TALLADEGA, Ala. – In the kind of photo finish that Talladega Superspeedway has been renowned for over its 50-year history, Ryan Blaney edged out Ryan Newman to win Monday’s rain-postponed 1000Bulbs.com 500.
Blaney, who led the field back to green following the final yellow for a two-lap dash, got shuffled off the point when Denny Hamlin shoved Ryan Newman to the lead coming down the backstretch after the white flag.
But staying the course, Blaney held serve down low and used a push from Aric Almirola exiting turn four to side-draft Hamlin off of Newman’s bumper, then squeezed underneath Newman coming to the finish line.
The two banged doors in the last hundred yards, and Blaney ultimately came out the victor by .007 seconds, the sixth-closest finish in NASCAR history and third-smallest margin ever at Talladega.
Of note, Monday’s victory was a rally of sorts for Blaney, who spun coming to pit road in the first stage and nearly fell a lap down before methodically working his way back into contention and avoiding the chaos that took place in the second half of the event.
Following a smoky burnout, Blaney heaved a sigh of relief and cracked a smile that he got another chance after Newman and Hamlin “blew the doors off us” with a half-lap to go.
“There was no blocking the 6 (Newman) and the 11 (Hamlin),” Blaney noted after climbing from his car on the frontstretch. “They were coming so fast, and I figured that if I gave up the bottom, they were just going to leave me in the middle. So I stayed with Aric (Almirola), because he was a great pusher all day, and I finally was able to go up and pull the 11 off the 6 to get Newman pretty far out in front.
“We got together a little bit coming through the tri-oval, and he kind of pushed me below the yellow line, but I wasn’t going below there after what happened in the Truck (Series) race,” Blaney added. “In the end, it just worked out in our favor. We survived the last couple days and it was an exciting finish.”
Monday’s victory automatically advances Blaney into the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, one week after a suspension failure at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway left him with a 35th-place finish and buried in the playoff standings.
That’s big, considering the driver of the No. 12 Dent Wizard Ford Mustang was likely in a must-win situation if he didn’t end up with a strong day at Talladega.
“Now we don’t have to worry next week,” Blaney smiled. “We can go and fight for another win and not have to worry if something does go wrong. We’ll have a shot to race into the final four and that’s all you can ask for.”
After rain pushed the conclusion of the race from Sunday to Monday, three massive accidents marred the proceedings once on-track action resumed on lap 58 of 188.
The first came with four laps to go in the second stage, when then-leader Alex Bowman attempted to block a massive run from the tandem of Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer.
Logano, going eight miles per hour faster than Bowman, got into the back of the Arizona native and sent him spinning out of control, with Bowman’s car washing into the pack in turn three and collecting 10 cars in all.
Bowman later took the blame for the crash after being released from the infield care center.
Monday’s second major crash was with 26 laps left, when Kurt Busch tipped William Byron around on the backstretch and sent Byron up into the side of Logano toward the front of the field. In all, eight cars were involved in some capacity in that exchange.
The final accident – which set up the green-white-checkered sprint that ended the race – occurred with six to go after contact between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch while racing for the lead sent Busch up into the left-rear quarter panel of Brendan Gaughan, turning Gaughan down in front of the field.
That led to an 11-car melee that eliminated most of the remaining frontrunners, including Kurt Busch, Keselowski, Stenhouse, Kyle Busch, David Ragan, Gaughan and Matt DiBenedetto, in its aftermath.
When all was said and done, Denny Hamlin crossed the line third behind Blaney and Newman after coming back from losing a hood flap early on and being involved in the first of the three Big Ones.
Aric Almirola was fourth and Michael McDowell, the best of the lower-budget drivers in the running, completed the top five. Austin Dillon was sixth after lining up in the top five on the final restart.
Corey LaJoie, polesitter Chase Elliott, Stenhouse and Ty Dillon were the balance of the top 10.
From start to finish, the race featured 46 lead changes among 19 drivers, had nine cautions for 43 laps and took more than 26 hours to complete, including the delay caused by Sunday’s rain postponement.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.