TALLADEGA, Ala. – On Sunday afternoon, Ryan Blaney took a spin entering pit road while pitting from the lead.
The spin subjugated Blaney to the back of the field, getting back up to tenth by the end of the first stage.
Then the rains came, and forced the remainder of the race to Monday afternoon.
Blaney led the field back to the green flag the following day, but was shuffled back by his own Team Penske teammates.
Chaos ensued. Multiple incidents, all worthy of the title of “Big One”, and then a two lap dash to the finish.
Somehow through the mayhem, Blaney found himself back in the lead position on the final restart.
Ryan Newman hooked up with Denny Hamlin on the final lap and rocketed around Blaney, looking to be heading towards his first victory.
Blaney would not be denied. Newman left just enough room between his car and the double yellow line for Blaney to slide in.
Careful to not incur a penalty as Johnny Sauter had done on Saturday, Blaney kept it legal per NASCAR’s rules, and won in a photo finish with Newman, the margin of victory at 0.007 seconds.
“We spun out early yesterday, and missed some big ones today,” Blaney said. “We were able to weave our way through. I can’t thank Aric Almirola enough for helping me out there at the end. That big push that (Ryan) Newman and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) got, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to block it.
“They were coming so fast, and they wanted to split me. I wanted to stay to the bottom and kind of pulled the 11 off the 6 (Newman) and then had a big enough run to get to the 6. We kind of hit above the line and that pushed me below the line. That is a big judgement call. You never know. I definitely wasn’t going to go below the line before we made contact.”
Stage 1 ran it’s course on Sunday afternoon, as the whole race was intended to before the rains came and washed out the day.
Chase Elliott started on pole, with his Hendrick Motorsports teammates occupying the rest of the first two rows.
Blaney took the lead and led 15 laps in the first stage, but lost the lead when he spun entering the pits during green flag stops.
After a quick caution for the stopped car of Spencer Boyd at lap 38, the field reset and took the green with about 15 laps to go in the first stage.
When it was all said and done, William Byron took the stage victory with help from his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson.
After the 23 hour red flag, the race picked back up with pit stops and then the restart at lap 62, with Blaney back up front.
The stage saw some incredible racing for the lead, with a total of 28 lead changes in the event before the end of Stage 2.
However, as it happens, calamity struck with only laps to go in the stage.
Bowman had gotten a huge shove to the lead, but Joey Logano was closing back in quick. Logano made a move, and Bowman threw the block. The result was a multi-car incident involving Bowman, Johnson, Elliott, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex, Jr., and more.
The first “Big One” ended the day for Bowman, Johnson, and Larson.
With the stage unable to restart, Clint Bowyer claimed the green-checkered flag for Stage 2.
The final stage got hairy, as a total of six cautions slowed the event in the final 70 laps.
After a handful of minor incidents, the second “Big One” occurred on lap 164, when Byron spun off the front bumper of Kurt Busch, and collected the likes of Erik Jones, Logano, and Daniel Suarez, as well as a handful of other drivers.
With Suarez, Jones, and Byron done for the day, and many more out of contention, it looked to be Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s day.
Stenhouse led the charge late, and when he couldn’t hold off the field with a block, he fought back and into the lead on multiple occasions.
It wasn’t meant to be, however, as he was collected in the final “Big One” of the day.
Contact between Stenhouse, Jr. and Kyle Busch sent Busch into Brendan Gaughan, who then came across Matt DiBenedetto’s nose, and the contact sent Gaughan flipping through the air.
The incident collected Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch, as well as other hopefuls such as David Ragan.
When the dust settled, Blaney was back on top.
Blaney had help from Aric Almirola, but a well timed push from Denny Hamlin moved Ryan Newman up into the lead coming off of Turn 4.
Blaney took another shove from Almirola, and squeezed between Newman and the double yellow line, NASCAR’s out-of-bounds line at superspeedway tracks.
Blaney went below the line briefly, but NASCAR determined the move legal as he was forced below it.
At the line, Blaney nosed out Newman by 0.007 seconds.
The victory propels Ryan Blaney into the Round of 8 with Kyle Larson, with only one race remaining in the Round of 12, next weekend at Kansas Speedway.
Denny Hamlin sits in the best position currently atop of the points standings, with Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano all sitting above the cut line.
Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, and William Byron will all have work to do, as they all currently sit below the cutoff.
With only five races remaining in the 2019 season, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits Kansas Speedway next for the Hollywood Casino 400, Sunday at 2:30 pm ET on NBC.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 14, 2019
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