, spinning Johnson down the end of the front straight and bringing on a green-white-checker finish. Johnson managed to stay on the lead lap in spite of stopping for tires and fuel,
Blaney and Harvick led the pack, with Harvick, pushed by Chris Buescher, to get into the lead, with Stenhouse pushing Blaney under the white flag. A wreck back in the pack was a prediction of what happened as the leaders approached the line with Blaney just a hand's breadth ahead of Stenhouse and Almirola sliding backwards across the line in third, just inches ahead of Hamlin.
"Really excited to get our first win of the year" just riding around until about twelve to go.
"It's been tough," said Wallace after walking across the front straight to greet fans. I wanted to show whoever it was they can't take away my smile. Sorry I ran out of gas.
"I'm still smiling"
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang -- VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW -- "I just kind of blocked, just trying to block the best we good. Ride the top, ride the bottom. The 20 got to my outside and I tried to go up there to slow him down and I'm not sure, I don't know three-wide, I hate that I hit him, but just kind of trying to beat and bang to the line and things like that. We just edged it out, but I'm really proud of this whole Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang team. It's been a cool year so far and I'm really excited to get our first win of the year at a cool place. Thank you everybody for coming. I appreciate it you sticking around. That was a lot of fun."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE SAVING FUEL BUT WANTING TO GO? "We were riding there. We came back in and topped off and we were just riding around until maybe 12 to go. I was waiting for Kevin to kind of go, but he had to save more than I did, so we just kind of had to get going. You're just biding your time and hoping you saved enough. There's enough information in there nowadays where you do save enough, but it was a lot of fun. Thank you everybody for coming out. I appreciate it."
BACK-TO-BACK AT TALLADEGA. TAKE US THROUGH THE LAST TWO LAPS? "I wanted to take the bottom. I thought the 47 was a really good pusher all day and I thought the bottom lane could just kind of get out there and was gonna be good, but I don't know if he spun his tires or what, but I didn't get the help at all, but was able to kind of pick and choose lanes there and wanted to wait for a while until later on that last lap, but you don't want to wait too long because the caution might come out. I was surprised the caution didn't come out in three and four and I was lucky we were ahead, and then they got a big run again. I was kind of out too far down the frontstretch and I couldn't really see who was outside. I knew there were some people and I just tried to go up and slow down and we kind of hit and beat and banged, and just another exciting one here."
WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE THAT ALLOWED YOU TO STAY IN FRONT OF STENHOUSE? "I don't know. I don't know where he came from. He came with a big run there. I know me and the 20 kind of got beating and banging. I was trying to slow him down and he almost got us I guess. He came out of nowhere."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WIN UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES? YOU DON'T HAVE A BETTER FRIEND IN THIS SPORT THAN BUBBA WALLACE. "It's great. It's a tough couple days for him. I've known him for 15 years and he's one of my best friends. I support him 100 percent of the way and I can't wait to go see him."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HEAR THE FANS AGAIN? "It's nice to just have fans here again. They're awesome. They stuck around throughout the rain and it's cool. Hopefully, we keep getting fans at the racetrack."
Unofficial Results, Geico 500, Talladega Superspeedway
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 12, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Menards/Sylvania Ford, 191, 6, 2, 10, 63, 5, 54, Running
2) 20, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, No. 47 NOS Energy Drink Chevrolet, 191, , 1, 3, 5, 1, 45, Running
3) 15, Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Ford, 191, , , , , , 34, Running
4) 2, Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Driving for Change Toyota, 191, , , 7, 18, , 33, Running
5) 18, Erik Jones, No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota, 191, , , , , , 32, Running
6) 21, Chris Buescher, No. 17 Fastenal Ford, 191, , 9, 1, 4, , 33, Running
7) 8, Alex Bowman, No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet, 191, 2, , 4, 12, , 39, Running
8) 22, John H. Nemechek #, No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford, 191, , , , , , 29, Running
9) 7, Kurt Busch, No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, 191, 8, , , , , 31, Running
10) 5, Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Busch Light Ford, 191, , , 2, 2, , 27, Running
