Ryan Blaney edged Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by 0.007 seconds at Talladega Superspeedway to win in a dramatic dash to the finish.
Taking the white flag, Blaney’s Team Penske Mustang was third behind Kevin Harvick and Chris Buescher. Getting a run down the backstretch, Blaney got the inside of Harvick and cleared the field coming through Turns 3 and 4. From there, it was a manic run to the checkered flag as John Hunter Nemechek pushed Erik Jones on the outside lane, while Stenhouse was charging hard down low.
Blaney tried blocking Jones’s run but the two collided, sending Jones bouncing off Nemechek and into the outside wall. In the ensuing chaos, Aric Almirola got clipped by Stenhouse and spun to the inside. But he still finished third, going backwards across the finish line.
“I just kind of blocked, just trying to block the best we could,” said Blaney. “Ride the top, ride the bottom. The 20 (Jones) got to my outside, and I tried to go up there to slow him down… and I’m not sure, three-wide. I hate that I hit him, but just kind of trying to beat and bang to the line, and things like that.
“We just edged it out, but I’m really proud of this whole team. It’s been a cool year so far, and I’m really excited to get our first win of the year at a cool place. That was a lot of fun.”
Denny Hamlin finished fourth while Jones crashed across the finish line in fifth place. Buescher wound up sixth with Alex Bowman seventh, Nemechek eighth, Kurt Busch ninth, and Harvick completed the top 10.
Blaney led a race-high 63 laps. The victory was his second straight at Talladega, and the fourth of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
The overtime attempt was set up when Harvick spun Jimmie Johnson with three laps left in regulation. Johnson had charged up to second with Harvick following when Harvick and Stenhouse made slight contact, and Harvick tagged the left rear of Johnson’s Chevrolet. Johnson did not hit anything when he spun, and after making a pit stop for fresh tires he finished 13th.
The field raced to the finish despite a crash that occurred on the backstretch on the final lap in overtime. NASCAR officials deemed the wreck was behind the pack and let the field race to the finish.
Darrell Wallace Jr. finished 14th and led one lap. Wallace, who had a noose left in his garage stall Sunday, received overwhelming support from his fellow drivers during pre-race when they pushed his car to the front of the field and stood with him for the national anthem.
Wallace walked to the grandstand after the race was over to greet some of the fans who were in attendance. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver stood on the track while the fans cheered during his interview with FOX Sports, and called it the “most badass moment.”
“It’s been tough,” he said. “It’s been hell… ah, I wouldn’t say hell. It’s just been hectic, carrying this weight and carrying this burden. I wouldn’t say burden either; I’m proud to stand where I’m at.
“The sport is changing. The deal that happened yesterday – sorry I’m not wearing my mask, but I wanted to show whoever it was that you’re not going to take away my smile. I’m going to keep on going.”