The Geico 500 at Talladega was primed to be a wreck-fest and it did not disappoint. The race featured a few big wrecks and a great ending that had fans standing up in Alabama and glued to their TVs at home. Several storylines were in play heading into this race, including Kyle Busch chasing his fourth consecutive victory. All things taken into account, the race lived up to his hefty expectations.
The race kicked off with two Stewart Haas Racing (SHR) cars on the front row. Kevin Harvick started out P1, with teammate Kurt Busch next to him in P2.
Several big names were forced to start at the rear of the field for varying reasons, including Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray.
Harvick jumped out to the early lead and led the field until green flag pit stops began just 12 laps into the race. With Harvick and half the field coming in for fuel and tires, Alex Bowman assumed the race lead.
Along with Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. all stayed out to stretch the fuel mileage. Bowman led for a while until he struggled to clear a lap car, allowing Bubba Wallace Jr. to snag the lead with under 20 to go in the opening stage.
With 12 to go in stage one, Wallace Jr. brought the remaining cars to pit road for service. With them all coming in, the lead cycled back to Brad Keselowski in first.
Keselowski went on to win the first stage, followed by Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and Paul Menard for the top-5.
To begin stage two, Brad Keselowski held down the top spot with his teammate, Joey Logano, in second.
Soon after the restart, rookie William Byron made a power move and grabbed the lead. He went on to lead a few laps before relinquishing the lead back to Keselowski.
Green flag pit stops began once again just 13 laps into the stage. During the stops, Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman all had speeding penalties on pit road. The all were required to do a pass-through penalty under green.
The first big one occurred on lap 72. Erik Jones got loose and slide up the race track toward Jamie McMurray. Although there was room for both cars, McMurray didn’t move up the track enough and inadvertently turned Jones.
Jones collected Trevor Bayne, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and a few others. Truex Jr. and McMurray were able to continue on, but several laps down due to the damage they sustained. Somehow, Harvick, Byron, Aric Almirola, and David Ragan did incredible jobs to avoid the wrecking cars.
On the ensuing restart, Logano was first with Paul Menard second.
With just 14 to go in the stage, Denny Hamlin took the lead. He only held it for 10 laps until Menard grabbed the lead with four to go in the stage. Menard was able to hold on for the stage win.
This was Menard’s first stage win ever since the implementation of the stages at the beginning of last season. Logano, Ryan Blaney, Harvick and Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-5.
During the pit stops at the end of the second stage, William Byron elected to take no tires and get out front. On the restart it would be Byron in P1 and Blaney in P2.
After Byron led for several laps, Kurt Busch took the lead away.
On lap 129, the caution flag came out for debris on the front-stretch. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. restarted in the first position with Hamlin in second.
After a handful of laps, Denny Hamlin made it 3-wide for the lead and was able to get it. Just a few laps later, Joey Logano took the lead back once again with 49 to go.
Green flag stops began for the final time with 43 laps remaining. Hamlin, Stenhouse Jr., and Suarez all sped while on pit road. During the pass-through penalty, Hamlin sped again. This resulted in another penalty. He was forced to go down pit road again, stop in his pit box, then go back onto the track.
After the green flag stops cycled out, Logano assumed the race lead once again. His teammate Keselowski followed in second, and Almirola in third.
The second big one of the day occurred on lap 166. This was a massive wreck that involved 14 different cars.
Jimmie Johnson got loose and spun in front of his teammate William Byron. Byron in turn spun as well and collected several others cars.
Byron, Keselowski, Menard, Clint Bowyer, Michael McDowell, AJ Allmendinger and Austin Dillon were all among the cars knocked out of the race from this crash. Kyle Busch, Johnson, and Darrell Wallace Jr. were all able to continue on the lead lap even though they were involved in the wreck.
The race restarted with just 17 laps to go. Logano held down the lead with Harvick in second.
The final 17 laps consisted of Joey Logano doing his best defensive driving to keep Kurt Busch, Harvick, Chase Elliott, and Stenhouse Jr. behind him.
Logano was able to keep the field behind him and take home his first win of the 2018 season. With the win he snapped a 36 race winless streak, and qualified for the playoffs.
Kurt Busch, Elliott, Harvick, and Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-5. Kyle Busch’s win streak ended at three races as he finished 13th.
Next week NASCAR travels to Dover International Speedway.
Featured image courtesy of motorsport.com/LAT Images
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