Rain halts Talladega race after William Byron wins Stage 1

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - OCTOBER 13: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, leads the field during Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 13, 2019 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

In a helter-skelter finish at the end of Lap 55, William Byron held the lead to win Stage 1 of Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to advance his cause in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

The winner of Stage 2 and the race, however, won’t be decided until Monday. Rain arrived during the first stage break and sent fans in the frontstretch grandstands scurrying for cover. A subsequent break in the rain wasn’t long enough to dry the 2.66-mile track and get the race restarted.

With 57-of-188 laps complete, the race will resume at 2 p.m. ET Monday, broadcast on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The stage win left Byron temporarily in eighth place in the Playoff standings, six points ahead of ninth-place Joey Logano, who was second in Stage 1. The Playoff field will be cut from 12 to eight drivers after next Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Alex Bowman, Byron’s teammate finished third in the opening stage, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

The Fords of Keselowski and Clint Bowyer hooked up in a tandem draft, with Bowyer pushing the No. 2 Mustang to the lead on Lap 44. The cars had such a strong run together that they separated from the rest of the pack and were soon swallowed by the pursuing draft.

At the end of the race, however, tandem runs may well be crucial in deciding the winner.

Greg Engle