NASCAR Talladega: Last-Lap Crash Provides Several Top-10 Surprises

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Last-Lap Talladega Crash Provides Top 10 SurprisesIcon Sportswire - Getty Images

Corey LaJoie’s Chevrolet crossed the finish line sliding on its side, the result of a massive pileup that erupted at the front of the field as more than two dozen cars charged to the checkered flag on the final lap of Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Michael McDowell triggered the “big one” when he attempted a second block on Brad Keselowski as they sped through the 2.5-mile track’s trioval. Keselowski had followed McDowell on the inside lane for the last 20 laps, often pushing him, while eventual winner Tyler Reddick ran at the front of the outside lane with Martin Truex Jr. in tow.

Coming to the checkered flag, Keselowski gave McDowell a huge shove as they exited turn four, giving the two Ford Mustang Dark Horses a clear advantage over the two Toyota Camry XSEs that had been on their outside. Keselowski then scooted high, McDowell blocked him, and Keselowski shot low. When Keselowski pulled to the inside, McDowell again tried to block him, but this time he wasn’t clear and when they touched, McDowell’s Ford turned sideway in front of the field, triggering the melee.

Reddick squeezed through for the victory and Keselowski claimed second.

Meanwhile, LaJoie’s Chevrolet went under Josh Berry’s Ford, sending its rear into the air. The impact with the wall sent LaJoie’s car on its side and sliding against the wall towards the finish line. After the car crossed the finish line it stopped and rolled over onto its tires.

“Thankfully, everybody knocked me across the finish line, so I was able to finish the race because that’s what’s most important in these deals,” Berry said. “We just ride around and save gas and then wreck at the end.”

None of the drivers were injured.

“I backed up. Noah (Gragson) gave me a great push, and I went to make a move on Michael (McDowell), and he covered it,” Keselowski explained.
“I went back the other way, and I got another push from Noah. Just nowhere to go when Michael came back down. So, I hate that for him. He’s a good guy. I hope he’s all right. Just kind of the way this stuff goes, right?”

It was Keselowski’s second straight runner-up finish.

“Good finishes are important, but we want wins,” Keselowski said. “We could really taste it today, but it just didn’t happen.”

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Michael McDowell (34) was racing for the win when he got taken out.James Gilbert - Getty Images

After walking from the infield care center, McDowell said he was “frustrated” but “motivated.” McDowell said that the way the accident occurred he hated it for Keselowski and for everybody who was behind them.

Several of the drivers that made it through the spinning and crashing cars secured their first top-five or top-10 finish this season.

Noah Gragson, who ran at the front of the pack for much of the race, finished third. It was his first top-five finish since August 2022 at Daytona.

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Tyler Reddick brought one home for team co-owner Michael Jordan.Sean Gardner - Getty Images

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s fourth-place finish was his first top five since last year’s Bristol dirt race.

Anthony Alfredo, driving the Beard Motorsports entry which competes in about four Cup races annually, finished sixth. It was only his second top-10 Cup finish and his first since October 2021 at Talladega.

Todd Gilliland, Daniel Hemric and Harrison Burton who finished eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively, all secured their first top-10 finishes this season. For Hemric, who competed in the Xfinity Series full time last year, it was his first Cup top-10 since February 2022 at Fontana, Calif. Burton’s top-10 finish in the Wood Brothers Ford was his first since last July at Pocono, Pa.

Toyota Plan Goes Awry

With 35 laps remaining in Sunday’s 188-lap GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the Toyota drivers quickly pitted for fuel and then reentered the race together in a draft.

Their plan was to force the Ford and Chevrolet drivers to alter their plans in the closing laps as the Toyota drivers were able to run at full throttle since they had enough fuel to make it to the race’s end. The other drivers were racing in a conserve fuel mode, but the Toyota drivers planned to catch them and then push them.

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John Hunter Nemechek, left, made contact with fellow Toyota driver Denny Hamlin (11) to ruin any chance of a decent finish. Sean Gardner - Getty Images

However, the best laid plans often go awry, and such was the case for the Toyota camp on lap 156. A bump on the track’s surface as they entered turn three upset the rear of their cars. John Hunter Nemechek bumped Bubba Wallace in the rear. Wallace then hit the rear of Erik Jones and turned him into the outside wall. Nemechek spun across the track and hit Denny Hamlin. All four cars were eliminated from the race.

“We were all pushing really hard to keep our line going,” said Wallace, who finished 36th. “We had a plan and just didn’t execute it as well as we should. I hate it. I look forward to running these places and then you just get trapped in somebody else’s mess.”

After walking from the infield care center, Jones said he was sore, but he would be all right.

“Obviously, we were pushing and shoving and trying to make time with our strategy and I got pretty sideways getting into (turn) three and tried to gather it up and then ended up really hard into the wall,” Jones said. “It was a hard hit. At the end of the day, I guess if you’re going to be dumb, you’ve got to be tough.”

