Blaney Wins Monday’s GEICO 500 In Photo Finish, Main Takeaways

Blocking every lane, he could, Ryan Blaney edged Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by 0.007 seconds to win the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. It was his fourth career NASCAR Cup Series victory and back-to-back Talladega triumphs on a rain delayed Monday afternoon. 

After Jimmie Johnson got spun on Lap 187, the field was set into NASCAR overtime.

With much of the front-runners on fumes, it was a chaotic two laps around the 2.66-mile superspeedway. A number of cars spun exiting the backstretch, but the race stayed green where Blaney had to fend off Erik Jones, Aric Almirola and Stenhouse for the win.

Coming to the start/finish line, Blaney and Jones made contact sending Jones into the frontstretch wall and Almirola almost backwards across the start/finish line in third.

“I was just trying to block the best we could, block the top, block the bottom,” Blaney said after becoming the third member of Team Penske to win in 2020. “(Erik Jones) got to my outside and I tried to get up there to slow him down and we got three-wide. I was just trying to beat and bang in a case like that.

“I’m really proud of this team. I’m excited to get my first win of the year and at a cool place. That was a lot of fun.”

ncs_dega_blaney_062220

On the second to last caution, Blaney came back down pit road to top off the fuel in his No. 12 Ford. That proved to be the winning move as he didn’t have to pit again with everyone else just prior to overtime.

“We came back in and topped off on fuel,” Blaney said. “We were riding around until about 12 to go. I was waiting for Kevin (Harvick) to kind of go but he had to save (fuel) more than I did so we just had to get going. You’re just sitting there biding your time hoping you saved enough.”

Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones completed the top-five. Chris Buescher, Alex Bowman, John Hunter Nemechek, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick comprised the top-10.

Darrell Wallace Jr finished 14th after an emotional day. Wallace, however, spent a majority of the second half of the race inside the top-10. He even led a lap, controlling the field at Lap 161.

After the race, Wallace walked over to the frontstretch and greeted a number of predominately African American fans who were shouting his name, clapping and cheering.

“This is probably the most badass moment right here,” Wallace said. “It’s been tough. It’s been hectic. This sport is changing.”

When asked about the pre race portion, Wallace got emotional.

“I’m proud to be part of this sport,” he said.

Ford Continues Talladega Power

Ryan Blaney’s win on Monday gave Ford their ninth win on the 2.66-mile Alabama race track in the last 10 tries. Penske has won nine times now at Talladega including four of the last seven and seven of the last 10 as well. With Penske winning six of the last seven Fall races, they have to be the favorites when we come back in October.

Stenhouse Keeps Talladega Strength Going

If Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is going to make the postseason this year, he knows that the three superspeedway regular season races are his best shot. After all, the Mississippi native has two career Cup wins, both coming in these races.

Now that he’s 2/3’s of his way through them, he’s close.

Stenhouse, earned the pole for the season opening Daytona 500 back in February. His No. 47 Chevrolet undoubtedly had the most speed in it. Unfortunately, he was hit with a questionable penalty which in directly cost him a chance at the win.

On Monday, Stenhouse was strong. In just a couple of laps after the drop of the green flag, he was up in the top five. He even won Stage 2.

Then, there he was at the end vying for the win but he finished just .007-seconds away from earning his third career win and a trip to the playoffs.

Still, it was his third top five finish in his last four Talladega spring races and sixth top 10 in his last eight starts on the 2.66-mile Alabama oval overall.

Hamlin Has Wild Day To Wind Up With A Top 5

Denny Hamlin led early in Monday’s rain delayed GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway. Then, he had a tire go down just prior to the near hour long rain delay that occurred on Lap 55. Luckily for him, a caution came out for that, which saved him from going more than two laps down.

Hamlin, made those laps up and found himself up front in the closing laps. Unfortunately, he ran out of gas during the final caution, which prompted his No. 11 Toyota to have to pit under the final yellow flag period.

Hamlin, would still end up charging back up to a fourth place finish though.

“We had a good Camry, we just ran out of fuel there at the end and had to pit with just a few laps to go,” said Hamlin of his day. “But luckily, the caution came out and some other guys in front of us ran out of gas so we were able to get a few more positions and race to the finish.

