How the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway played out Sunday:
WINNER: Joey Logano held off several challengers in the final laps as Fords dominated the afternoon under sunny skies in Alabama. Ford cars took six of the top seven spots, with only Chase Elliott in a Chevrolet, spoiling the party.
Logano scored his third career Cup victory at Talladega and his first since going to victory lane at Richmond Raceway last April. Logano also won Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track in 2015 and 2016.
“What a fast Ford teamwork that did it today. Not only with the Team Penske Fords, but all of the Fords out there,” Logano said after climbing out of his car.
“Man, it feels so good to be back in victory lane. There’s no feeling like this. It’s been quite the weekend and a long time coming. I don’t have to worry about the playoffs anymore — we’re in!
Kurt Busch finished second, followed by Elliott third, Kevin Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., last year’s GEICO 500 winner. David Ragan and Aric Almirola rounded out the Ford spree in sixth and seventh.
THE BIG ONE: It arrived late in the day, but when it happened it was BIG. Jimmie Johnson lost control of his car between turns three and four, sparking the incident. Also involved among 14 drivers in a smoke-filled mess of a wreck were Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace.
HAMLIN IN A HURRY: Denny Hamlin was nabbed for speeding on pit road twice within a few minutes with about 40 laps to go. After the first incident, he drove onto pit road to serve his penalty but was speeding during that trip along pit road. He returned to the pits for a stop-and-go penalty and fell a lap behind the leaders.
STAGE TWO: Paul Menard scored the first stage win of his career as he pushed the Wood Brothers Ford to first place at the front of a long draft. Joey Logano was second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., David Ragan, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, William Byron and Kyle Busch.
BAYNE PARKED BY CRASH: A six-car crash on lap 72 sent Trevor Bayne to the garage. Bayne, who has been in the spotlight this week because of changes at Roush Fenway Racing that will limit his schedule the rest of the year, was involved in contact with Jamie McMurray and Erik Jones during the incident. Also caught up in the backstretch crash were Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson.
“It stinks,” Bayne said. “You try to manage your highs and lows, though. We will move on and go to Dover next weekend. It is frustrating because Talladega is one of the ones you know you can win at, and we wanted to do that today.”
Larson described the cars as being “really on the edge” and said drivers were being careful in the first stage as they raced mostly in single file.
STAGE ONE: Brad Keselowski, a five-time winner at Talladega, led the way to the finish of the first stage. The stage win was his fourth of the season. Following in the top 10 and scoring points were Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson.
BOXING AND FOOTBALL: Pre-race ceremonies featured two notable celebrities. Driving the pace car was WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala. Auburn University football coach Gus Malzahn gave the “Drivers, Start Your Engines” command, tossing in a bonus “War Eagle”.
Wilder and Malzahn met before the race, and Malzahn jokingly asked the boxer if he had collegiate eligibility remaining.