Ricky Stenhouse Jr. survived the “Big One” and an overtime finish to win his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in his 158th start Sunday. Here’s how it all went down at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday.
From the second pole of his career and his first since 2013, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the field to the green. Dale Earnhardt Jr. started on the front row followed by Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne.
It was two by two for nearly the entire first lap, with Stenhouse gaining an advantage on the bottom by the end of the lap. Earnhardt was looking for the lead by the start of lap 2; the field fanned out behind the top 10 three wide. Stenhouse barely led lap two as Denny Hamlin fell to the bottom and dropped to the back.
By lap 4 Stenhouse had a clear lead; Keselowski had second Harvick was third, Earnhardt on the outside was fourth. Just behind the top five the field was three and four wide.
The top two had broken away by lap 7 while behind it was three wide. Earnhardt was falling behind as Logano had moved in front of him. By lap 9 Stenhouse was leading the top line. Earnhardt lost the draft in a middle lane and he was falling back. Logano was leading a low line by lap 11 as Stenhouse continued to lead. Earnhardt fell into 10th.
Stenhouse fell to the bottom leading with Keselowski, Harvick and Logano behind. With a piece of trach on his grill, Stenhouse fell back to get it off and Keselowski took the lead on lap 15; Chase Elliott had charged forward and took over second; Kyle Larson behind hit the wall, but did not miss a beat and continued.
Harvick took second on lap 16 as Elliott led a second line on top.
Larson cut a tire and got into the wall again, then slowed and the first caution came out on lap 17. Larson pitted with heavy damage on the right side. The top five were Keselowski, Harvick, Elliott, Logano and Ryan Blaney.
The leaders all pitted. Clint Bowyer was first out as the top seven took fuel only. Harvick was second, followed by Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Blaney. Larson was able to get repairs and came out 36th.
Green came back out on lap 22; it was again two by two with the lead swapping among Harvick and Bowyer. Bowyer was credited with leading at the line for lap 23.
Bowyer was soon slightly ahead ad was leading his first laps all season. Harvick was soon on top in a second line and the lead was being swapped by lap 24.
A third line on the outside formed by lap 25 led by Kyle Busch; Harvick in the center lane and fell back. Harvick was back in second behind Bowyer by lap 26; Busch still close by on the outside.
Kyle Busch took the lead on lap 27 on the outside thanks to a push from Martin Truex Jr. Keselowski was second on the low side. Dodging back and forth between the bottom two lines, Keselowski was swapping second with Truex who was just behind Busch.
Busch and Keselowski were swapping the lead by lap 34; he moved up and took the lead in front of Busch on lap 35. Behind the top three it was still a three-wide battle.
By lap 39 Keselowski led Matt Kenseth, and Stenhouse; the trio moved up and down block lines. Keselowski still led but behind him it was Blaney, Kurt Busch, Logano and Elliott by lap 42. Kyle Larson had recovered to eighth.
Stenhouse took second on lap 47; Blaney held third on the inside. Logano took third as the outside line led by Keselowski moved forward a lap later.
Lap 49, Keselowski led but Logano and Stenhouse were side by side. Harvick in the back was reporting a vibration.
Hamlin pitted on lap 52 one lap before they closed for the end of Stage 1. Daniel Suarez and Kenseth also pitted. The top 10 were single file on lap 54, the final lap of the stage. Kenseth was slow on the bottom with a flat tire but he and Suarez were penalized for pitting too soon.
Top 10 Stage 1: Keselowski, Stenhouse, Kyle Busch, Truex, Bayne, Logano, Paul Menard, Danica Patrick, Blaney and Erik Jones.
The leaders all pitted. Truex was out first, Kyle Busch was second followed by Stenhouse, Logano and Menard. Keselowski came out seventh after being held up by Suarez who was coming into his pit. Harvick pitted again still reporting a vibration.
Denny Hamlin who had pitted prior to the end of the stage led, Bayne pitted to top off fuel with one to go. In all ten drivers back in the field topped off. There were 35 cars on the lead lap.
Green came back out on lap 63. Hamlin took the lead as they were two by two behind. Behind the top four it was four wide at the end of the lap. Stenhouse on the outside line fell back and they lined up two by two with Hamlin leading on the bottom. Keselowski was third by lap 64. It was two by two behind Keselowski a lap later.
Harvick had fought his way back to 15th by lap 70. Up front Hamlin was moving up and down blocking Kyle Busch on the bottom and Elliott on the top. Harvick was seventh two laps later.
The top 3 Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Truex were single file by lap 74; the rest of the field was three wide behind.
By lap 80 it was again two by two with Hamlin high, Kyle Busch low as they swapped the lead.
The third caution came out on lap 82 when Reed Sorenson lost a tire and hit the wall on the frontstretch; Kyle Busch was credited with the lead.
The leaders all pitted. Kyle Busch was out first, followed by Truex, Bowyer, Logano and Kurt Busch. None had taken tires, just fuel only.
Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman. David Ragan and Ty Dillon stay out they had topped off at during the last caution; Kyle Busch lined up fifth when green waved on lap 86. IT was side by side with Newman and Blaney swapping the lead. It was three and four wide behind. Ty Dillon led a line on the outside and soon is was three wide for the lead.
Newman had a clear lead followed by Bowyer on lap 89. A lap later the two were side by side. Bowyer had the lead on lap 90; Logano and Hamlin were side by side behind. Hamlin was looking for the lead on the outside on lap 92. Hamlin had the lead by the end of the lap. Earnhardt had third a lap later. Harvick was in a lower line in fourth; Earnhardt took second on lap 95; Harvick followed and was soon looking for second as the two were side by side. Hamlin danced back and forth between the two lines to block.
