NASCAR: Ryan Blaney beats Kevin Harvick to the finish ahead of big wreck at Talladega

Harvick was disqualified after post-race inspection

Ryan Blaney clinched a spot in the third round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as he barely beat Kevin Harvick to the finish line ahead of a massive crash at Talladega on Sunday.

Blaney made his move around Harvick on the backstretch on the final lap and got a push from William Byron as Harvick was on his outside. The wreck happened just before the finish line as Riley Herbst — the driver who was directly behind Harvick — got turned by Corey LaJoie to start the crash.

"I thought I was in a really good spot headed down the back straightaway with everything that was happening because I knew if I could get off the trioval with Riley right on my bumper, I was still going to be OK, and then he got spun in the middle of the trioval," Harvick said after the race.

Harvick would not have been able to keep the win had he beaten Blaney to the finish line, however. After the race, NASCAR announced that Harvick's car had been disqualified for failing post-race inspection.

The win is Blaney’s third at Talladega since 2019. William Byron unofficially finished third and will be scored in second, while Denny Hamlin bounced back from a pit road speeding penalty to be fourth at the line and LaJoie was fifth.

It could also be a boost to what’s been an underachieving season for Blaney and Team Penske. He qualified for the playoffs easily and won earlier in the season at the Coca-Cola 600. But Penske hasn’t had the speed it has shown in recent seasons and Joey Logano, the 2022 Cup Series champion, was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

The race featured 24 different leaders; just 14 drivers in the field did not lead a lap. Logano appeared to have the dominant car. He led 48 laps and was the only driver to lead more than 15 laps.

It also almost made it the full 500-mile distance without a crash that involved 10 or more cars. The race had just four cautions ahead of the final lap and just two were for crashes. The first stage ended with a crash that took out Ross Chastain and the second crash involved eight cars on lap 161.

That was triggered when Carson Hocevar went spinning off Brad Keselowski’s bumper. Hocevar then took out Austin Dillon and Ty Gibbs and both of their cars slammed hard into the outside wall in the trioval. The race was red-flagged for 10 minutes as track workers repaired the wall where Dillon and Gibbs hit.

Gibbs also provided a fiery scene on pit road earlier in the race when he left his pit stall with his fuel can still attached to the car. The combination of fuel and sparks led to a fire on pit road as Gibbs drove back onto the track.

Late wreck could have playoff impacts

Keselowski is unofficially eighth in the points standings after Talladega and is just two points ahead of Tyler Reddick in ninth. The top eight drivers in the standings after next week’s race at the Charlotte Roval advance to the third round of the playoffs.

Two of the eight spots are already determined with Blaney’s win Sunday and William Byron’s win a week ago at Texas. Keselowski is preliminarily two points ahead of Tyler Reddick in ninth while Bubba Wallace and Chastain are tied for 10th and nine points back of Keselowski.

Unofficial points standings

1. William Byron (Texas win)

2. Ryan Blaney (Talladega win)

3. Denny Hamlin, 3,108 points

4. Christopher Bell, 3,080

5. Chris Buescher, 3,077

6. Martin Truex, 3,075

7. Kyle Larson, 3,073

8. Brad Keselowski, 3,060

9. Tyler Reddick, 3,058

10. Bubba Wallace, 3,051

11. Ross Chastain, 3,050

12. Kyle Busch, 3,034

Unofficial race results

1. Ryan Blaney

2. Kevin Harvick (disqualified, scored 38th)

3. William Byron

4. Denny Hamlin

5. Corey LaJoie

6. Austin Cindric

7. Justin Haley

8. Chase Elliott

9. Ryan Preece

10. Riley Herbst

11. Daniel Suarez

12. Chandler Smith

13. Todd Gilliland

14. Chase Briscoe

15. Christopher Bell

16. Kyle Larson

17. Tyler Reddick

18. Aric Almirola

19. Martin Truex Jr.

20. Chris Buescher

21. AJ Allmendinger

22. Michael McDowell

23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

24. Bubba Wallace

25. Joey Logano

26. Kyle Busch

27. Erik Jones

28. Ty Dillon

29. Alex Bowman

30. BJ McLeod

31. Brennan Poole

32. Harrison Burton

33. Brad Keselowski

34. Austin Dillon

35. Ty Gibbs

36. Carson Hocevar

37. JJ Yeley

38. Ross Chastain