Ryan Blaney wins Geico 500 in wild finish at Talladega

Ryan Blaney wins at Talladega
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

An event that began with a massive show of support for Bubba Wallace ended with one of Wallace's best friends, Ryan Blaney, celebrating in Victory Lane for the second straight race at Talladega Superspeedway.

In a frenetic overtime dash, Blaney won Monday's GEICO 500 by .007 seconds over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as crashing cars bounced of each other and the outside wall behind the top two finishers. The victory was Blaney's first of the season, second straight at the 2.66-mile track and the fourth of his career.

It was a day that started ominously—and not because of the rain clouds that threatened to delay the race for a second straight day and in fact caused a stoppage of 57 minutes, 18 seconds after 57 laps were complete on Monday.

News that a noose had been discovered Sunday evening in the garage stall of Wallace, the NASCAR Cup Series' only African-American driver, dominated national headlines and brought strong statements of condemnation from both NASCAR and team owner Richard Petty.

Team owner Ricard Petty came to Talladega to support his driver, Bubba Wallace
Brian Lawdermilk | Getty Images

Drivers and their crews assembled before the race to escort Wallace and his car to the head of the grid. The lasting image of the pre-race was Wallace being embraced by a succession of his fellow competitors.

Nearly five hours later, Wallace was congratulating Blaney in Victory Lane after a scintillating conclusion that saw Blaney knocking the Toyota of Eric Jones into the outside wall as the cars approached the finish line—and still managing to beat Stenhouse to the stripe by roughly 12 inches.

"I just kind of blocked, just trying to block the best we could," Blaney said. "Ride the top, ride the bottom. The 20 (Jones) got to my outside, and I tried to go up there to slow him down and… I'm not sure, I don't know… three-wide, I hate that I hit him, but just kind of trying to beat and bang to the line and things like that.

"We just edged it out, but I'm really proud of this whole Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang team. It's been a cool year so far, and I'm really excited to get our first win of the year at a cool place. Thank you everybody for coming… That was a lot of fun."

Ford drivers have won nine of the last 10 Talladega Cup races.

Ryan Blaney (12) leads the field to the finish line on the final lap at Talladega
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Aric Almirola slid sideways across the finish line to claim third place, with Denny Hamlin and Jones following in fourth and fifth, respectively. Chris Buescher, Alex Bowman, John Hunter Nemechek, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10.

Wallace, who spearheaded efforts within the sport to ban the Confederate flag from NASCAR events, climbed from his car after a 14th-place finish and saluted fans who gathered at the catchfence to greet him. As the next phase of the reopening of the sport, 5,000 fans were allowed to attend the race.

"The sport is changing," Wallace said, as he stood in front of the first grandstand. "The deal that happened yesterday… I wanted to show whoever it was that you're not going to take away my smile. I'm going to keep on going. I've been a part of this sport for a really long time…

"All in all, we won today. The pre-race deal was probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to witness in my life, from all the supporters, from drivers and crew members and everybody here. It's truly incredible, and I'm proud to be a part of this sport."

Stenhouse said that the fans were chanting for Wallace before the start of the race, loud enough for the drivers to hear it on pit road.

Results

POS CAR DRIVER MANUF LAPS BEHIND
1 12 Ryan Blaney Ford 191 0.000s
2 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Chevy 191 0.007
3 10 Aric Almirola Ford 191 0.025
4 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 191 0.085
5 20 Erik Jones Toyota 191 0.093
6 17 Chris Buescher Ford 191 0.114
7 88 Alex Bowman Chevy 191 0.171
8 38 John Hunter Nemechek # Ford 191 0.180
9 1 Kurt Busch Chevy 191 0.199
10 4 Kevin Harvick Ford 191 0.206
11 24 William Byron Chevy 191 0.314
12 13 Ty Dillon Chevy 191 0.339
13 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy 191 0.373
14 43 Bubba Wallace Chevy 191 0.583
15 37 Ryan Preece Chevy 191 4.931
16 22 Joey Logano Ford 191 5.568
17 32 Corey LaJoie Ford 191 5.955
18 34 Michael McDowell Ford 191 6.046
19 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 191 6.619
20 8 Tyler Reddick # Chevy 191 8.667
21 62 * Brendan Gaughan Chevy 191 9.355
22 41 Cole Custer # Ford 191 23.544
23 6 Ryan Newman Ford 191 31.305
24 14 Clint Bowyer Ford 190 0.494
25 19 Martin Truex Jr Toyota 190 0.688
26 21 Matt DiBenedetto Ford 190 0.864
27 00 Quin Houff # Chevy 190 -1 Lap
28 96 * Daniel Suarez Toyota 190 -1
29 95 Christopher Bell # Toyota 190 -1
30 27 Gray Gaulding(i) Ford 190 -1
31 77 BJ McLeod Chevy 190 -1
32 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 189 -2
33 66 * Timmy Hill(i) Toyota 185 -6
34 78 * Garrett Smithley(i) Chevy 185 -6
35 15 Brennan Poole # Chevy 178 -13
36 53 JJ Yeley(i) Chevy 178 -13
37 51 Joey Gase(i) Ford 141 -50
38 9 Chase Elliott Chevy 135 -56
39 3 Austin Dillon Chevy 133 -58
40 42 Matt Kenseth Chevy 127 -64
# DENOTES ROOKIE
(i) NOT ELIGIBLE FOR POINTS
(*) REQUIRED TO QUALIFY ON TIME

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