What a bizarre set of events this weekend for Nascar on and off the track, we witnessed one of the most wild finishes of the season as Ryan Blaney edged out Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by the tip of his hood to get his first win of the season. Despite the thrilling finish, the 5,000 fans in attendance and the fans watching at home had to sit through a 57+ minute stoppage due to rain, after postponing the race from Sunday due to severe weather. Nascar announced they would take down the Confederate flag from its speedways after Bubba Wallace’s strong stance against it and in which Nascar did. Before the race on Sunday at Talladega Speedway, there was some controversy as an airplane with the Confederate flag attached with a banner in bold red letters, “Defund NASCAR” flew over the rainy, cloudy sky. Another act of racism happened the very next day when a noose was found in Bubba’s garage stall but recent reports revealed that it was not a noose but a garage door pull that had been there since 2019. Before Monday’s race, an iconic moment in sports occurred as all the drivers and crew chief members pushed Wallace’s #43 car to the front of pit road and stood behind him while the National Anthem played.
The race started with the two most recent winners, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin on the poll but it wouldn’t be long before Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Hamlin flip flopped the lead throughout the opening stage. On lap 54, Christopher Bell made contact with Hamlin causing his front left tire to pop giving him a flat however, luck was on Hamlin’s side, right as he was about to get lapped the red flag came out due to a rain delay that lasted a few minutes short of an hour. The pace car ended the final 5 laps with rookie, Tyler Reddick winning his first career stage, along with Alex Bowman and Logano rounding out the top 3.
At the beginning of this stage, Bowman and Blaney were battling it out for the lead, it continued to be a battle with Stenhouse Jr and Brad Keselowski fighting their way up from the middle of the pack to the top 5 making the race uncomfortable for the leader, Blaney. On lap 97, John Hunter Nemechek lost control of his car and spun out into the grass for the third caution of the race. The race has been exciting so far especially stage 2 with 37 lead changes and many quick-witted passes. The final lap of the stage took many by surprise, Blaney passed William Byron on the inside for the lead but Stenhouse Jr. squeaked by Blaney on the outside for his first stage win of the season. Ky. Bush almost spun him out as he came up the track to block him off. Wallace ran 15 - 20 most of stage 2 and at one point in 8th.
Chase Elliott who had a rough performance thus far was able to claw his way up to the top 3, however that was the highest he’d go as on lap 134 Keselowski spun him out destroying his rear bumper. Shortly after Joey Gase and Brennan Poole tangled up and both slid into the grass for the caution with roughly 40 to go. Despite the rough weekend for Wallace, he was able to lead a lap and clocked in at 4th until the final 10 laps where he was running out of gas, the race continued to be tight as the race headed into the final 5 laps with Blaney holding off Stenhouse Jr, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Chris Buescher. With three laps to go, Harvick dumped Johnson into the inside wall, this meant only one thing, green, white, checkered - overtime! Harvick “The Closer” has earned this nickname for a reason as he held the lead heading into the final lap, then madness broke loose. On the back straightaway, cars in the middle of the pack crashed and the track was littered with mangled cars but of course, no caution, the race must go on with 1 lap remaining. Blaney now in front went to the outside to block off Erik Jones and Nemechek which eventually led to a wreck. Meanwhile, Stenhouse Jr. snuck up on the inside and it was neck and neck as both cars crossed the finish line, after replay it was determined Blaney had won just by inches.
Ryan Blaney also won at Talladega last year pretty much in the same fashion as he passed Ryan Newman on turn four ending in a wild photo finish. This is Team Penske’s 5th win of the season, Roger Penske continues to be in good hands with Blaney, Logano and Keselowski as his top 3 drivers. Blaney gets his first win of the year, 54 chase points and erasing the devastating Daytona 500 defeat behind him. Bubba Wallace came in 14th overall which is his best finish at Talladega, running out of his car to greet his supporters in the grandstands, he stated during an interview “...whoever it was, you’re not going to take away my smile and I’m going to keep on going.” We’ll see if the solo African American driver can take his 43 Chevy into victory lane sometime soon this season. Next Saturday and Sunday afternoon, back to back races at the Pocono’s where the struggling but determined Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have won twice before.