“Overall, it was a good day and our car had good speed. Got into the wall there early in the race and we were able to rebound from that. The Talladega spring race hasn’t always been the best one for us so we’ll take this fourth-place finish and get outta here.”

This was his third top four finish in his last four Talladega starts including three top five finishes in his last four starts on the season as well.

Also, Hamlin has six top five finishes in his last nine starts on the 2020 campaign overall with one of those races seeing him leading at Bristol with 11 to go before crashing.

Almirola Rolling

Last Sunday, Aric Almirola scored his first career top five finish at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. This week, he scored a second straight top five finish in his No. 10 Ford as he came home third in Monday’s rain delayed GEICO 500.

Almirola, did so while spinning backwards across the start/finish line of the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway for his eighth straight top 10 on the Alabama race track — five of those eight being in the top five.

Usual Suspects Finish Where They Typically Do

Last weekend in Homestead, the top drivers in terms of race speed this year finished 1-2-3. This week in Talladega, the top drivers on the 2.66-mile superspeedway finished where they belonged too.

Ford has now taken the checkered flag first in nine of the last 10 races there. That’s why it’s not shocking that last Fall’s Talladega winner, Ryan Blaney, won again.

Second place finisher Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has three top five finishes in his last four spring race starts at Talladega. Furthermore, he has six top 10 finishes, five of which being in the top five, in his last eight Talladega starts overall.

Third place finisher Aric Almirola has eight straight top 10 finishes now at Talladega.

Fourth place finisher Denny Hamlin has three top four finishes in his last four Talladega starts.

Alex Bowman came home seventh for his third straight top seven at Talladega in the spring. Kurt Busch came home ninth for his seventh top 10 in his last nine Talladega starts.

It wasn’t just at the top either.

Kevin Harvick was 10th but he’s failed to score a top five in his last 18 Talladega starts now. Martin Truex Jr. was 24th as he’s had one top five at the track since 2007. Clint Bowyer has one top five at the track since 2014. Brad Keselowski four finishes of 19th or worse in his last five Talladega starts now.

Jimmie Johnson was 13th for his eighth finish of 12th or worse in his last 10 tries. He’s had just one top five in his last 14 tries there overall.

Despite No Practice, We Saw A Thrilling Race

We wondered how all the unknowns were going to be answered in the GEICO 500. With some major adjustments to the racing package and having no practice time to test them out, how would the GEICO 500 look?

It was actually one of the more thrilling races we’ve seen in awhile. We saw 43 lead changes last year, but 13 more on Monday for a total of 56 lead changes.

19 of the 40 starters led at least one lap. We saw the third closest finish in Talladega history with minimal crashes.

That’s how a race is supposed to look.

Key Stat

The .007 margin of victory for Blaney was the same fashion that he won last Fall.

Top Quote

“I know I should have won that damn race,” said Bubba Wallace following an emotional last 24 hours. “We ran out of gas. Just the stars didn’t align for us completely but all-in-all, we won today. The pre-race deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life. From all the supporters from drivers to crew members — everybody here. The badass fanbase. This is truly incredible and I’m proud to be part of this sport.”

GEICO 500 Results

  1. 12 Blaney
  2. 47 Stenhouse Jr.
  3. 10 Almirola
  4. 11 Hamlin
  5. 20 Jones
  6. 17 Buescher
  7. 88 Bowman
  8. 38 Nemechek R
  9.  1 KuBusch
  10.  4 Harvick
  11. 24 Byron
  12. 13 TDillon
  13. 48 Johnson
  14. 43 Wallace Jr.
  15. 37 Preece
  16. 32 LaJoie
  17. 22 Logano
  18. 34 McDowell
  19.  2 Keselowski
  20.  8 Reddick R
  21. 62 Gaughan
  22. 41 Custer R
  23.  6 Newman
  24. 19 Truex Jr.
  25. 14 Bowyer -1
  26. 21 DiBenedetto -1
  27. 00 Houff R -1
  28. 96 Suarez -1
  29. 95 Bell R -1
  30. 27 Gaulding -1
  31. 77 McLeod -1
  32. 18 KyBusch -2
  33. 66 Hill -6
  34. 78 Smithley -6
  35. 15 Poole R -13
  36. 53 Yeley -13
  37. 51 Gase OUT
  38.  9 Elliott OUT
  39.  3 ADillon OUT
  40. 42 Kenseth OUT

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