After standing together behind Bubba Wallace as a sign of unity during emotional pre-race ceremonies, drivers scrambled on the final lap, as Ryan Blaney nipped Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the win and Aric Almirola came across the finish line backward in third in a thrilling overtime finish Monday at Talladega Superspeedway.
Blaney, who won at Talladega last fall, and Erik Jones made contact coming to the finish line as they battled for the win. The contact put Jones up into John Hunter Nemechek‘s car and into the wall. Jones was credited with fifth place, a spot behind Denny Hamlin.
“(Blaney) kind of came up on us there,” Jones said. “He moved us up the track, which in turn, kind of got us turned into the fence. It’s superspeedway racing. He’s doing what he has to win; I’m doing what I have to win, and it didn’t play out in our favor, so at least we were there and had a shot to win one of these things. They aren’t easy to win by any means, so it was nice to be up there.”
After the race, Bubba Wallace, who finished 14th, walked to fans in the stands. Up to 5,000 fans were allowed for this event. Wallace slapped hands with fans through the catchfence.
“This is probably the most badass moment right here,” he told Fox, looking at fans, which included some wearing Black Lives Matter shirts. “It’s been tough. It’s been hectic. Look, first (time) fans right here from Atlanta. That is so cool. This sport is changing. The deal that happened yesterday, sorry I’m not wearing my mask, but I wanted to show whoever it was you’re not going to take my smile and I’m going to keep on going.”
Wallace got emotional when he talked about the pre-race activities with drivers pushing his car to the front of the grid and standing with him for the invocation and national anthem.
“I’m proud to be part of this sport,” he said.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Tyler Reddick
STAGE 2 WINNER: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Runner-up Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored his third top-five finish of the season. He had one top-five result last season. … Chris Buescher placed sixth for his best Talladega finish. … John Hunter Nemechek finished eighth for his best career finish.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Chase Elliott finished 38th after he was involved in an accident and collected Austin Dillon. … Matt Kenseth finished 40th. He has not had a top-10 finish in his last eight starts.
NOTABLE:Aric Almirola finished third, marking the eighth consecutive Talladega race he’s placed in the top 10, tying Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the longest such streak at the track.
NEXT: The series heads to Pocono Raceway for a doubleheader. The series races at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday and 4 p.m. ET Sunday.