Carnage is expected when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits Talladega Superspeedway, but usually not as much as we saw on Sunday. From the drop of the green flag to the end of the race, the drivers ran every lap like it was the last. The fans in the stands we’re treated to quite the spectacle – with three and four-wide racing, daring moves and superhero-like blocks from drivers desperate for a win.
But great racing can sometimes lead to destruction, and some of the team owners’ wallets were hit very hard by the time the checkered flag dropped.
The first incident of the day took place on Lap 27. As the field was trying to get on pit road for green flag pit stops, Jamie McMurray got turned around. McMurray slid up the track and was hit hard by Jeffery Earnhardt, sending the No.1 Cessna Chevrolet airborne. Six cars ended up being involved in the accident.
“It was my fault,” said McMurray. “I assumed that they said the 18 was going to let me in, so I thought we were all going to pit. I didn’t even know where the 77 was. When I got on the brakes, I thought we were all coming to pit road as a group. I’ll take the blame for that. I just kind of assumed we were coming to pit road right there. Obviously not everyone was.”
Some smaller incidents took place throughout the middle of the race, including a wreck on a restart that involved Clint Bowyer and multiple others. But the major wrecks really started to reel off as the race winded down.
With 16 laps to go, Martin Truex Jr. tried to squeeze into a hole that would’ve made it four-wide down the backstretch. The hole closed up however, and Truex made contact with David Ragan. Ragan spun down the track into Kurt Busch, and the wreck was on. Busch spun back up the track, collecting Truex, Dillon, and many others along the way. After the incident stopped, a total of 16 cars ended up being involved.
“Well I tried to get into a hole that was closing up at the wrong time and by the time that I got in the brakes trying to get out of there I got in the 38 (Ragan) a little bit on the right rear and he got squirrely out there and all hell broke loose,” said Truex outside of the medical center. “Just was trying to get to the end and get some track position and try to get towards the front and have a good day and ended up causing a wreck, so I hate it for everybody. We definitively had nothing to lose today, but at the same time you don’t want to be the person that causes others problems.”
The 16-car wreck resulted in a red flag that lasted nearly 13 minutes for cleanup. This incident was the biggest of the day, but it certainly wasn’t the last.
As the race got back underway, the drivers left on track kept battling hard for the lead. Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano had two of the fastest cars and worked together well for a majority of the race on Sunday, but that all changed shortly after the restart. Logano got loose and bounced back and forth between Trevor Bayne and Blaney heading down the backstretch, sending both Blaney and Bayne spinning. The incident ended Blaney’s day, as well as Harvick who also wound up involved.
The race was put under another red flag as NASCAR worked to clean up the track.
The race then got restarted once again with eight laps to go. One would think that the wrecking would’ve been over – but it wasn’t. Daniel Suarez had gotten himself out into the race lead, and was battling hard to block all comers. Chase Elliott was one of those looking to get by, and he tried to do so going into Turn 3 with 6 laps to go. Suarez attempted to block the run, but he wasn’t clear. The No.19 Camping World Toyota was sent spinning, collecting Elliott and Kyle Larson in the process. Both Elliott and Larson slammed hard into the outside wall.
“I think the 24 got into the 19 and got him sideways and into me,” said Larson after the race. “There were a lot of torn up cars…”
The Elliott/Suarez incident resulted in the third and final red flag of the race. Combined, there was over 35 total minutes of red flag time in Sunday’s race.
The final restart of the race took place with three laps to go. With less than 15 cars left running on the track, the race was able to stay clean and green. Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski battled hard for the victory, swapping the lead multiple times. As the checkered flag flew, Keselowski was able to come out as the victor – earning his fifth career win at Talladega Superspeedway.
“This is still sinking in,” said Keselowski in Victory Lane. “It is a special place to get to race and a special place when you win here. It was really a collaborative effort with the team and getting a real fast car and making the right moves as a driver and a lot of help from above with staying out of those wrecks.”
Newman, Bayne, Logano, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Gray Gaulding, and David Ragan rounded out the rest of the top-10 finishers.
Sunday’s race was Earnhardt’s last race at Talladega Superspeedway, a place he has loved and been loved in return. With his recent health issues, the Kannapolis, NC native was more than pleased to leave the 2.66-mile track without being involved in any major incidents.
“This was one that I was worried about, you know, in the back of my mind I was a little concerned,” said Earnhardt after the race. “But you can’t win the race if you race scared, and I’ve raced scared here before, and you don’t do well when that happens, so you have to block it out and just go out there and take the risks an hope that it’s just not your day to get in one of those accidents, and it wasn’t.”
In total, Sunday’s Alabama 500 featured 11 caution flags. Of the 40 cars that started the race, 37 were at some point involved in an accident. The only three not involved in a wreck were Keselowski, Newman, and Hamlin. Talladega Superspeedway is known for putting on memorable races, but Sunday’s demolition derby is one that certainly won’t be forgotten for quite sometime.