In one of the most memorable race days in Talladega Superspeedway history, Ryan Blaney drove his No. 12 Ford Mustang for Team Penske past the field with a last-lap pass and spectacular finish bumping fenders with Erik Jones and holding off Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by inches to win the GEICO 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. Blaney captured the checkered flag by only .007 seconds over Stenhouse.
Blaney has now won back-to-back Cup races at the biggest, baddest race track on the planet for the first time since Jeff Gordon accomplished the feat sweeping the season in 2007. The only other drivers to win consecutive Cup races at Talladega are Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2001-2003), Dale Earnhardt (1990 sweep, 1993-94, 1999 sweep), Ernie Irvan (1992-93), Sterling Marlin (1995-96), Darrell Waltrip (1982 sweep), Buddy Baker (1975 sweep, 1976), and Pete Hamilton (1970 sweep). Blaney won last fall’s Cup race at Talladega by the same .007 seconds as the GEICO 500.
“I just kind of blocked, just trying to block the best we could,” said Ryan Blaney. “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, 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.”
Blaney led a race-high 63 of 191 laps in the GEICO 500. It was Blaney’s first victory and seventh top ten of the 2020 Cup season. It was Blaney’s fourth career Cup win. The checkered flag marked Ford’s 693rd all-time Cup victory and 30th win at Talladega. Ford has now won nine of the last ten Cup races at the superspeedway.
Stenhouse, the 2017 spring Talladega race winner, held onto second in the No. 47 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE after a strong day for his JTG Daugherty Racing team. Aric Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing collided near the frantic end of the race, but the spinning rear of his race car passed the start/finish line for a dramatic third place finish. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 and Jones in the No. 20 Toyota Camry’s finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Prior to the race, the entire field stood united behind Bubba Wallace, who was the target of a heinous, racist incident Sunday in the NASCAR garage. Cup series drivers pushed his No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports to the front of the starting grid. Team owner Richard Petty made his return to a race track for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began to embrace Wallace and show his support. Wallace was one of the strongest competitors of the day even leading the field during the race and competing as high as third in the final 20 laps. He finished his day in 14th.
Following Stage 1, the race was halted with a 58-minute, 18-second delay after 57 laps due to rain. Upon resumption of racing, Stenhouse won Stage 2 of the GEICO 500.
The GEICO 500 was the first with the new superspeedway rules designed to improve safety and competition. The result was the classic fierce Talladega competition with multiple lead changes, aggressive bump-drafting, and aerodynamic pushes leading the action. In total, there were 19 different leaders and 56 lead changes in the race, the most since 2011. As with most races since NASCAR’s return, the event was held without practice or qualifying. The race also produced 177 green flag passes for the lead, the most at the 2.66-mile venue since 2010.
Monday’s race was rescheduled from Sunday’s weather postponement. It was originally scheduled for April, but was postponement due to COVID-19. This was also one of the first major sporting events to host a limited number of fans in attendance since the Coronavirus pandemic impacted the sport earlier this year.
Talladega 2020 Season
The NASCAR Playoff Race Weekend returns to Talladega with NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series playoff races on Oct. 3-4. The YellaWood 500 will be the second race of Round of 12 of the Cup Playoffs on Sunday, Oct. 4, while the Sugarlands Shine 250 will be the second race of the Round of 8 Gander Truck Playoffs on Saturday, Oct. 3. With his victory Sunday, Blaney all but punched his ticket to the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. For tickets call 877-Go2-DEGA or visit talladegasuperspeedway.com.