Even before the four-car crash it had been a frustrating day for Hamlin. Entering pit road for his first pit stop on lap 43, Hamlin hit some water and spun. Then when he pitted on lap 111, he missed his pit and had to back up into his team’s box.

Hamlin finished 37th in the 38-car field.

NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500

Talladega Superspeedway

Talladega, Alabama

1. (18) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 188.

2. (22) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 188.

3. (36) Noah Gragson, Ford, 188.

4. (33) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 188.

5. (12) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 188.

6. (24) Anthony Alfredo(i), Chevrolet, 188.

7. (13) William Byron, Chevrolet, 188.

8. (3) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 188.

9. (19) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 188.

10. (16) Harrison Burton, Ford, 188.

11. (6) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 188.

12. (26) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 188.

13. (32) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 188.

14. (11) Ryan Preece, Ford, 188.

15. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 188.

16. (29) Josh Berry #, Ford, 188.

17. (35) Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 188.

18. (31) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 188.

19. (7) Joey Logano, Ford, 188.

20. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 188.

21. (38) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 188.

22. (15) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 188.

23. (2) Austin Cindric, Ford, 188.

24. (34) Cody Ware, Ford, 188.

25. (8) Chris Buescher, Ford, 188.

26. (4) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 188.

27. (25) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 188.

28. (17) Shane Van Gisbergen(i), Chevrolet, 188.

29. (30) Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 188.

30. (5) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 188.

31. (1) Michael McDowell, Ford, Accident, 187.

32. (37) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 187.

33. (20) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 184.

34. (27) Justin Haley, Ford, 184.

35. (28) Erik Jones, Toyota, Accident, 154.

36. (14) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 154.

37. (23) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Accident, 154.

38. (10) Christopher Bell, Toyota, Accident, 132.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 155.977 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 13 Mins, 29 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.208 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 21 laps.

Lead Changes: 72 among 23 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M. McDowell 1;A. Cindric 2;M. McDowell 3-4;A. Cindric 5;M. Truex Jr. 6;D. Hemric 7-9;*. McLeod(i) 10;D. Hemric 11-14;C. Briscoe 15-16;J. Haley 17-18;M. Truex Jr. 19-21;J. Haley 22-23;M. Truex Jr. 24-31;*. McLeod(i) 32-33;M. Truex Jr. 34-35;*. McLeod(i) 36;M. Truex Jr. 37-38;*. McLeod(i) 39;C. Briscoe 40;N. Gragson 41;C. Elliott 42-43;S. Van Gisbergen(i) 44;B. Keselowski 45;C. Elliott 46-47;A. Cindric 48-51;C. Elliott 52;A. Cindric 53-62;B. Keselowski 63;K. Busch 64-66;R. Blaney 67;K. Busch 68;S. Van Gisbergen(i) 69;*. Alfredo(i) 70;N. Gragson 71;J. Nemechek 72-78;N. Gragson 79;J. Nemechek 80;*. Alfredo(i) 81;J. Nemechek 82-93;D. Hamlin 94;C. Buescher 95;N. Gragson 96;C. Buescher 97;S. Van Gisbergen(i) 98;C. Buescher 99-101;J. Logano 102-105;D. Hamlin 106;J. Logano 107-108;D. Hamlin 109-110;J. Logano 111-113;C. Buescher 114;J. Logano 115-122;T. Gibbs 123;J. Logano 124-126;R. Chastain 127-128;J. Logano 129-130;R. Chastain 131;N. Gragson 132;R. Chastain 133-135;*. Alfredo(i) 136-137;J. Berry # 138-140;D. Hemric 141;M. McDowell 142-157;C. Hocevar # 158;T. Reddick 159-162;M. McDowell 163-170;T. Reddick 171;M. McDowell 172-174;T. Reddick 175;M. McDowell 176-177;T. Reddick 178;M. McDowell 179-182;T. Reddick 183-188.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Michael McDowell 7 times for 36 laps; Joey Logano 6 times for 22 laps; John Hunter Nemechek 3 times for 20 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 5 times for 16 laps; Austin Cindric 4 times for 16 laps; Tyler Reddick 5 times for 13 laps; Daniel Hemric 3 times for 8 laps; Ross Chastain 3 times for 6 laps; Chris Buescher 4 times for 6 laps; * BJ McLeod(i) 4 times for 5 laps; Chase Elliott 3 times for 5 laps; Noah Gragson 5 times for 5 laps; Denny Hamlin 3 times for 4 laps; Justin Haley 2 times for 4 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 4 laps; * Anthony Alfredo(i) 3 times for 4 laps; Josh Berry # 1 time for 3 laps; Chase Briscoe 2 times for 3 laps; Shane Van Gisbergen(i) 3 times for 3 laps; Brad Keselowski 2 times for 2 laps; Carson Hocevar # 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap; Ty Gibbs 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 2,9,24,12,8,21,20,6,45,48

Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,2,5,3,1,45,17,9,41,54