TALLADEGA, Ala. — Kyle Busch found himself running third in the middle of turns one and two on the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway.
By the exit of turn two, the Richard Childress Racing driver had surged to the lead, winning the Geico 500.
How did that happen? Let’s break it down:
- Coming to the white flag, Bubba Wallace used momentum through the tri-oval to overtake Busch.
- With help from a surging Ryan Blaney, Wallace was clear of the No. 8 RCR Chevrolet.
- However, Blaney dove to the inside lane, with Wallace blocking Blaney’s momentum in turn one.
- Blaney’s No. 12 Ford Mustang shot high up the track to counteract Wallace’s block.
- When darting to keep Blaney behind, Wallace got loose, spinning back down the track, collecting multiple cars.
- NASCAR would display the caution flag, promptly ending the race.
Clear of the carnage, Busch brought his No. 8 Chevrolet back to the start/finish line to secure his 62nd career win in the Cup Series.
“Sometimes you got to be lucky. Some of these races come down to that. You got to take ’em when they come your way,” Busch said.
“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 (Wallace) 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 (Blaney) by the time it was called.”
The win was the 37-year-old’s second of the season, after winning at California’s Auto Club Speedway in February.
On the other end of triumph, was the agony of defeat.
Blaney brought his No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang home in second after leading the most laps on the day with 47.
“It’s just you get big runs, take ’em when you can,” Blaney said. “I’m glad everyone’s OK, 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,” Blaney continued. “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.”
Blaney’s winless streak is now extended to 56 races.
Can't hold back on the last lap. Here's a replay of the last-lap crash Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. pic.twitter.com/IoxjJwtaUp— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 23, 2023
Behind the front two, was a Ford brigade of Chris Buescher, Chase Briscoe and Brad Keselowski.
It was a much-needed top 10 finish for Legacy Motor Club’s Erik Jones in sixth, who notched his second in 10 races this year.
Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron finished seventh, followed by Christopher Bell, Daniel Suarez and Todd Gilliland rounding out the top 10.
What Else Went Down
Four laps into the event, Michael McDowell spun from 18th in the middle of the field after losing a right rear tire.
During green flag pit stops on lap 44, Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s Briscoe spun heading down pit lane. No damage was sustained to the No. 14 Ford Mustang.
HMS’ Chase Elliott scored the Stage One win, earning a playoff point.
In a rare instance on the 2.66-mile superspeedway, Stage Two went caution-free, with only green flag pit stops slowing the action.
Lap 102 saw Joey Logano get caught speeding on pit road, eventually putting the reigning champion down one lap.
The No. 10 Ford Mustang of Aric Almirola narrowly edged out Elliott for the Stage Two victory.
As Stage Three began to wind down, the action ramped up with side-by-side action.
While leading, Harrison Burton got a bump heading into turn three, sending the No. 21 Ford Mustang down to the apron of the track. No damage was sustained to Burton’s race car. However, as the field stacked up, Austin Dillon, Zane Smith and Austin Hill received damage in the process.
With the race winding down, it was a side-by-side battle for the lead between Blaney and Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Ty Gibbs. Though with five laps to go, Logano got turned by Corey LaJoie, sending the No. 22 Ford into the outside wall.
Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Burton were also involved in the accident.
The caution would trigger the first overtime restart.
More chaos would commence on the following overtime restart in turn two. Moving Noah Gragson high, Ross Chastain forced his way to go three-wide for the lead. However, after the two made contact, Gragson’s No. 42 Chevrolet went nose-first into the wall.
As the field stacked up, Kyle Larson would also spin, before heading back up the track into Ryan Preece. All drivers would be released from the infield care center.
The final restart of the day came shortly after, with Gibbs running out of fuel as the green flag waved. Blaney and Busch went toe-to-toe, before momentum pushed Busch to the lead. After Wallace and Blaney collided on the final lap, Busch was clear to the end of the race.