How the GEICO 500, the 10th race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, played out Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway:
WINNER: Chase Elliott scored his first victory of 2019 with an assist from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman in front of raucous and appreciate crowd in Alabama, who rose to their feet to give the Georgia native a huge ovation.
“I just appreciate all the support, it’s unbelievable,” Elliott said after climbing out of his No. 9 Chevrolet. “This is a special one. This is close to home for me, so it feels like a home race.”
Elliott picked up his fourth career Cup Series win and broke a string of seven consecutive wins for Ford at Talladega. Chevrolet took home the top four spots as Bowman finished second, Ryan Preece third and Daniel Hemric fourth.
“A lot of teamwork done today, it was huge,” Elliott said. “We just a had a plan and executed really well. Fortunately, everybody stayed together and stayed the course, and we had some help on the last lap with that caution.”
The win did not come easy with chaos breaking out on the last lap, ending the race under caution. First, Erik Jones spun toward the infield on the penultimate lap, but the race remained green as his car No. 20 Toyota was safely out of the way of the incoming pack. But one lap later, chaos broke out when David Ragan’s No. 38 Ford made contact with the No. 24 Chevrolet of William Byron near the outside wall, coming off Turn 2.
Byron’s car spun back toward the track, sending the No. 42 Chevrolet of Kyle Larson and the No. 81 Toyota of Jeffrey Earnhardt sailing across the track into the SAFER barrier along the inside wall. Larson’s car got airborne just before it slammed into the wall and then barrel-rolled down the backstretch as NASCAR displayed the caution flag, giving race leader Elliott the win.
“Well, initially I just thought I was going to hit the inside wall pretty hard,” said Larson after he was checked and released from the infield care center. “And then right before I got to it, I felt it lift and was just hoping it would set down. Then it just started tumbling. That was probably the longest flip I’ve ever had. I just didn’t know if it would ever stop. It was a little bit scary, but thankfully, I’m alright.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also crashed into the outside wall just as the leaders took the white flag.
Joey Logano, who won this race one year ago, finished fifth, followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, 2018 Talladega playoff race winner Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch and Brendan Gaughan.
HARD HIT: As the field came off Turn 2, Almirola’s No. 10 Ford made contact with the rear bumper of Chris Buescher, pushing the No. 37 Chevrolet sideways, sending him spinning into the outside wall and then up in the air into the incoming Matt DiBenedetto, driving the No. 95 Toyota. The rear half of Buescher’s car was sheared off along with the front of DiBenedetto’s, which caught fire. Martin Truex Jr. and Justin Haley also sustained damage in the crash, which brought out the red flag for cleanup.
STAGE 2: The Cheverolet cars hit pit road as a group in the middle of the stage and took advantage of that cohesiveness to score seven of the top eight places at the end of the second segment. Elliott recorded his first stage win of the season and was followed by teammates Bowman and Byron. Ryan Blaney was the top Ford in fourth and pole sitter Austin Dillon was fifth. Kurt Busch, Larson, Hemric came home sixth, seventh and eighth, with Logano (Ford) and Kyle Busch (Toyota) rounding out the top 10.
STAGE 1: Ty Dillon won his second stage of the season and collected his second playoff point as many drivers tried to conserve fuel before running out of gas. Bowman was second, Austin Dillon third, Elliott fourth and Daniel Suarez fifth. Newman, Byron, Stenhouse, Kyle Busch, and DiBenedetto. rounded out the top 10.
FIRST CRASH: Bubba Wallace triggered a multi-car wreck when he locked bumpers with race leader Blaney on lap 11, shot to the left and spun out on the front stretch heading into Turn 1 before collecting a number of other cars. Wallace, Michael McDowell, Kevin Harvick and Matt Tift received the most serious damage and saw their races come to a premature end. Also involved in the incident: Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Stenhouse, and Newman.
“I don’t know if I crossed (Blaney’s) bumper or whatever,” Wallace said after exiting the infield care center. “But it got him wiggled down and shoved me even farther down than I wanted to go. So, I went back up just to stay off the apron and it just unloaded. It’s just unfortunate, but I tried not to wreck my buddy, Ryan, and it cost our day and some others.”
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