Who’s in the headline
Restrictor plate racetracks are always the great equalizer. This weekend, Talladega Superspeedway’s parity roulette wheel landed on the name Ricky Stenhouse Jr. It wasn’t a shock Stenhouse was able to make it to Victory Lane Sunday, in large part because he had the fastest car in qualifying by a substantial amount. But it still requires a driver to have the car in the right place at the right time in order to make it up front. That’s what Stenhouse did during a thrilling overtime finish, earning the driver his first Cup victory and the first for Roush Fenway Racing in nearly three years.
The vast majority of the race was uneventful, with only three, single-car cautions during the first 161 laps. There were 26 lead changes among 14 drivers with Kyle Busch leading the most laps at 48. Stenhouse, after starting on the pole led the first 13 laps of the race but actually didn’t lead again until the final circuit. In fact, he went through a rough spot, having to fix front end damage after tapping Ryan Blaney to cause one of the single-car yellows with 27 laps remaining.
It was after that wreck and ensuing restart that the “Big One” finally happened. On Lap 169, AJ Allmendinger got into the left rear of Chase Elliott coming off the exit of Turn 2. When Elliott spun in front of the field, from second place, no less than 16 cars were involved in the red-flag incident. Nearly a dozen cars failed to finish from that crash altogether.
Once the red flag was lifted, two more cautions culminated in the overtime finish that saw Stenhouse make a move on the Alabama Gang Superstretch. That put him next to Busch on the final restart, a position that ultimately afforded him the chance at victory. Stenhouse was able to make the pass on the final lap, hold off a late challenge by Jamie McMurray and put the No. 17 Ford in Victory Lane.
Why you should care
The racing was intense at Talladega and never ended up single file. The pack racing that focus groups claim is what the fans want was evident all day long. In the end, it resulted in a first-time winner and one more step towards 17 different winners, which would result in a race winner not making the playoffs. It is a long time until Richmond to see if we end up with that scenario… but so far, it looks like there’s a chance.
What your friends are talking about
Joey Logano is still in the record books as the winner of the race last weekend at Richmond, but that win will not secure a post-season playoff berth. In the post-race teardown at NASCAR’s R&D Center in Concord, N.C., a 1/32nd -inch gap was discovered between the pinion angle shim and a truck arm on Logano’s car. That gap violates the rule which states the contact surface of the shim must always be in complete contact with the truck arm.
As a result, Logano lost 25 points and his win is considered encumbered. That means it will not count toward playoff eligibility and there will be no playoff points credited. Roger Penske loses 25 owner points while Todd Gordon is suspended for two races and fined $50,000. Penske has already decided not to appeal. Add in their final appeal of a penalty tomorrow for Brad Keselowski and that’s two potential major violations this season for the two-car program.
It has been 30 years since Bill Elliott turned the fastest qualifying lap in the history of NASCAR, going over 212 mph at Talladega in 1987. That same year, Bobby Allison nearly flew into the stands and restrictor plates followed, forever changing the face of racing at Daytona and Talladega. They were supposed to be a temporary fix until a better solution was discovered. In 2017, we are still waiting for those answers to come.
Stenhouse made a very generous donation to Driven 2 Save Lives after winning the pole on Saturday. He gave his award to the charity that honors Bryan Clauson by promoting organ and tissue donation. Clauson has helped multiple people through his organ donation decision. The fallen driver was also not far from Stenhouse’s mind Sunday; one of the first people mentioned in Victory Lane was Clauson.
Carl Long is going to attempt to field a Cup car at Kansas Speedway next weekend, pending sponsorship. Long has been banned from the Cup garage since he purchased a worn out engine to try and race into the sport’s All-Star Race through the Open in 2009. The engine was so worn out that its cylinders were oversized, leading to one of the biggest penalties in NASCAR history. An underfunded Long could not afford the $200,000 fine, an anchor which has kept him out of the Cup Series ever since. However, a NASCAR spokesperson confirms that Long has met conditions which now return him to the Cup garage. The car he will attempt to field is an old HScott Motorsports Chevrolet.
