Ricky Stenhouse Jr Caps Off Perfect Weekend at Talladega, Securing First Career Win

Following an action packed Geico 500 at Talladega, Alex Gallacher looks at the restrictor-plate race which marked Ricky Stenhouse Jr's first career win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup.

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Talladega Super Speedway, what more needs to be said? The name alone is enough to invoke flashbacks and unpleasant memories among the drivers, but it might also produce some happy ones as well. The steep banks and high speeds of the 2.666 mile superspeedway have created some of NASCAR’s best races and well as some memorable finishes and crashes. The track where David can conquer Goliath and where anyone can win or end up upside down.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr Caps Off Perfect Weekend at Talladega, Securing First Career Win

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series made its first of two annual stops to the Super Speedway for the Geico 500. Ricky Stenhouse Jr won the pole, narrowly beating another junior, that being Dale Earnhardt Jr. The rest of the top five starters were as follows:

  1. #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford- Ricky Stenhouse Jr
  2. #88 Nationwide Chevy- Dale Earnhardt Jr
  3. #2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford- Brad Keselowski
  4. #20 Circle K Toyota- Matt Kenseth
  5. #6 Advocate Ford- Trevor Bayne

Stage One

The first stage was surprisingly clean for a Talladega race, when Brad Keselowski jumped to the early lead and stayed there for most of the stage. Points leader Kyle Larson would have problems early on when he was turned into the wall by his teammate, Jamie MacMurray, cutting down his right front tyre, despite this he would keep on going. Stage One would come to an end with Brad Keselowski winning the first stage and picking up the all valuable playoff points.

Stage Two

Stage Two was the “calmest” stage and saw some great wide open three-wide racing. Denny Hamlin dominated most of the stage, but other drivers such as Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch managed to get our front as well. After green flag pit stops, the caution would come once again when the #55 of Reed Sorenson blew a tire while exiting the tri-oval. Denny Hamlin’s #11 car would go on to win the stage.

Stage Three

The final stage produced the finish that all NASCAR fans expected form Talladega – a pulse pounding one. Ryan Blaney who was running well all day was wrecked after contact from Ricky Stenhouse Jr which sent him into the wall, ending his day. The big one had been looming all day and finally on lap 168, the big one reared it’s ugly head. The #47 of A.J Allmendinger bumped the #24 of Chase Elliott, sending Elliott into the pack and airborne. The wreck took out 16 cars and ended with #47 upside down sliding down the back stretch. Some notables taken out include the #4 of Kevin Harvick, #3 of Austin Dillon, #6 of Trevor Bayne, #10 of Danica Patrick, #20 of Matt Kenseth, #22 of Joey Logano, and both Furniture Row Racing entries of Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. All drivers were checked and released from the infield care center, and after a 27 minute red flag, the drivers went back to racing.

Kyle Busch continued his domination of the third stage and looked almost unstoppable but after Landon Cassill stopped on the track and Ryan Newman was wrecked, it created two more restarts as well as a green white checkered finish. This is where the fastest car of all weekend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, made a gutsy move on the penultimate lap getting alongside Kyle Busch. With help from good old seven time Jimmie Johnson, he was able to pass Busch and hold on to secure his first career win. This win is Roush Racing’s first win since 2014 and Stenhouse’s first win since entering the sport in 2011.

The top five from the Geico 500:

  1. #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford- Ricky Stenhouse Jr (Pole Winner)
  2. #1 MacDonald’s Chevy- Jamie MacMurray
  3. #18 Skittles Toyota- Kyle Busch
  4. #43 Fresh From Florida Ford- Aric Almirola
  5. #5 UniFirst Chevy- Kasey Kahne

Other notable finishers include the #38 of David Ragan in tenth, #72 of Cole Whitt in 16th, #7 of Elliott Sadler in 17th, #32 of Matt DiBenedetto in 18th and the #23 of Grey Gaulding in 20th. Points leader Kyle Larson came home 12th after the accident early on.

Final Thoughts

This race at Talladega didn’t disappoint. Nail biting, pulse pounding action was the theme of the race. Close, tight pack racing showed that one small mistake can lead to chaos, but at the end of the day however all drivers were able to walk away safely and return home to their families. Ricky Stenhouse Jr rallied for his long awaited first Cup Series win and has locked himself into the Playoffs come the fall.

These are the drivers currently locked into the Playoffs following Talladega:

  1. #42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy- Kyle Larson (Points Leader)
  2. #78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota- Martin Truex Jr
  3. #2 Team Penske Ford- Brad Keselowski
  4. #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy- Jimmie Johnson
  5. #17 Roush Racing Ford- Ricky Stenhouse Jr
  6. #31 RCR Chevy- Ryan Newman
  7. #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford- Kurt Busch

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action May 13th for the GoBowling 400 at the Kansas Speedway.
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