This Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series raced at Talladega Superspeedway for the second race of the Round of 12, the YellaWood 500… at least they would have, had it not been raining for a majority of the day. After receiving criticism as to why the track doesn’t have lights to allow them to race later that night, NASCAR ended up rescheduling the race to the following day, Monday the fourth of October, at 1pm ET. Denny Hamlin started in first place in the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, with teammate Kyle Busch in the #18 JGR Toyota alongside him on the front row. Behind them were Chase Elliott in the #9 Hendrick Motorsports Camaro and Ryan Blaney in the #12 Team Penske Mustang
At the start, Elliott pushed Busch out ahead of Hamlin. For much of the opening laps, the outside line and inside line traded the lead, with different cars leading at different times. By lap seventeen, William Byron in the #24 HMS Chevy would try to start a third lane, with a handful of fellow Chevys following suit. Eventually, the top two lanes would switch between becoming one lane or two separate lanes. The front row was always changing, though, between drivers like Kevin Harvick in the #4, Joey Logano in the #22, Kyle Busch in the #18, and more. The competition caution was displayed on lap twenty-seven, where many of the frontrunners pitted. On pit lane, Chase Elliott tried to pull out of his pit box, but Cody Ware in the #51 Rick Ware Racing Chevy was attempting to stop in his box. To avoid contact, the two slowed down and Elliott would have to swerve to the left to get around Ware, costing them both lots of time.
Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. in the #19 JGR Camry were restarting on the front row, with Cole Custer in the #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Mustang and Kurt Busch in the #1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet right behind. Busch and Truex pulled away to a sizable lead with Busch pushing, though without any other cars in the draft, the two fell back into the pack. Throughout the stage, many drivers were pulling crazy moves that, with one small mistake, could’ve ended in a wreck. With the threat of rain ending the race early, the front of the pack was where these drivers wanted to be. After many lead changes, Byron attempted to push the #77 Spire Motorsports Chevy of Justin Allgaier. Unfortunately, the #77 was pushed at the wrong area, and was turned by Byron. He would hit the #5 of Kyle Larson, and the two collected the #14 of Chase Briscoe. The yellow flag was displayed, ending the first stage with Chris Buescher in the #17 leading.
At the start of stage two, Logano got a push from his Penske teammates, Brad Keselowski in the #2 Ford and Ryan Blaney in the #12 Ford. Logano in the #22 traded the lead with the #8 Chevy of Tyler Reddick for a few laps, then the caution was displayed for the #5 of Kyle Larson hitting the wall.
The restart was led by Justin Haley in the #16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet and Corey LaJoie in the #7 Spire Motorsports Chevy. Haley would be pushed by the Penske Fords of Logano and Keselowski, with LaJoie being shuffled back in the pack. Much of this stage was made up of aggressive shoves and blocks, with the leader getting shuffled way back in the pack. Eventually, the shoves became too much as the #9 of Chase Elliott pushed the #47 of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Stenhouse then hit the #48 of Alex Bowman, sending Bowman into the wall. Bowman collected the #42 of Ross Chastain, and Chastain would collect many other cars, bringing out the caution.
The restart was led by the #47 of Stenhouse and the #20 driven by Christopher Bell. Stenhouse got a huge shove from the #9 of Elliott, and Bell got the same from his teammate, Hamlin. After a long game of side drafting each other, the two were then being pressured by the #23 23XI Camry of Bubba Wallace and the #1 CGR Camaro of Kurt Busch. Wallace dropped down in the middle lane, meanwhile Busch went to the front and led, blocking all three lanes. Kurt would trade the lead with multiple drivers, until eight laps to go in the stage when drivers got a message that changed the intensity of the race: “Rain will be here before the end of the stage.”
NASCAR’s rules say that if a race has weather issues after the halfway point of the race (in this case, lap ninety-four) the race would be called official. With this, drivers began racing harder, desperate for a win. The #2 of Brad Keselowski pushed the #23 of Bubba Wallace to the lead. With six laps to go in the stage the drivers were informed that the rain was “right on top” of the track, meaning the race would likely be called official in a short amount of time.
Wallace was blocking everything he could from behind, desperate to lead the laps that counted most, when behind the leaders the #17 of Chris Buescher pushed the #37 of Ryan Preece aggressively, sending Preece into the outside wall. Preece would collect Byron and the #21 of Matt DiBennideto. This brought out the caution, and the race was red flagged for rain shortly thereafter. After trying to dry the track to restart the race, NASCAR called it official. In that moment, Bubba Wallace in the #23 23XI Toyota Camry became a NASCAR Cup Series winner, and the second African American winner in the Cup Series since Wendell Scott in 1963!
Brad Keselowski in the #2 and Joey Logano in the #22 would finish second and third for Team Penske, Kurt Busch finished in fourth in the #1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, and Christopher Bell in the #20 JGR Toyota finished fifth. Chris Buescher finished sixth in the Roush Fenway Racing #17, Denny Hamlin in the #11 JGR Toyota finished seventh, and Kevin Harvick in the #4 Stewart Haas Racing Ford. Erik Jones finished ninth in the Richard Petty Motorsports #43, and Anthony Alfredo would finish off the top ten in the #38 Front Row Motorsports Ford.
Photo Credit///@Puffadda on Twitter