Blaney Wins at Talladega in Wild Overtime Finish

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - JUNE 22: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Sylvania Ford, leads the field on the last lap of the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on June 22, 2020 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

In a day that started with emotion and an unprecedented show of unity, Ryan Blaney survived an overtime finish to win Monday’s rescheduled NASCAR Cup series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

In racing typical of Talladega, Blaney was blocking lanes in a three wide battle exiting turn 4 on the final lap of an overtime finish. His final block came on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as they charged towards the finish line. As the second crash on the final lap erupted around them, Blaney edged Stenhouse Jr. by 0.007 seconds for the win.

“I was just trying to block the best we could, block the top, block the bottom. (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,” Blaney said. “I’m really proud of this team. I’m really excited to get my first win of the year and at a cool place. That was a lot of fun.

“We came back in and topped off (on fuel). We were riding around until about 12 (laps) 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.”

The overtime finish was set up after Jimmie Johnson was spun after contact with Kevin Harvick with three laps to go.  With all the leaders running on fumes the green-white-checkered flag finish turned into a chaotic two laps.

On the final lap several cars spun exiting the backstretch, but the race stayed green and Blaney was able to take the lead entering turns 3 and 4 from Harvick.

From the exit of turn 4 Blaney had to hold 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 backwards across the line in third.

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

The day dawned in Talladega with NASCAR swept up in controversy.  A noose was found in the garage stall being used by the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Black driver Bubba Wallace Sunday after the race was postponed by weather.

NASCAR contacted the FBI who began to investigate. NASCAR president Steve Phelps met with the media via a teleconference only a few hours before the race began. He vowed to find the person or persons who had place the noose.

“Unequivocally they will be banned from this sport for life,” he said.  “There is no room for this at all.  We won’t tolerate it.  They won’t be here.  I don’t care who they are, they will not be here. “

The incident comes less than two weeks after Wallace spoke out against racism and at a time when the subject of racism is at the forefront of America sparked by the killing of a Black man in Minnesota in late May.  Wallace asked for the sport to ban the confederate flag from its events, which it did.

Prior to the start of the race, every driver in attendance along with Wallace’s boss Richard Petty who flew in Monday morning just to support his driver, pushed the No. 43 car to the front of pit road.  All gathered there during the invocation and the singing of the National Anthem.  Once the race started Wallace would run among the top five in the closing stages and even led a lap. But like many among the front runners in the closing laps, he ran short of fuel and had to pit, he finished 14th.

This was the second race where NASCAR allowed fans and after climbing from his car, Wallace walked across the track to several Black fans at the fence who shouted at him that they had come to watch him race from Atlanta. After some high fives Wallace, who was not wearing a mask, turned to talked to the camera.

“The sport is changing,” he said trying to keep his emotions in check. “The deal that happened yesterday. Sorry I’m not wearing my mask, but I wanted to show whoever it was yesterday; you’re not going to take away my smile. I’m going to keep on going.”

The win is the first of the season for Blaney who led the most laps on the day, 63. He also won the fall race at Talladega making him the first driver since Jeff Gordon in 2007 to scored consecutive Talladega wins.

“We came back in and topped off (on fuel). We were riding around until about 12 (laps) to go,” Blaney said. “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.”

Tyler Reddick won the first stage, Stenhouse Jr. the second. The race was halted by a rain shower just prior to the end of the first stage and was forced under a red flag for nearly an hour.

NASCAR heads to Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania for the first scheduled doubleheader weekend in its modern history with Cup races on Saturday and Sunday.

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results GEICO 500

Talladega Superspeedway

Talladega, Alabama

Sunday, June 21, 2020

1. (12)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 191.

2. (20)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Chevrolet, 191.

3. (15)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 191.

4. (2)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 191.

5. (18)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 191.

6. (21)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 191.

7. (8)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 191.

8. (22)  John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 191.

9. (7)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 191.

10. (5)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 191.

11. (19)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 191.

12. (33)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 191.

13. (4)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 191.

14. (24)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 191.

15. (31)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 191.

16. (25)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 191.

17. (9)  Joey Logano, Ford, 191.

18. (26)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 191.

19. (6)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 191.

20. (16)  Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 191.

21. (39)  Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 191.

22. (28)  Cole Custer #, Ford, 191.

23. (1)  Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 191.

24. (14)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 191.

25. (10)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 190.

26. (23)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 190.

27. (32)  Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 190.

28. (37)  Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 190.

29. (35)  Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 190.

30. (29)  Gray Gaulding(i), Ford, 190.

31. (30)  BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 190.

32. (3)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 189.

33. (38)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 185.

34. (40)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 185.

35. (27)  Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, Accident, 178.

36. (34)  JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 178.

37. (36)  Joey Gase(i), Ford, Accident, 141.

38. (11)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 135.

39. (17)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 133.

40. (13)  Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, Rear Hub, 127.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  146.933 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 27 Mins, 28 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.007 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 33 laps.

Lead Changes:  56 among 19 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   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.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Ryan Blaney 10 times for 63 laps; Joey Logano 11 times for 33 laps; Tyler Reddick # 3 times for 19 laps; Denny Hamlin 7 times for 18 laps; Alex Bowman 4 times for 12 laps; William Byron 2 times for 11 laps; Kyle Busch 4 times for 5 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr 3 times for 5 laps; Martin Truex Jr 1 time for 4 laps; Christopher Bell # 1 time for 4 laps; Chris Buescher 1 time for 4 laps; Ryan Preece 2 times for 3 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 3 laps; Kevin Harvick 2 times for 2 laps; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 1 lap; Brennan Poole # 1 time for 1 lap; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 1 lap; Jimmie Johnson 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Newman 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 8,88,22,48,18,12,2,1,9,24

Stage #2 Top Ten: 47,12,18,2,95,22,43,41,17,24

Greg Engle