Ryan Blaney spun while trying to get to pit road while leading on Sunday. On Monday at Talladega he passed Ryan Newman just ahead of the finish line to clinch a spot in the third round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Blaney had the lead on the final lap but Newman got a huge run around him pushed by Denny Hamlin. But Newman got too far out in front of everyone else and Blaney was able to get alongside and in front of him as the two made contact heading for the checkered flag. The margin of victory was 0.007 seconds.
And yes, the race ended as a crash happened in the tri-oval. It was an appropriate finish. Crashes ruled the race.
“There was no blocking the 6 and the 11, they were coming so fast and I figured I’d give up the bottom and they’d just leave me in the middle so I decided to stick with [Aric Almirola behind], he was a great pusher all day and I went up and pulled the 11 off the 6,” Blaney said of his maneuver to get Hamlin and Newman separated. “And then he was so far out in front. Then we kind of got together on the front. He kinda pushed me below the yellow line, I wasn’t going to go below there after what happened in the truck race. Kinda got forced down and it just worked out.”
During Saturday’s Truck Series race, Johnny Sauter crossed the line first but wasn’t declared the winner — it went to second-place Spencer Boyd — after NASCAR deemed that Sauter forced Riley Herbst below the yellow line at the bottom of the track ahead of the finish line. Drivers are told they cannot make passes or force others below the double-yellow line that’s painted at the bottom of the track at Daytona and Talladega.
Blaney, clearly, was not penalized for his race-winning pass coming from a move that went below the yellow line. And Newman wasn’t penalized either. The yellow-line rule is one of the most controversial in NASCAR and the sanctioning body would be far better off if it just eliminated it altogether.
If you wanna Zapruder the Blaney-Newman yellow line moment, have at it.— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) October 14, 2019
Further proof that the rule shouldn’t exist. pic.twitter.com/J3feoQfnHv
Every playoff driver was in a crash or spin
Each of the 12 drivers still alive in the playoffs were involved in a crash at some point during the race, which was postponed to Monday after 57 laps on Sunday because of rain. The craziest crash came when Brendan Gaughan’s car flipped over at the front of the field with fewer than 10 laps to go. Thankfully Gaughan’s car landed on its wheels.
It’s a damn good thing Brendan Gaughan’s car landed on its wheels. pic.twitter.com/EpzO07e8xy— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) October 14, 2019
1. Kyle Larson [won at Dover]
2. Ryan Blaney [won at Talladega]
3. Denny Hamlin, 3,114 points
4. Martin Truex Jr., 3,106
5. Kyle Busch, 3,099
6. Kevin Harvick, 3,094
7. Brad Keselowski, 3,078
8. Joey Logano, 3,076
9. Alex Bowman, 3,058
10. Chase Elliott, 3,054
11. Clint Bowyer, 3,052
12. William Byron, 3,049
The biggest points takeaway from the race is the separation from eighth to ninth. Joey Logano is 18 points ahead of Alex Bowman for the final spot in the third round. While 18 points isn’t a massive margin — it can be made up in two stages if Bowman runs well early at Kansas and Logano doesn’t — it provides Logano and his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski two points ahead a decent buffer.
Bowman would be in the top eight if it wasn’t for Blaney’s win. Blaney was forced to go to the garage during last week’s race at Dover and entered Talladega last among playoff drivers. His victory could ultimately take a spot away from someone that looked to be in a good third-round position after last week’s race. And that someone could, possibly, be one of his teammates.
Blaney’s Sunday speeding penalty
Blaney was leading when the first cycle of green-flag pit stops began on Sunday. As he hit pit road he couldn’t get slowed enough in time and looped his car around at the entrance to pit road. He got it refired — a potential tactical error in hindsight — and continued to get his pit stop and NASCAR didn’t throw a caution.
But since Blaney hadn’t slowed his car down he got also hit with a speeding penalty at the start of pit road and looked forced to serve that pass-through penalty on pit road under green, compounding the time he had lost while spinning entering the pits. Had Blaney stayed stopped in the grass, NASCAR would have been forced to throw the caution and Blaney could have served his penalty under caution and simply gone to the back of the field.
He got incredibly lucky in the next laps. Boyd’s car stopped on track with a problem and NASCAR was forced to throw a caution. That meant Blaney was able to serve his penalty by simply restarting the race at the back because he didn’t get sufficient time to serve his pass-through.
Hendrick Motorsports’ bad luck day
Hendrick Motorsports’ four Chevrolets were some of the fastest cars at Talladega after all they qualified 1-2-3-4.
And they all got crashed at various points while at the front of the field.
Alex Bowman was trying to defend his position in the lead at the end of Stage 2 when he went around after contact from Logano. That crash collected teammates Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson. Both Bowman and Johnson were out of the race after the crash.
Then William Byron got collected in a crash at the front of the field in Stage 3. He got turned into Joey Logano as a push from behind went wrong on the backstretch.
All three of Hendrick’s playoff cars are now outside the top eight heading into Kansas. And unless one of them wins the race, it looks more likely than not that all three will end up being eliminated next weekend.
Hamlin finished third with a torn-up car
Hamlin was in the wreck that started with the contact between Bowman and Logano. His car had tape on both side of the front end and certainly looked like a crashed car.
With 20 laps to go, he radioed his crew with this message.
“Is there any reason that we should go up there and race the rest of this race?” Hamlin asked. “I mean, other than like the last lap or just make a mad dash ... I don’t think [the wrecking] is all done. I think when they throw the checkered there’s going to be about eight or nine good-running cars.”
Hamlin turned out to be a soothsayer. That crash involving Gaughan’s flip came with fewer than seven laps to go and took out a ton of contenders for the race win. It also vaulted Hamlin up in the running order and put him in a position to make that final lap charge toward the front.
As a result, Hamlin has the most points of any driver who isn’t officially clinched into the third round. With a 56-point cushion to ninth and a 38-point cushion to eighth, Hamlin is in really good shape heading into Kansas.
1. Ryan Blaney
2. Ryan Newman
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Aric Almirola
5. Michael McDowell
6. Austin Dillon
7. Corey LaJoie
8. Chase Elliott
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
10. Ty Dillon
11. Joey Logano
12. Ross Chastain
13. Matt Tifft
14. Landon Cassill
15. Parker Kligerman
16. Paul Menard
17. Kevin Harvick
18. Ryan Preece
19. Kyle Busch
20. Chris Buescher
21. Daniel Hemric
22. Reed Sorenson
23. Clint Bowyer
24. Bubba Wallace
25. Brad Keselowski
26. Martin Truex Jr.
27. Brendan Gaughan
28. Kurt Busch
29. David Ragan
30. Matt DiBenedetto
31. Blake Jones
32. Daniel Suarez
33. William Byron
34. Erik Jones
35. Austin Theriault
26. Joey Gase
37. Alex Bowman
38. Jimmie Johnson
39. Kyle Larson
40. Spencer Boyd
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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