On lap 100 Harvick had a clear second behind Hamlin on the low side as Jimmie Johnson into third. Earnhardt lost momentum and began to drop back after contact with Bowyer.
The top five had broken away by lap 101; Hamlin, Harvick, Johnson, Jones, Truex.
Blaney took fifth on lap 107. The top three broke away as the field was three wide behind by lap 108; two to go in the stage. The top two at the end of the stage were Hamlin followed by Harvick. Behind them it was a melee with Blaney getting third after contact with Truex who held onto fourth, Johnson also made contact but held onto fifth.
The top 10 Stage 2: Hamlin, Harvick, Blaney, Truex, Johnson, Larson, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Jones and Jamie McMurray.
Hamlin led 40 of the 55 laps in Stage 2. Larson had pitted while the pits were closed with battery issues.
When the pits did open, the leaders all pitted. Hamlin was out first followed by Jones and Keselowski who all took only two tires. Harvick and Truex followed with four. Blaney had damage from the end of the stage and spent extra time in the pits for repairs. Bowyer was penalized for an uncontrolled tire.
Kenseth who pitted early led when the green came out on lap 117. Kenseth had a slight lead on the bottom at the end of the lap. Hamlin made a crossover move and retook the lead on lap 118; Keselowski was close behind and shot to the lead entering turn 3. Harvick and Kenseth were side by side behind.
By lap 120, Hamlin and Keselowski were side by side. It was three wide for the lead by lap 123. Harvick had the advantage by lap 124. Keselowski dove into a hole in front of Johnson to take second.
Johnson grabbed the lead on lap 128, Harvick fell into second. Harvick was soon back to the inside of Johnson. Aric Almirola was second on lap 133, Bayne was third, Johnson fourth in a four-car breakaway. Johnson took third on lap 135; it was a three-car line with Keselowski and Bayne side by side for fourth.
Logano moved to third on lap 138. He took the lead on lap 139 with Keselowski and Bayne close behind. Bayne had second a lap later. The field was three wide behind. That three-wide field soon caught the leader with Harvick scored second, Almirola third. Hamlin and Suarez were side by side behind.
Johnson led a group for a round of green flag stops on lap 143. Another group pitted a lap alter, mainly Toyotas. Hamlin, Kenseth and Kyle Busch pitted on lap 145.
Logano, Keselowski Almirola and Harvick along with others pitted on lap 149.
When the stops cycled through Kyle Busch took the lead on lap 151 followed by Hamlin, Truex, Jones and Kahne. There were two packs of lead lap cars 32 in the first, 6 in the second. The top five were single file.
The fifth caution came out on lap 160 when Blaney was turned into the backstretch wall after contact with Stenhouse. Blaney slowed when Keselowski came up in front of him. Blaney had heavy damage but made it back to the pits.
Johnson, Kenseth, Almirola and Menard pitted. Stenhouse pitted to fix damage.
Green came out on lap 165 there were 34 cars on the lead lap; Kyle Busch went to the lead as Elliott and Hamlin dueled for second behind. AJ Allmendinger had third with 21 to go behind Elliott.
Allmendinger was trying to push Elliott on lap 168 on the backstretch when he turned Elliott exiting turn 2 and set off the big one. Elliott was involved, along with a total of 18 cars including Truex, Keselowski, Harvick, Logano and Jones; Allmendinger’s car ended up on its roof at the entrance to turn 3 as Elliott’s car rode nose first along with wall. NASCAR threw the red flag. Both Elliott and Jones tried to drive their cars to the pits, but with the red displayed NASCAR penalized both by taking them out of the race.
Earnhardt was among the few at the front who avoided the carnage. The red flag lasted for 27 minutes. Almirola was among the few drivers who pitted. Many of those damaged in the crash were in the pits trying to fix damage under the five-minute clock.
Green came with 15 laps to go. Kyle Busch took the lead as Hamlin fell into second; Earnhardt was third. At the end of the lap Earnhardt slowed dramatically as he reported a flat tire.
Up front Hamlin was looking for the lead with 13 to go. Johnson, Menard and Stenhouse were close behind. Earnhardt pitted.
With 10 to go, Busch was out front but it was a mad scramble behind him; Johnson was second, Stenhouse third. On the same lap, Landon Cassill slowed with a broken drive shaft and stopped on track; caution six came out. Earnhardt, who had pitted and lost a lap, got the Lucky Dog and was back on the lead lap.
Earnhardt, Harvick, and Kenseth were among the few who pitted.
The restart came with 7 laps to go. Kyle Busch was on the outside, Johnson on the inside.
Kyle Busch shot to the lead; Johnson and Kahne were side by side behind.
With five to go, Busch led a lint on the outside with Johnson just behind, Kahne third.
Three to go: the to two remained the same; Kahne and Stenhouse were side by side. Newman crashed into the inside wall on the same lap behind after contact with Chris Buescher on the backstretch and caution seven came out. The caution set up a green white checkered flag finish. Bowyer who received some damage in the crash was among the few who pitted.
NASCAR scored Busch as the leader followed by Stenhouse and Johnson.
On the restart, Busch took a clear lead as Stenhouse hovered close behind. Stenhouse tried to bet by but Busch defended; Busch and Stenhouse were side by side for the white flag; Stenhouse took the lead exiting turn 2 and it was up to him to defend. McMurray shot up the middle to take second.
Kyle Busch tried one last time to make a move on the frontstretch, but Stenhouse blocked and held off McMurray and Busch for the win. Almirola was fourth, Kahne fifth. Kurt Busch, Keselowski, Johnson, Menard, and Ragan rounded out the top 10.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Kansas for its first night race of the year, Saturday nights Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway. Live coverage will be on FS1 starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.
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