Although it was split across two days because of weather, NASCAR’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway did not disappoint with a wild wreck and insane close finish in Monday’s rain-delayed race. “It’s just a huge relief after having such a bad weekend last week”, Blaney said. “We were so far back in points”. “I don’t know what else to say”.
“We knew we had to probably win one of these two weeks”.
The race was postponed from Sunday after rain paused the action just after the conclusion of Stage 2. The delay gave Blaney time to recover from a Sunday spin as he tried to enter pit road, and ended with Ford and Team Penske as winners. It has been super fun the last couple of days. “From spinning out early yesterday, missing some big ones today, weave our way through”. It just means a ton.
“I’m really proud of the effort”. They were coming so fast and they wanted to split me. “Love it even more now”.
Blaney was the leader on a restart with two laps remaining and had a strong push from fellow Ford drivers until Newman charged to the lead in the top line.
“There was no blocked (Newman) and (Hamlin)”, Blaney told NBCSN. Although he battled back into contention, racing in the top-ten for nearly all of the second stage, he got swept up in all three major collisions of the race to finish outside the top-10 in both stages and eighth overall to find himself two spots off the playoff bubble.
It was the sixth-closest finish in the history of Talladega, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this past weekend.
The win capped a remarkable weekend for the Penske organization, which on Saturday claimed the IMSA overall sports vehicle championship with Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya, and then in Australia won the Bathurst 1000 with Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard.
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Blaney’s win is the second in a row that a playoff driver has earned their first win of the year in the playoffs after Kyle Larson won at Dover.
The race had critical playoff implications as numerous title contenders struggled, and Hendrick Motorsports entire lineup is at risk of elimination next weekend.
Clint Bowyer won Stage 2 after he managed to avoid “the Big One” on lap 106 when Alex Bowman – who was running in second place – got turned around on the backstretch while trying to block a charging Joey Logano.
“Yeah, it was an awesome effort the last two days, to be honest with you”, said Blaney, who spun coming to pit road during Stage 1, which was completed Sunday before rain forced the rest of the race to finish Monday.
Chevrolet aggravated fans by holding a meeting for its teams during Sunday’s rain stoppage to discuss strategy and how the manufacturer wanted its drivers to race.
However, in getting up next to Newman, Blaney went below the inside yellow line, which NASCAR prohibits drivers doing to advance their position. It was Toyota years ago that first got all its teams to align for an entire weekend as it tried to win the Daytona 500, and Ford and finally Chevrolet followed suit. Aric Almirola brought home fourth place, followed by Michael McDowell in the No. 5 spot.
Nine cautions for 43 laps slowed things down with the majority coming in the aftermath of numerous spectacular multi-car accidents that thankfully didn’t cause any driver serious injury. Stenhouse and Kyle Busch were side-drafting for the lead when Busch suddenly spun to the right, directly into title contender Brad Keselowski. The chain reaction caused Brendan Gaughan’s auto to flip over the vehicle of Kurt Busch and land on its wheels. So I just made a decision to stay with Aric (Almirola). “It was just one easy, quick flip and we put it down”. He lost two laps as safety personnel tried to get his vehicle moving again.