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NASCAR Cup: Ryan Blaney scores second-straight Talladega win

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – JUNE 22: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Sylvania Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on June 22, 2020 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

With Aric Almirola spinning to his left and Erik Jones crashing into the wall on his right, Ryan Blaney drove to his second-consecutive Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Monday in the Geico 500. The race originally was scheduled for Sunday, but inclement weather pushed the race to a Monday green flag.

“I just kind of blocked, just trying to block the best we good,” Blaney said. ”Ride the top, ride the bottom. The 20 (Erik Jones) got to my outside, and I tried to go up there to slow him down, and I’m not sure. I don’t know; 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 Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang 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. Thank you everybody for coming. I appreciate it you sticking around. That was a lot of fun.”

The melee up front as the race took the checkered flag was one of two incidents on the final lap, the other involving cars in the back half of the race field.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished a close second in an overtime photo finish, and Almirola slid across the start/finish line sideways to a third-place finish.

Monday’s win was the fourth of Blaney’s career but his first of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, joining Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski as race winners this season. The win also was the eighth Penske wins in the last 12 races at Talladega.

The Team Penske trio dominated throughout the race but failed to win either of the 60-lap stages in the first 120-lap race. Instead, rookie Tyler Reddick won the opening stage and Stenhouse the second.

Logano led nearly half of the first stage, leading 29 laps of the first 60. In the opening stage, the Penske teammates ran together in a draft, challenged primarily by the Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Another JGR driver, Martin Truex Jr., started on the pole, with Hamlin and Busch in the second and third positions on the starting grid, but Truex fell back through the field early, thinking he had a tire that was going flat.

Hamlin led 16 laps in the first stage, but pitted with five laps remaining in the stage because of a flat tire. Hamlin went a lap down as rain brought out a caution and, then, a red flag, in the final laps of the stage. When the track was dried and racing resumed, Hamlin got back on the lead lap by taking a wave-around ahead of the restart for stage two.

By the time rain interrupted the race, Reddick was up front to take the stage win under caution.

Stage two was when Blaney took over. He led 46 laps of the stage with Busch, first, challenging him for the lead and, then, Stenhouse challenging Blaney in the final 15 laps of the stage. Stenhouse led four laps of the second 60 for his stage win.

By the end of the race, Blaney had led a race-high 63 laps and Logano 33.

Multiple cautions in the final 68-lap stage resulting in varying pit strategies, often with some drivers staying out, some pitting for fuel only, some taking only two tires and others taking four. One of those cautions, on lap 133, involved Chase Elliott, who won last year’s Geico 500.

The seventh caution of the race, coming just past lap 140, put several drivers in fuel conservation mode for most of the remainder of the race, Blaney included.

“We were riding, there,” Blaney said. ”We came back in and topped off, and we were just riding around until maybe 12 to go. I was waiting for Kevin (Harvick) to kind of go, but he had to save more than I did, so we just kind of had to get going. You’re just biding your time and hoping you saved enough. There’s enough information in there nowadays where you do save enough, but it was a lot of fun. Thank you everybody for coming out. I appreciate it.”

Hamlin finished fourth, and JGR teammate Jones rounded out the top-five.

“We had a good Camry; we just ran out of fuel, there, at the end and had to pit with just a few laps to go,” Hamlin said. But, luckily, the caution came out, and some other guys in front of us ran out of gas, so we were able to get a few more positions and race to the finish. Overall, it was a good day, and our car had good speed. Got into the wall, there, early in the race, and we were able to rebound from that. The Talladega spring race hasn’t always been the best one for us, so we’ll take this fourth-place finish and get outta here.”

Truex wound up 24th, and Busch 32nd after making an unscheduled pit stop for a flat tire on lap 149.

Blaney’s Penske teammates wound up 17th (Logano) and 19th (Keselowski)

Chris Buescher finished sixth, and Alex Bowman was seventh. John Hunter crossed the start/finish line backward, backing into a career-best eighth-place finish. 

“We had a really great run in our No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford Mustang today,” Nemechek said. “I really thought we had a shot at it at the end, there, but I’m still proud of our entire team’s efforts. When we fired off, we were kind of tight, and then, we had that tire go down in the second stage, but we managed to come back from it and battled into the top-10 by the end. I wish we would have won that thing, but a P8 finish at Talladega is still good for us, and I want to thank everyone on the team for their support. I’m looking forward to giving Death Wish Coffee another chance at the checkered flag at Pocono.”

Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-10.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway:

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Posted by on June 23, 2020. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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