Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway marked the 10th race of the season, and the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win for Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who started the race from the pole position.
Stenhouse held off what appeared to be the entire field on the last lap of overtime to hold on for the victory at Talladega after getting a big draft boost from Jimmy Johnson. Jamie McMurray barely edged out Kyle Busch to finish second, while Aric Almirola and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five.
“This is for all the guys at the shop,” Stenhouse said from victory lane. “We’ve been terrible for a long time. This year, every race, we’re getting better and better. It’s cool to have Jack Roush back in victory lane.
“This is the closest race track to my hometown (he’s from Mississippi), and man, the fans were out here this weekend,” Stenhouse said. “It’s been a long time since I pulled into victory lane. Glad to see Jack smiling here in victory lane, know he’s been wanting this for a long time. We beat some good ones today.”
Stenhouse is often referred to as “Danica’s boyfriend.” It’s a title that has visibly irritated him when asked about it by the press, but one he feels will not be the main way people view his Jack Roush Racing team moving forward. His win Sunday at Talladega was the first for the once mighty Roush Racing since 2014, a stretch of 101 races without a checkered flag.
Like most races at Talladega Superspeedway, the difference between first place and 20th was a fraction of a second. It was the 24th time in the history of the track that the race came down to a last-lap pass. Busch led the last 36 laps of the race, but still finished third.
“When they have too big of a run, you can’t do anything about it,” said Busch. “I can’t say enough about the car. We did all we could here today. It’s all circumstantial how you win this thing.”
‘The Big One’
Things were going smooth with no wrecks Sunday at Talladega until AJ Allmendinger got into the back end of Chase Elliot and turned him sideways and into Joey Logano, causing a wreck that is being called “The Big One.” Allmendinger ended up on his roof for five minutes or more before safety crews were able to free him. In all, 18 drivers were involved in the accident and the race was red-flagged.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s Loose Wheel Cost Him A Shot At Winning
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s left rear wheel cost him any chance he had at winning his seventh Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. With only 14 laps remaining in the race, Earnhardt had to make a pit-stop to fix the issue. Junior’s crew-chief, Greg Ives, said afterward that only one lug-nut was tight on the entire wheel. Junior was running third at the time. After initially going a lap down, he received the “lucky dog” award for being the first car a lap down following the caution that come out after “the Big One.” Earnhardt fought, but could only manage a 22nd place finish after that.
“It was very disappointing,” Dale, Jr. said. “The wheel was coming off and I thought I had a flat tire. (Jamie) McMurray said it the tires were fine, but something just wasn’t right. I’m glad I got out of there when I did. We wouldn’t have made it to the end of the race and that would have been pretty catastrophic.”
Brad Keselowski led 26 laps and won the first stage today at Talladega, leading the field after Lap 55 to get 10 race points and a point towards the playoff, Stenhouse finished second. Denny Hamlin won the second stage after leading 39 of 55 laps.
[Feature Image by Chris Graythen/Getty Images]