Wrapping up the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
By Kent Whitaker:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr, pilot of the No. 17 Roush Ford Fusion, started the weekend out right when he captured the pole for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Before the weekend was over the driver would be celebrating his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win! It’s the first win of his Cup Series career after 158 starts.
Stenhouse numbers as a Cup Series driver at Talladega are nothing to sneeze at over his relatively short career. Stenhouse has had eight starts at the track and completed every lap of every race so far! That’s 1523 of 1523 laps for a 100.0% completion record. The driver also has 3 top-five finishes and 5 top-ten.
His expertise at the track known as the third largest city in Alabama during a race weekend ended a 101-race winning dry spell for Roush – Fenway Racing. Stenhouse noted that the organizations efforts have improved in 2017.
Everybody at the shop:
“This is for all the guys at the shop — we’ve been terrible for a long time,” Stenhouse said. “This year, every race, we’re just getting better and better. We knew Talladega was a good race track for us. It’s been a good one in the past. This Fifth Third Ford was so fast today. Qualifying on the pole, got the win. Can’t say enough about the guys. It’s cool to get Jack Roush back in Victory Lane. This is cool. The closest track to my hometown (Olive Branch, Mississippi). Man, this is cool.”
Stenhouse led the first 13 laps and the last as he passed Kyle Busch for the lead following a late restart and a nice bump from Jimmie Johnson. Busch seemed poised to retake the front spot but could never make the move as he and Johnson began to battle for position.
“I think (Busch) thought I was gonna go to the top and we ended up getting to the bottom,” Stenhouse said. “We were side-drafting each other like crazy, so that was one heck of a race and I’m glad we came out on top.”
McMurray up the middle:
The race between Johnson and Busch resulted in Jamie McMurray making a power move as he bolted through taking the second position with a chance to catch Stenhouse. McMurray came within inches of taking the lead but Stenhouse stretched it out just enough to grab the checkered flag.
“I just got a run at the right time,” McMurray said following his second place finish in the GEICO 500. “I thought the No. 17 (Stenhouse) was going to get a little bit further out, but when we were coming to the line it just seemed like his car wasn’t going at that point, so it was a good finish. It was a great race.”
The Big One:
As far as racing at Talladega goes; the majority of the GEICO 500 was calm. The stage racing implemented by NASCAR for 2017 provided several good restarts and jockeying for position as drivers tried to collect points. Brad Kesekowski and Denny Hamlin were the winners of the first two stages respectively.
The “Big One” occurred late in the race when AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 47 Chevrolet, moved towards the back of Chase Elliott as the pack moved through the corner. triggers the big one when he gets to the bumper of Chase Elliott. A total of 18 cars that started the race were damaged. Nine of those cars headed to the garage as their day was ended.
The wreck sent Elliott into the wall as other cars plowed into the growing mass. Before it was over, Elliott was lifted off the ground as Allmendinger found himself upside down with the car coming to a rest on it’s roof. The wreck came just short of Lap 170 in the 188 lap race.
“He just apologized,” Elliott said following the incident. “I don’t know that it was really his fault, per se. He had a big run and he kind of got to my bumper and just happened to be in a bad spot coming up off the corner, skewed a little bit to my left rear. And when that happens, it just unloads these cars too much.”
Trouble for Dale Jr
The driver known for great runs at Talladega seemed to be one of the cars to beat towards the later stages of the race but a bad pit stop ended those chances. According to a social media post following the race the driver pinned the blame on a loose wheel that was a result from either a malfunctioning lug nut gun or glue build up on the stud.
Despite finding himself up towards the front the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet stated that he was not sure how they made it there. Earnhardt stated following the race that he never had a good handle on the car but praised his crew for making things work.
“Somehow or another we got up there — I don’t really know [how],” Earnhardt said after the race. “I wasn’t really feeling a lot of confidence in the car, but we were shaping to have a pretty good opportunity to get a good finish. It’s just disappointing.
Time of Race: 03 Hrs, 29 Mins, 16 Secs.
Average Speed: 145.669 MPH
Margin of Victory: 0.095 Seconds
Lead Changes: 26 among 14 drivers:
Stage 1 Results:
Stage 2 Results:
Caution Flags: 8 for 33 laps
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kent Whitaker, often called ‘the Deck Chef,’ is a sportswriter, culinary writer, and cookbook author with fourteen titles. He covers NASCAR, racing in general, Football, barbecue, grilling, and tailgating. You can visit him on The Deck Chef .”