Joey Logano won, there was no “big one” and a couple of Chase favorites were eliminated. Talladega provided close racing, and surprises Sunday. Here’s how it all went down in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
From his first career Talladega pole, Martin Truex Jr. led the field to the green. Brad Keselowski started next to him on the outside, followed by Matt Kenseth, Chase Elliott in fourth and Greg Biffle rounding out the top five.
Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards all voluntarily dropped to the back prior to the start in order to avoid trouble.
By turn 1, Truex had a clear lead, while it was two by two behind. By turn 3, Keselowski was on the outside, he dropped to the front out of turn 4 and took the lead; Truex fell in behind. By the exit of turn 4 on the second lap it was three wide with Keselowski still in the lead. Truex, Kurt Busch and Elliott were three wide behind Keselowski. Keselowski was trying to block all three lines moving up and down the track. There were 36 cars in the three wide lead pack.
By lap 4, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had moved up to third with Elliott holding on to second. It was still a three wide pack with only Elliott close to Keselowski.
At lap 11, Keselowski led, Elliott was second, Truex 3rd, Denny Hamlin fourth, Kyle Busch fifth.
On lap 13, Truex was challenging for the lead. He and Keselowski were side by side with a three wide pack still behind. Keselowski was able to defend and Truex fall back on lap 15. Elliott and Truex were side by side behind. The lead pack was 26 cars.
Keselowski was reporting a possible piece of debris on his grille at lap 21. Elliott had broken from the pack and was close behind, Kevin Harvick had moved to third. By lap 23 Harvick and Elliott led two lines behind Keselowski. Harvick had second on lap 24. Elliott was back alongside Harvick again on lap 25. Elliott had second again with Greg Biffle close behind on lap 26.
Elliott charged to the inside and was fighting for the lead on lap 27, Biffle lurked close behind on the top side. Elliott was credited with the lead on lap 28. Keselowski and Elliott were side by side on lap 29. Elliott finally had a clear lead by lap 30, Biffle just behind in second, Keselowski slipped into third. Stenhouse was fourth, Aric Almirola credited with fifth.
Keselowski retook the lead on lap 32; Stenhouse fell into second, Elliott third. They were in a single line, the rest of the pack of 36 cars in two rows behind. Green flag stops were looming.
Elliott was back in second by lap 36, Stenhouse third. Jimmie Johnson and Paul Menard were in the top five as green flag stops began on lap 37 led by Stenhouse. Austin Dillon blew a tire as he slowed down to enter the pits. Truex was also among those pitting. The rest of the leaders stopped the next lap. Keselowski was out first among the second group, Elliott was second. Logano left the pits with the jack still under the car and dragged it around the track and back into the pits.
Hamlin was penalized for speeding during his stop as Logano circled the track with the jack under his car. Hamlin came in for a pass through penalty however, NASCAR had told the team to keep him out while they reviewed the penalty, but the message was delivered too late. NASCAR also ruled that Logano had served his stop and go when he reentered the pits to remove the jack.
The first caution came out on lap 41, when the engine in Truex’s car let go. His day was done.
Having just pitted the leaders all stayed out.
The green came back out on lap48. Stenhouse pulled ahead on the outside but by turn 1, Keselowski had charged back and was in the lead followed by Kurt Busch and Elliott.
Keselowski led followed by three wide behind him; Elliott, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney. Keselowski was moving up and down the track trying to block.
By lap 52, Elliott and Stenhouse were side by side behind Keselowski. Brian Scott was also among the mix. Kurt Busch erupted from the pack and took second on lap 53.
Biffle moved to second on lap 60. Jamie McMurray had worked his way to the top five.
Biffle was trying to grab the lead on lap 61. With no help Biffle dropped back as Keselowski defended. Elliott retook second.
Elliott retook the lead on lap 63, with Biffle slipping by and grabbing the top spot in turn 2 on lap 64. Elliott was second, Kurt Busch third. For the first time all day the top five were single file. Biffle was first followed by Elliott, Kurt Busch, Stenhouse and Johnson. All the cars on the lead lap were single file by lap 67.
Biffle had debris on his grille on lap 71.
Elliott was peeking down on the inside from second on lap 74. Keselowski dropped out of line exiting turn 4 but got nowhere on lap 74; he tried again and lap later and slowly started make his way forward. Johnson, Blaney and others dropped down with Keselowski. They stalled, those behind got back into line. Keselowski got back in line on lap 77. But soon a second line formed as out frond Elliott went to the lead on lap 78.
It was again two by two behind Elliott on lap 79; Keselowski and Kurt Busch directly behind Elliott.
Keselowski retook the lead on lap 80 on the lower lane. Just as another round of green flag stops began, led by Keselowski; Stenhouse, Blaney and Logano came with him.
The rest of the leaders came in a lap later.
The three JGR cars running near the back pitted on lap 84, completing the round of stops.
Up front, Kurt Busch cycled into the lead after Michael Annett stayed out to lead a few laps and hoping for a caution.
Keselowski retook the lead on lap 88; Blaney was second, Kurt Busch third as the top three were single file; the pack was two wide behind. The top seven were soon single file. Hamlin moved to fourth, Kyle Larson fifth.
The lead group was again single file by lap 95.
Top 5 at the halfway point: Keselowski, Blaney, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Elliott.
Elliott led a second line on the bottom by lap 98 in fifth.
The top 10 were single field by lap 104.
