By David Morgan, Associate Editor
TALLADEGA, Ala. – Kyle Busch found himself in the right place at the right time Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, scoring his second win of the season after a crash in overtime brought the GEICO 500 to an early end.
The driver of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was running third in double overtime when Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney, who were running first and second, made contact, sending Wallace spinning and allowing Busch to ascend to the lead.
As Wallace’s Toyota spun back through the field, NASCAR threw the yellow flag, which brough the race to its conclusion and delivered Busch the 62nd victory of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
“Sometimes you got to be lucky,” Busch said. “Some of these races come down to that. You got to take ’em when they come your way.
“The seas kind of parted there when they went up the racetrack. They were trying to push draft. These cars are just not stable enough to do that. I seen the 23 just turn a little bit sideways. I was like, ‘Get out of the way, just miss it.’ Tried to see if I was ahead of the 12 by the time it was called.”
Blaney would be scored as the runner-up when the final results were tallied, followed by Chris Buescher in third, Chase Briscoe rebounding from a spin onto pit road early in the event to finish fourth, and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top-five.
Afterwards, Blaney chalked the last lap crash up to the nature of superspeedway racing and the aggressive runs and blocks that drivers have to make with the Next Gen cars on these types of tracks.
“You get big runs, take ’em when you can,” Blaney said. “I’m glad everyone’s okay, but in my mind you kind of triple move like that, triple block, you can’t block three times. I don’t know. Runs are so big.
“As a leader, with Bubba trying to block, which is the right thing to do. But I think a lot of those, I mean, I got to go somewhere.
“I hate that cars got torn up, I hate for us being so close to the win. I’m not blaming anybody. Just hard racing at the end of this thing. Unfortunate cars got tore up and we missed out on another win.”
Both Blaney and Wallace combined to lead 82 laps on the day, making the last lap crash an even bigger gut punch for both drivers.
After climbing from his battered machine following the crash, Wallace removed his HANS device and slammed it to the ground, highlighting the frustration of being so close only to end the day on the wrecker.
To his credit, Wallace took the blame for the incident after getting checked and released from the Infield Care Center.
“Just got junked by the 12. Late block. Close, close, close block and just sent us around. Not the 12’s fault,” Wallace said.
“I honestly thought he would leave me high and dry coming back around. Just hate it. Hate it for my team. It’s how it goes. It was our best by far plate race that we’ve ever done, so hats off to the 23 group, Freddie up on top of the roof. Great day for us, just a crap result.
“I caused that one and man, I thought it’d play out a little different. Obviously, not getting wrecked, but I thought the move would happen coming through the tri-oval.”
Aside from the stage breaks, the race only featured three cautions for cause in the first 150 laps, but with three laps remaining in regulation, a spin near the tail end of the field sent the race into overtime and as they say, cautions breed cautions.
The field only made it to Turn 2 on the first overtime restart when contact between Ross Chastain and Noah Gragson spun Gragson out of the lead, collecting five other cars in the process.
Of the cars involved, Ryan Preece and Kyle Larson took the hardest hits when Larson’s car slid back up the track in front of Preece, who was coming with a head of steam and hit Larson’s car broad-side.
The impact that came as a result broke the door bars on the right side of Larson’s Chevrolet and an in-car camera showed Preece being visibly stunned by the force of the impact.
Both drivers would be checked and released from the Infield Care Center shortly afterwards and described the violence of the impact between their two cars.
“Definitely one of the hardest hits that I’ve taken in my racing career,” Preece said. “We’ve just got to figure out when we get track position to keep it or stay up there so you aren’t put in those positions. Still a good day and proud of the car we brought.”
Thankfully, I’m OK. My car is absolutely destroyed,” Larson added. “The cockpit is a mess, so thankful that I’m alright and all that. Just a bummer. Put ourselves in position once again on a superspeedway and the results don’t show it.
“Another wreck not of my doing on a superspeedway. Just hate it, but we’ll keep getting better and eventually it’ll have to work out, I would think.”
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