Blaney holds on for win in Talladega thriller

Blaney holds on for win in Talladega thriller
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

TALLADEGA, Ala—Ryan Blaney was the last man standing at Talladega—or so it seemed—in the 500 on Monday.

With two-thirds of the field damaged and the remaining third hanging on, Blaney held off veteran Ryan Newman in the final two laps of a contest that claimed four of the Playoff contenders and nearly collected four more who were fortunate enough to finish the 188-lap bout.

But it wasn’t smooth sailing for Blaney after Newman got a run and passed him on the final lap before the No. 12 Penske Ford beat him by a nose at the line.

“It was an amazing effort the last two days to be honest with you,” Blaney said. “We spun out early yesterday and missed some big ones today. We were able to weave our way through. I can’t thank Aric Almirola enough for helping me out there at the end. That big push that Newman and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) got I knew I wasn’t going to be able to block it.

“They were coming so fast and they wanted to split me. I wanted to stay to the bottom and kind of pulled the 11 off the 6 (Newman) and then had a big enough run to get to the six.”

Blaney, who went low to regain the lead, delayed his celebration over the radio before NASCAR declared the race official.

“We kind of hit above the line and that pushed me below the line,” said Blaney, who finished .007-seconds ahead of Newman. “That is a big judgment call. You never know. I definitely wasn’t going to go below the line before we made contact.

“I can’t say enough about this Dent Wizard team. It has been super fun the last couple of days. We are moving on! This is super cool.”

Hamlin, Almirola, Michael McDowell, Austin Dillon, Corey LaJoie, Chase Elliott, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ty Dillon rounded out the top 10.

“I told Aric, I said they spent $50 million redeveloping this place.  I should have threw in 50 bucks for them to move the start/finish line, repainted it or something,” Newman said with a smile. “It was a great run for our Wyndham Rewards Ford. Everybody at Roush‑Yates, Roush Family Racing. All the team effort that went into it was good.

“I mean, we just came up that little bit short. I don't know what else to say. I could have pinched him some more. I could have probably took the aero. You can go back and bench race that three weeks from now. It was a good race until the end. I saw the guys spinning in the back. I was hoping for a yellow, but there wasn't.

After more than a 24-hour delay, the action began again—fast and furious. The second stage started with Ryan Blaney in the lead and Stage 1 winner William Byron alongside. The segment turned out to be a battle between the Fords and the Chevrolets with the tandem of Logano and Bowyer forming a sporty alliance and Chase Elliott taking an assist from whatever Hendrick teammate could find his bumper.

Bowman was tag-teaming with Elliott when he attempted to block Logano, who had push from Bowyer. Bowman made contact with Logano and spun out of control down the track in Turn 3, then came back and collected Jimmie Johnson. Kyle Larson’s car was destroyed and Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Preece received damage in the melee.

The segment ended under caution with Bowyer picking up his first stage win of the season. Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Blaney, Chris Buescher, William Byron, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch completed the top 10.

Byron led the field to green for the final 70 laps which were slowed by six cautions. Bubba Wallace clipped the No. 77 of Blake Jones on the backstretch on Lap 122. Ten laps later, NASCAR called the fifth caution for debris—and Martin Truex Jr.’s tire shredded on the backstretch. Bowyer blew a tire and spun on Lap 152. Despite being stuck between the grass and the apron, there was a delay before the caution was called and his car was pulled out by a wrecker.

The seventh caution was triggered by a chain reaction of Kyle Busch pushing Buescher who punted Kurt Busch into Byron spinning Logano in the process. Logano had to navigate his way to pit road with his hood covering his windshield. The Lap 162 wreck eliminated Byron from the race but after multiple repairs, Logano rolled on to finish 11th.

Stenhouse, who was in the lead at the time, continued at the point for the next 14 laps. He and Kurt Busch were running neck and neck when Kyle Busch inserted himself into the fight on Lap 182. Stenhouse got loose and made contact with Busch who spun Brendan Gaughan and smashed Keselowski into the wall. Gaughan slid into the front end of the Matt DiBenedetto and flipped over the No. 95 Toyota and collected Kurt Busch in the process.

After NASCAR red-flagged the race for 10 minutes, 19 cars remained to decide the race with Blaney at the point and Almirola defending. With a push from Hamlin, Newman was able to challenge but Blaney held on for his third career Cup win and his first at Talladega.

“It just means a ton,” Blaney said. “I've been coming here ever since I was really young. Watching dad run here a lot, watching him run pretty good here a lot. Drive for the Wood Brothers here. 

“Man, a cool feeling. This new infield, special to be in this new Victory Lane. I love coming here. Love it even more now.”

More importantly, the victory advances Blaney to the Round of 8. Hamlin took the points lead by eight over Martin Truex Jr.

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