Keselowski in the lead had more debris on his grille and was reporting engine overheating on lap 109. Elliott was trying to form a lane on the bottom.
Hamlin and Blaney started fighting for the lead on lap 113, as Keselowski dropped back to try to clean his grille; he fell into 8th. Hamlin had the lead on lap 114. Kurt Busch soon had second just behind.
On the same lap, Biffle, Casey Mears and Jeffery Earnhardt got together exiting turn 4 and ended up in the frontstretch grass after hitting the wall inside turn 4; caution 2 came out. Biffle was able to continue and rolled into his pit for repairs.
The leaders all pitted. Hamlin was out first, Larson and McMurray followed after taking only two tires, Blaney, Logano and Keselowski followed with 4 tires.
The JGR cars near the back made an extra stop for fuel.
Green came back out on lap 120; Hamlin went to the lead with a push by Blaney. Keselowski soon had second as behind it was 4 wide. Keselowski was moving up and down looking for the lead on lap 122. Elliott broke away on the bottom and Keselowski dove down on lap 123 and retook the lead it was three wide behind. Logano and Blaney were soon side by side behind.
Blaney had a clear second by lap 125; Scott was in third, Logano looking for that spot on the high side.
The top 4 had broken away by lap 128; Keselowski, Blaney, Logano and Harvick. The top 8 were single file by lap 129. A second line on the inside was trying to form behind, but to no avail. The lead lap cars were mostly single file by lap 130.
The top 12 were in a single file on lap 136 as a second line on the bottom was trying to form led by Paul Menard. That second line moved back up by lap 139. Keselowski once again had debris on his grille. The top five were Keselowski, Blaney, Logano, Harvick and Alex Bowman.
Needing his grille cleaned, Keselowski let Blaney by entering turn 2 on lap 144. On lap 145, Keselowski’s Ford lost an engine and caution 3 was displayed. Keselowski took the most dominate car on the race to that point right to the garage.
The leaders all pitted.
Logano was out first, Harvick second, followed by Hamlin, Blaney and Bowman. All took only two tires with the exception of Harvick who took fuel only. There would be 40 laps to go with a fuel window of 34-36 laps. The three JGR cars in the back again stopped again for more fuel.
Green came out on lap 149, 39 laps to go. Logano was on the outside, Harvick on the inside. Logano had a clear lead by turn 1 and dropped low.
Caution 4 came out on the same lap for a large piece of debris, part of the repairs from Biffle’s car along the backstretch. There were 35 cars on the lead lap. The leaders all stayed out except for Kenseth running in the back, who stopped for fuel.
The restart came on lap 153. Logano and Harvick were side by side in turn 1 and 2 with Logano moving ahead to take the lead by turn 3; Blaney went to second. By the end of the lap, Harvick was beside Blaney for second. There were three lanes with Logano trying to block on lap 155.
Elliott was trying to make a charge on the outside on lap 156. Hamlin soon went high, but was soon dropping back. Blaney was trying to block Elliott. The top 4 were Logano, Harvick, Bowman and Scott. They were forming a single line along the bottom.
With 30 to go, the top five were single file, the rest of the field was scrambling behind. Kurt Busch was at the tail of the top five in fifth.
The top eight were single file and had broken away from the field on lap 161. Behind the pack was three and four wide.
With 21 to go the pack had caught the leaders and a second line was trying to form on the outside led by Blaney. Elliott was trying to get a third line to form, but failed and fell to 15th.
It was three wide behind the top 10 with 17 to go. Elliott made it an 11 single file line with 16 to go. Logano reported debris on his grille.
It was still a top 10 single file line with 10 to go, while behind the field was still trying to scramble. Blaney began to form a line on the outside and started slowly moving forward. With seven to go the top six still had a single line, just as Kasey Kahne spun in a pack of three wide cars entering turn 3 and caution 5 was displayed on lap 182. He hit the outside wall but has little damage and continued. The three JGR cars in the back of the field were among the few who pitted for fuel and all those deep in the field.
The restart came with three laps to go. Logan was on the outside, Harvick on the inside. The two were side by side the entire lap. When they took the while flag, Logano had the advantage, but behind, Bowman was spun in the tri-oval and caution 6 came out setting up a green white checkered flag finish. Bowman had heavy damage and his day was done.
Hamlin and Dillon were tied in points for the final Chase cutoff spot.
On the restart, the top five were Logano, Scott, Harvick, Hamlin and Stenhouse.
Logano on the inside led into turn 1 with a push from Harvick. Exiting turn 2, Logano went high with a clear lead.
At the white flag, it was Logano, Scott, Hamlin and Harvick.
Exiting turn 4 it was three and four wide but Logano had a clear lead and went onto win. Scott held on for a career best second, Hamlin was third, followed by Kurt Busch and Stenhouse. With his third place finish, Hamlin won the tiebreaker to advance in the Chase by beating Busch to the line for third by inches. Dillon, Truex, Elliott and Keselowski did not advance.
Larson finished sixth, Harvick seventh, Almirola eighth, Dillon ninth, and AJ Allmendinger 10th. Other Chase drivers: Elliott finished 12th, Johnson 23rd, Kenseth 28th, Edwards 29th, Kyle Busch 30th. Keselowski was scored 38th, Truex 40th. The full results can be found here, the update points here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway for the Round of 8 next Sunday. The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 will be live on the NBC Sports Network starting at 12:30 p.m. ET.