TALLADEGA, Ala. – Despite NASCAR’s best efforts, Mother Nature wreaked havoc on Sunday’s running of the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Only the first stage of the 188-lap, 500-mile event was completed before rains moved into the Talladega, Ala., area and drenched the 2.66-mile tri-oval, stopping the action with 57 laps scored and sophomore driver William Byron in front of the field.
Byron drove the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the front of the field and to the stage one victory Sunday afternoon, making a last-lap pass of Joey Logano coming to the green-checkered flag to pick up 10 bonus points and a critical playoff point toward his championship chase.
Despite the early end to the afternoon, Byron was pleased with how the opening stage of his race went.
“We had a good initial start with all of our Hendrick guys; the bottom just wasn’t really going for us,” Byron noted. “I think it was a combination of things. Once we got to the top and I had to go up there, I restarted 28th … and luckily had some bow ties to work with. We just did a good job pushing and working in that second lane. The second lane seemed to be the strongest until the third lane kinda came on, and then we had more numbers there in the last few laps.
“We just have to continue to learn as this race goes on,” Byron added. “Obviously, with shifting to Monday now, it’s going to change things a bit, but it’s great to get a stage win because it takes a little pressure off. For a while, it looked like we weren’t going to get any stage points, so it’s good we did.”
Moments after the yellow was displayed, the weather picked up and NASCAR officials called the field to pit road, with the red flag unfurled just before 2 p.m. CT and the cars covered to wait out the weather.
Track-drying efforts were attempts, with some significant progress made, but a second deluge arrived on the scene just after 3 p.m. CT that ended any hopes of resuming the race, with a two-hour drying time and 6:14 p.m. CT sunset making it virtually impossible to generate another window for racing.
NASCAR officials officially declared the conclusion of the race postponed at 3:30 p.m. CT.
The early end to the day didn’t mean the race was short on excitement, however, with 16 lead changes during the 57 laps completed on Sunday afternoon and 12 different drivers taking a turn out front.
Ryan Blaney spent the most time leading, pacing 15 consecutive laps, but spun coming in for a green-flag pit stop on the 34th round and dropped back due to a pass-through penalty for speeding.
When all was said and done at the stage break, Byron held the lead over Logano, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski.
Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez and Kurt Busch crossed the line sixth through ninth, respectively, with Blaney making a late rally through the pack to complete the top 10.
Polesitter Chase Elliott finished the opening stage in 18th after being shuffled out of the lead pack late in the opening stage, but the worst of the remaining playoff contenders was Martin Truex Jr., who laid back at the end of stage one and was scored 30th when NASCAR stopped the proceedings.
When racing resumes at Talladega, television coverage will move over to NBCSN, while the radio call will be back on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.