How about that?! Two days, two fairly clean superspeedway races from Talladega Superspeedway.
In fact, Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event was an oddly clean one, with 33 cars running at the conclusion of the YellaWood 500, with only three of the race’s retirees coming from accidents.
That’s even with the added intensity of a green-white-checkered finish, which was a byproduct of Daniel Hemric’s No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro being stalled at the end of pit road, with six laps to go.
Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones restarted the event on the front row with two laps to go, each driver having a manufacturer teammate behind them in Michael McDowell and Ross Chastain.
However, it was NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Chase Elliott, who ended up being victorious in the YellaWood 500, after restarting from sixth place, using a miraculous push from Erik Jones to blast ahead of the pack, leaving the 2020 Cup Series champion to defend.
Elliott was able to do just that, beating fellow NASCAR Cup Series Playoff driver Ryan Blaney to the start-finish line by 0.046 seconds, with Michael McDowell in third place, less than a hundredth of a second behind the race winner.
Ross Chastain, who led a race-high 36 laps, provided the momentum necessary to get Erik Jones to the rear bumper of Elliott, but faded back to fourth place in the tri-oval. Denny Hamlin completed the top five in fifth.
After shoving Elliott to his fifth victory of the season, Jones slipped back to sixth place at the start-finish line, with Todd Gilliland picking up his second top-10 finish in seventh. Playoff drivers Daniel Suarez, Austin Cindric, and Chase Briscoe completed the top 10.
William Byron, who entered Talladega eight points below the cutline after being assessed a 25-point penalty post-Texas, recorded a 12th-place finish, a solid result that would – in a normal Talladega race – be a benefit to his points position.
A much-needed result for Christopher Bell after a Texas crash wasn’t found, after spinning on the entry to pit road under green, which set him at a deficit heading into the final stage. When the dust settled, Bell finished 17th, just in front of Kyle Larson, another championship-eligible driver.
After getting slight damage in an early multi-car accident, Joey Logano elected to stay at the rear of the field throughout the event, a strategy that didn’t benefit the Team Penske driver, who finished 27th.
Next up for the NASCAR Cup Series is Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL, the final race of the ‘Round of 12’. After next weekend’s event, the four non-winners lowest in points will be removed from championship contention.
Entering the event, Austin Cindric (-0), William Byron (-11), Christopher Bell (-33), and Alex Bowman (-57) will be the four drivers below the cutline. That is, of course, barring an overturning of the penalty to Byron and Hendrick Motorsports, which will be appealed this week.