LINCOLN, Ala. — Tensions were high before Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway – and they remained high during the race as it churned out 57 lead changes but just six cautions for 25 laps.
Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney were two of the 17 NASCAR Cup Series drivers who swapped the lead 57 times. On the last lap, Elliott passed Blaney and took his fifth win of the season – tying 2022 with 2020 as his winningest season.
Elliott won with a stronger push from Erik Jones on the outside lane, while Blaney faded to second after Michael McDowell couldn’t get back to his bumper after getting disconnected in turn 3.
“When the 11 drove back off of me, it kinda pulled me and Blaney apart and we just didn’t get reconnected quick enough. There’s not a whole lot I could’ve done, other than drag back to the 11 but I was a little bit slow to do that seeing the 9 was also disconnected on the outside,” McDowell explained to TRE.
“But they were able to get reconnected and generate that run a little quicker. Wish we could get a redo but you don’t get a redo.”
“I think the only thing I probably would have done differently is, one, realize that the 11 was laying off the 34 in the middle of three and four and faded back with them,” Blaney said.
“It just happened really quick and then I probably would have coming to the checkered – if we would have won or not, I don’t know – but got back to the bottom – kind of do the fake high, go low, but he was watching and I was kind of far back. “
Elliott, Blaney and McDowell topped Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Todd Gilliland, Daniel Suarez, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe, in 10th.
Just ten drivers were officially involved in the six cautions that fell Sunday. Seven drivers were involved in a multi-car wreck on Lap 25, Corey LaJoie blew a tire in turn 2 on Lap 46 and Daniel Hemric stopped near pit road exit on Lap 183.
With safety top of mind and rear-end hits a concern, Harrison Burton attracted some looks when his car sustained left-rear damage in the Lap 25 wreck. After the wreck, however, Burton said he was okay and was more frustrated with his fourth DNF in four traditional SS races this season.
“I wanna get out here and win these things. This is a good opportunity race for us and felt like we were gonna have a good car – then we were crossed up sideways and in the wall so, big bummer,” Burton told TRE.
Corey LaJoie finished 35th after blowing a tire in turn 2 and wrecking out on Lap 44. LaJoie was treated and released from the care center but sent a post-race tweet indicating he was shaken up from the wreck.
From there, no others wrecks took place and the only other cautions occurred for Hemric and the Lap 60 and Lap 120 stage ends.
The 144 wreck-free laps marked the longest stretch of a Talladega race without any wrecks since the 2019 GEICO 500 when no wrecks took place during a 165-lap span between Laps 17 and 182.
Questions arose about what led to the cleaner action Sunday.
“It was intense racing, a lot of pushing. The bumps were big and I’m surprised we didn’t have more incidents. It was a fairly clean race but there were no agreements between the drivers and I’m glad we thankfully came out of here okay,” said McDowell.
“We had a meeting Saturday and it didn’t really change the racing. I’m standing here right now and cannot believe we wrecked. I thought, with that last restart, we’d wreck and they’d all pile in. That’s what we’ve seen, that’s what we saw in the Daytona 500 but, for some reason, we didn’t see it here,” said Ross Chastain, who finished fourth after leading a race-high 36 laps.
“It was just not doing the dummy moves, the extra-aggressive blocks, but honestly you’re landlocked with this package to the first two lanes. You try to make a third lane and you just go nowhere,” said William Byron, who finished 12th and led 1 lap.
“It didn’t look like anyone was being cautious. Talladega has a whole extra lane wider than Daytona so you’re able to give everyone a little more space. And Talladega has more grip than Daytona so there weren’t as many wrecks, thankfully,” said Kyle Larson, who finished 18th after leading 8 laps.
In the owner playoffs, the No. 45 23XI Racing car, piloted by Bubba Wallace, is 10th, 24 points behind the cutline. In the owner playoffs, Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 team is out while the teams behind everyone else above William Byron in the driver playoffs are above the cutline in the owner playoffs with the points listed.
- Next race: Bank of America Roval 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval
- Time: 2 p.m. ET
- TV: NBC, Peacock
- Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Ch. 90