Who is mad
Elliott was in the mix for the win as the laps were winding down to the final 20. Allmendinger got a run off of Turn 2, got a bit antsy and ended up making contact that turned Elliott and triggered the huge crash on the backstretch. Elliott continues to search for that elusive first win and will have to wait at least another week to make it happen.
Brad Keselowski is one of the drivers locked into the playoffs provided he runs the remainder of regular season races. He was strong all day, looking like he would be a part of the story when the checkered flag flew but it wasn’t to be for Team Penske. A win didn’t materialize because he was caught up in the huge wreck on Lap 169 of 191; teammate Logano was outright eliminated. It was a bummer for an organization that’s won four out of the last six at Talladega.
Who is happy
Jamie McMurray has won four races on plate tracks, including the Daytona 500. His Chip Ganassi Racing team has been strong all season and teammate Kyle Larson already scored a win this year. That made Sunday not too surprising as McMurray made some bold moves, as he often does on plate tracks, and wound up second by inches at the finish line. It’s a kind of run can give him confidence to break through and visit the Winner’s Circle again in the near future.
What a weekend for underdog Aric Almirola. He has one career Cup triumph, and it came at Daytona in a plate race. He kicked off his weekend with a trophy from the XFINITY Series and ended up in the top five Sunday with a fourth-place run. Almirola didn’t respond as many might have thought he would post-race, actually disappointed he didn’t have a little more time to try and grab the win. What a promising sign for a Richard Petty Motorsports outfit that was struggling through the worst season of its existence just one year ago.
When the checkered flag flew
- For the first time in his career, in his 158th start, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored his first win Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.
- Stenhouse is the 187th different driver to win a Cup race. He is tied for 126th on the all-time win list with 60 other drivers.
- Jamie McMurray’s runner-up finish is his first top-two run of the season. This was the 12th time in his career that McMurray ended a race as the first loser.
- McMurray has four career top-two finishes at Talladega.
- McMurray is tied for 57th on the all-time second-place finish list with Davey Allison and Neil Bonnett.
- The final spot on the podium at Talladega went to Kyle Busch. It was Busch’s fifth career top-three run at Talladega.
- Busch has come home on the podium three times in 2017. He is tied for 101st on the all-time podium list with Bill Elliott and Bobby Isaac.
- Ty Dillon came home 12th to garner Rookie of the Race.
Ten races into the season, there have been eight different winners. With 16 races left before the playoff cutoff, if there are 10 new winners, someone with a victory will not make the playoffs. For now, you have Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson with two victories while Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, and Stenhouse have one. Of the eight winners, Logano is not eligible for the playoffs by virtue of his triumph considered encumbered at Richmond. Logano will have to win again to make the playoffs based on a victory.
Here are the remaining nine drivers in points and their position.
- Chase Elliott
- Jamie McMurray
- Joey Logano
- Ryan Blaney
Here are the drivers who have scored playoff points so far this season and their total.
Brad Keselowski -12
Martin Truex Jr. – 10
Jimmie Johnson – 10
Kyle Larson – 7
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 5
Ryan Newman – 5
Kurt Busch – 5
Kevin Harvick – 3
Chase Elliott – 2
Ryan Blaney – 2
Joey Logano – 1
Kyle Busch – 1
Matt Kenseth – 1
Denny Hamlin – 1
What is in the cooler (one to six beers, where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)
Sunday was another race at Talladega. The current aero package makes drivers very dependent on help to make passes for the lead. There is extensive racing in a pack but, in the end, limited movement until the end of segments. The final result was a less-than-exciting race, one that at least gave us a first-time winner. It garners three cold Naked Pig Pale Ales from Back Forty Beer Company.[poll id=”8″]
Where do you point your DVR for next week
The series heads to the Heartland next weekend as Kansas Speedway will host the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The race will air Saturday night, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. It can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate, www.motorracingnetwork.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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