As is the case anytime NASCAR visits the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega, the chance of a multi-car crash is high and in Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega, the first multi-car crash of the day struck early, sweeping several contenders up in the melee.
Heading down the backstretch on lap 20, last year’s runner-up at Talladega, Brennan Poole, who had already sustained some front-end damage earlier in the race, tried to move into the outside lane, but there was no room to do so, causing contact between Poole, Matt Tifft, and Daniel Suarez, which turned Suarez across the track and would include a total of nine cars by the time all was said and done to bring out the red flag for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.
In addition to Poole, Tifft, and Suarez, Darrell Wallace, Jr., William Byron, Daniel Hemric, Spencer Gallagher, Scott Lagasse, Jr., Brandon Jones, and Tyler Reddick were also involved. Jones, Hemric, and Gallagher would be done for the day just after the crash, and they would be joined by Byron as he could not meet minimum speed.
The first stage would go back green with two laps remaining and would end without further incident as Aric Almirola took the stage win, followed by Joey Logano, Justin Allgaier, Erik Jones, Blake Koch, Michael Annett, Brendan Gaughan, Kasey Kahne, JJ Yeley, and Ryan Sieg to round out the top-10 at the end of the first stage.
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Stage Two was a much calmer affair through the first 24 laps of the stage, but in the final lap of the stage, a bump draft gone wrong between Almirola and Ryan Reed just past the start/finish line sent Reed into the outside wall and would include a total of eight cars by the time the crash was complete.
Gaughan, Cole Custer, polesitter Blake Koch, Lagasse, Chris Cockrum, and Martin Roy were also involved in the crash in addition to Reed and Almirola.
“I’m fine,” said Reed. “The racing is fun. We had a really fast car, so that made the racing a lot more fun for us, but with this low downforce you’re really at other people’s mercy on how they push you. Aric got careless there and he took the blame for it, but I think it being Saturday and him not racing here that often he was a little more careless. I don’t think if it was Dale Jr. or somebody he races with every week in front of him that he would have done that, so I wish he would have taken a little more time, especially that early on, and give us a little more respect because we do race in the series every week. We’re racing for a championship and he’s not, and feel like he owes us that respect, so I’m frustrated.”
“I’m not frustrated that he’s in the series because I support Cup guys racing against us. We learn from them and there are a lot of great things, and I actually think a lot of Aric. I have a lot of respect for him as a driver and as a person, but that just wasn’t cool. All he had to do was back off a little bit. He just got so aggressive with that push and then didn’t hit us square. He hit us off to the right side and when that happened the car was out from underneath me before I knew it.”
With the crash bringing out the caution and subsequent 11 minute, 30 second red flag, the stage win for the second stage went to Allgaier, followed by Ty Dillon, Kahne, Almirola, Logano, Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick, Annett, Ben Kennedy, and Matt Tifft.
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