11) 19, William Byron, No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet, 191, 10, 10, 2, 11, , 28, Running
12) 33, Ty Dillon, No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet, 191, , , , , , 25, Running
13) 4, Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet, 191, 4, , 1, 1, , 31, Running
14) 24, Bubba Wallace, No. 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, 191, , 7, 1, 1, , 27, Running
15) 31, Ryan Preece, No. 37 Kroger Chevrolet, 191, , , 2, 3, , 22, Running
16) 25, Corey LaJoie, No. 32 WallStBookie.com Ford, 191, , , , , , 21, Running
17) 9, Joey Logano, No. 22 MoneyLion Ford, 191, 3, 6, 11, 33, , 33, Running
18) 26, Michael McDowell, No. 34 Love's Travel Stops Ford, 191, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 6, Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Dent Wizard Ford, 191, 7, 4, , , , 29, Running
20) 16, Tyler Reddick #, No. 8 Realtree Chevrolet, 191, 1, , 3, 19, 1, 27, Running
21) 39, * Brendan Gaughan, No. 62 Beard Motorsports/South Point Chevrolet, 191, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 28, Cole Custer #, No. 41 Autodesk/HaasTooling.com Ford, 191, , 8, , , , 18, Running
23) 1, Martin Truex Jr, No. 19 BassProShops/TrackerATVs&Boats/USO Toyota, 191, , , 1, 4, , 14, Running
24) 14, Ryan Newman, No. 6 Castrol Ford, 191, , , 1, 1, , 13, Running
25) 10, Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Barstool Sports America Ford, 190, , , , , , 12, Running
26) 23, Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Quicklane Tire & Auto Center Ford, 190, , , 1, 1, , 11, Running
27) 32, Quin Houff #, No. 00 Permatex Chevrolet, 190, , , , , , 10, Running
28) 37, * Daniel Suarez, No. 96 CommScope Toyota, 190, , , , , , 9, Running
29) 35, Christopher Bell #, No. 95 Procore Toyota, 190, , 5, 1, 4, , 14, Running
30) 29, Gray Gaulding(i), No. 27 Panini America Ford, 190, , , , , , 0, Running
31) 30, BJ McLeod, No. 77 OilFire Rye Whiskey Chevrolet, 190, , , , , , 0, Running
32) 3, Kyle Busch, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, 189, 5, 3, 4, 5, , 19, Running
33) 38, * Timmy Hill(i), No. 66 ROOFCLAIM.COM Toyota, 185, , , , , , 0, Running
34) 40, * Garrett Smithley(i), No. 78 BakerCampArnoldCapitalManagement Chevrolet, 185, , , , , , 0, Running
35) 27, Brennan Poole #, No. 15 Remember Everyone Deployed Chevrolet, 178, , , 1, 1, , 2, Accident
36) 34, JJ Yeley(i), No. 53 Truckworx Chevrolet, 178, , , , , , 0, Running
37) 36, Joey Gase(i), No. 51 The Gifted Life Podcast Ford, 141, , , , , , 0, Accident
38) 11, Chase Elliott, No. 9 Mountain Dew/Little Caesars Chevrolet, 135, 9, , 1, 3, , 3, Accident
39) 17, Austin Dillon, No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet, 133, , , , , , 1, Accident
40) 13, Matt Kenseth, No. 42 McDonald's Chevrolet, 127, , , , , , 1, Rear Hub
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie
Race Length: 191 Laps, 508.06 Miles
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 27 Mins, 28 Secs.
Average Speed: 146.933 MPH
Margin of Victory: 0.007 Seconds
Stage 1 Top 10: 8, 88, 22, 48, 18, 12, 2, 1, 9, 24
Stage 2 Top 10: 47, 12, 18, 2, 95, 22, 43, 41, 17, 24
Race Comments: Ryan Blaney won the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, his fourth victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Prior to the start, the following vehicle(s) dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reasons indicated: Nos. 24, 78 (failed inspection 2 times), No. 51 (failed inspection 3 times), No. 62, 77, 96 (unapproved adjustments).
Caution Flags: 8 for 33 laps;
Laps: 27-29 (Competition Caution );
57-64 (Weather/Stage 1 Conclusion [Red Flag: 00:57:18] );
96-99 (No. 38 Spin Frontstretch );
116-118 (Debris Backstretch );
122-125 (Stage 2 Conclusion );
135-138 (No. 9, 2, 3 Incident Backstretch );
143-146 (No. 15, 51 Incident Turn 4 );
187-189 (No. 48, 4 Incident Frontstretch ).
Lead Changes: 56 among 19 drivers;
M. Truex Jr 1-4;
D. Hamlin 5-7;
J. Logano 8-10;
D. Hamlin 11-14;
J. Logano 15-17;
D. Hamlin 18-22;
J. Logano 23-26;
M. DiBenedetto 27;
J. Logano 28-35;
K. Busch 36;
J. Logano 37-39;
W. Byron 40;
D. Hamlin 41-42;
J. Logano 43;
D. Hamlin 44-45;
A. Bowman 46;
J. Logano 47-49;
A. Bowman 50;
J. Logano 51;
T. Reddick # 52;
J. Logano 53-55;
T. Reddick # 56-60;
R. Newman 61;
A. Bowman 62-64;
R. Blaney 65;
J. Johnson 66;
K. Busch 67;
R. Blaney 68-69;
K. Busch 70-71;
R. Blaney 72-73;
K. Busch 74;
R. Blaney 75-96;
B. Poole # 97;
R. Blaney 98-105;
R. Stenhouse Jr 106;
R. Blaney 107-111;
R. Stenhouse Jr 112;
R. Blaney 113-118;
R. Stenhouse Jr 119-121;
C. Buescher 122-125;
K. Harvick 126;
R. Preece 127;
C. Elliott 128-130;
D. Hamlin 131;
R. Blaney 132-142;
C. Bell # 143-146;
D. Hamlin 147;
J. Logano 148-150;
W. Byron 151-160;
B. Wallace 161;
J. Logano 162;
R. Preece 163-164;
A. Bowman 165-171;
T. Reddick # 172-184;
R. Blaney 185-189;
K. Harvick 190;
R. Blaney 191.
American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award: Denny Hamlin, No. 11
Sunoco Rookie of the Race: John H. Nemechek, No. 38
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.