UPDATE: Sunday, October 1st at 7:15 PM ET:
NASCAR has disqualified second-place finisher Kevin Harvick after it was determined the No. 4 Ford Mustang violated NASCAR Rule Book Sections 126.96.36.199.F Windshield, and 14.1.E&P Overall Assembled Vehicle Rules.
That ruling drops Harvick to 38th place and moves everybody else up a position.
William Byron will now be credited with second place, while Denny Hamlin, Corey LaJoie, and Austin Cindric complete the top five. Justin Haley, Chase Elliott, Riley Herbst, and Daniel Suarez will now round out the revised top-10.
There is just something about Talladega Superspeedway that seems to complement the strengths of Ryan Blaney, despite being one of the most unpredictable circuits on the NASCAR calendar.
Whatever that may be, the 29-year-old driver is undoubtedly using it to his advantage, pulling off the victory in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 in an intense side-by-side photo finish with Kevin Harvick.
Blaney, the driver of the No. 12 Pennzoil / Menards Ford Mustang for Team Penske, crossed the start-finish line 0.012 seconds ahead of the retiring NASCAR Cup Series veteran at the completion of 188 laps.
Even though the High Point, North Carolina native was able to get to the start-finish line first – largely a result of a push from William Byron – the move to be in position came on the backstretch when Blaney darted through the middle to get to the inside of Harvick.
Holding the advantage through the final set of corners, Blaney elected to stay on the yellow line, rather than block the run coming from Harvick, which ultimately worked in his favor as the No. 4 lost his pusher in Riley Herbst when ‘The Big One’ erupted behind them.
“I don’t really know,” said Blaney post-race. “Pretty wild. Pretty wild last restart, let alone last couple of laps. You know, kind of losing momentum, getting it back. Just getting clear to the bottom to kind of get to the front row and drag-race it out with Kevin.”
Herbst getting turned triggered a massive pileup as the field crossed the start-finish line, which involved Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Chandler Smith, Christopher Bell, Todd Gilliland, Tyler Reddick, and several others.
“I won it by more than I have the last couple of years so that one might have been about four feet. The others were about two,” Blaney quipped. “Yeah, you just don’t know. You just kind of drag race the line and hope you get help. William gave me a pretty good shove on the bottom. He kind of was kind of forced to, but yeah.”
On the negative side of the photo finish on Sunday was Kevin Harvick, who matched a season-high finish from earlier this year at Darlington, coming home second in his final superspeedway event.
William Byron came home in third place, and despite being the only driver that didn’t need to worry about points, scored the most points of any driver in the field with a pair of runner-up results in the stages and a top-five.
Denny Hamlin made an incredible rebound to finish in fourth place, after being outside the top-25 when the race went green for the final restart inside the final 15 laps. Corey LaJoie picked up a top-five result for Spire Motorsports in fifth.
Austin Cindric rebounded from getting a late-race free pass to finish in sixth place, while Justin Haley, Chase Elliott, Ryan Preece, and Xfinity Series regular Riley Herbst completed the top-10, after being up front for most of the race.
Christopher Bell crossed the line in 15th place at the end of the race, after his involvement in an early-race accident with Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., which ended the afternoon for fellow NASCAR Playoff driver Ross Chastain.
Kyle Larson was running inside the top-10 for most of the final run of the race, but was sent spinning to the inside through the tri-oval on the final lap, which dropkicked him down to 16th at the start-finish line, with fellow post-season drivers Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex, Jr. and Chris Buescher in 17th, 19th, and 20th.
After being bounced all around the pack throughout the afternoon, Kyle Busch ended the afternoon in 26th, despite looking like one of the front-runners at times throughout the 188-lap contest.
Aside from Chastain, Brad Keselowski was the only other NASCAR Cup Series Playoff driver to retire from the event due to an accident, after a multi-car accident broke out late that involved Austin Dillon, Carson Hocevar, and Ty Gibbs, as well as others.
Leaving Talladega Superspeedway, the NASCAR Cup Series will contest the final event of the ‘Round of 12’ at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL, an event has has had quite a dramatic flare in recent years.
While Byron and Blaney have nothing to worry about, there are four drivers sitting eighth through 11th in points that are only separated by nine markers, with a couple of stragglers sitting just a few points above, albeit in a safer place heading to Charlotte’s ROVAL.