TALLADEGA, Ala. - Ryan Blaney emerged with a fender-clanging victory in overtime Monday at Talladega Superspeedway, bumping aside Erik Jones and edging Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by inches to land his first NASCAR Cup Series win of the season.
Blaney’s Team Penske No. 12 Ford led a race-high 63 of the 191 laps in the GEICO 500, which was pushed back one day because of persistent Sunday afternoon rain. His second straight triumph at the 2.66-mile track was the fourth of his Cup Series career.
Stenhouse held on for second in the No. 47 Chevrolet, just .007 seconds back at the checkered flag. Aric Almirola took third place, ahead of Denny Hamlin and Jones, who rounded out the top five in order.
In all, Ford took half of the top-10 spots with Chris Buescher (6th), John Hunter Nemechek (8th) and Kevin Harvick (10th) joining Blaney and Almirola.
Team Penske and its Wood Brothers affiliate dominated the middle portions of the race and remained in control entering the final stage. But stage victories went to Chevrolet drivers, with rookie Tyler Reddick landing Stage 1 and Stenhouse taking Stage 2.
The Monday running was also affected by rain, as storms forced a 58-minute, 18-second delay with 57 laps complete.
The entire field took part in an emotional rally of unity with Bubba Wallace, who was the target of a racist, hate-filled incident Sunday in the NASCAR garage. His No. 43 Chevrolet was pushed to the front of the starting grid, with team owner Richard Petty on site to show his support. Wallace finished 14th.
The NASCAR Cup Series’ next race weekend is a doubleheader, with events scheduled Saturday and Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
MENCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st - Ryan Blaney
2nd - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
3rd - Aric Almirola
4th - Denny Hamlin
5th - Erik Jones
6th - Chris Buescher
7th - Alex Bowman
8th - John Hunter Nemechek
9th - Kurt Busch
10th - Kevin Harvick
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
16th - Corey LaJoie
17th - Joey Logano
18th - Michael McDowell
19th - Brad Keselowski
22nd - Cole Custer
23rd - Ryan Newman
25th - Clint Bowyer
26th - Matt DiBenedetto
30th - Gray Gaulding
37th - Joey Gase
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang -- VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW
“I just kind of blocked, just trying to block the best we good. Ride the top, ride the bottom. The 20 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, I hate that I hit him, 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. Thank you everybody for coming. I appreciate it you sticking around. That was a lot of fun.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE SAVING FUEL BUT WANTING TO GO?
“We were riding there. We came back in and topped off and we were just riding around until maybe 12 to go. I was waiting for Kevin to kind of go, but he had to save more than I did, so we just kind of had to get going. You’re just biding your time and hoping you saved enough. There’s enough information in there nowadays where you do save enough, but it was a lot of fun. Thank you everybody for coming out. I appreciate it.”
BACK-TO-BACK AT TALLADEGA. TAKE US THROUGH THE LAST TWO LAPS?
“I wanted to take the bottom. I thought the 47 was a really good pusher all day and I thought the bottom lane could just kind of get out there and was gonna be good, but I don’t know if he spun his tires or what, but I didn’t get the help at all, but was able to kind of pick and choose lanes there and wanted to wait for a while until later on that last lap, but you don’t want to wait too long because the caution might come out. I was surprised the caution didn’t come out in three and four and I was lucky we were ahead, and then they got a big run again. I was kind of out too far down the frontstretch and I couldn’t really see who was outside. I knew there were some people and I just tried to go up and slow down and we kind of hit and beat and banged, and just another exciting one here.”
WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE THAT ALLOWED YOU TO STAY IN FRONT OF STENHOUSE?
“I don’t know. I don’t know where he came from. He came with a big run there. I know me and the 20 kind of got beating and banging. I was trying to slow him down and he almost got us I guess. He came out of nowhere.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WIN UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES? YOU DON’T HAVE A BETTER FRIEND IN THIS SPORT THAN BUBBA WALLACE.
“It’s great. It’s a tough couple days for him. I’ve known him for 15 years and he’s one of my best friends. I support him 100 percent of the way and I can’t wait to go see him.”
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HEAR THE FANS AGAIN?
“It’s nice to just have fans here again. They’re awesome. They stuck around throughout the rain and it’s cool. Hopefully, we keep getting fans at the racetrack.”
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang
WHAT DID YOU FEEL IN THE CAR AND WHAT DID YOU SEE ON THAT LAST LAP?
“I thought we had a shot to get our Smithfield Ford Mustang in Victory Lane. We had a really good car and our strategy was to stay out of trouble all day and be there at the end, and we were there at the end. It was close, but we just couldn’t get it done. I’m proud of all my guys on this team. We had a great week last week at Miami with a top five and leave here at Talladega with another top five, so we’ll keep building on that and it looks like the ball is going in the right direction for us.”
CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang
“Not a bad run for our Fastenal Ford Mustang and our team. There was a lot of excitement throughout the race in different areas and obviously we’d want to replay the end and do a little bit better, but at the end of the day it was a good run for us and now we’ll go on to Pocono and go get a doubleheader in.”
ARIC ALMIROLA POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
Yeah, so close with our Smithfield Ford Mustang. We had the strategy of kind of riding around surviving most of the race. We didn't race very aggressively early on in the race. As the laps wound down, I got to the front, then I got shuffled. Right there on that restart we found ourselves back in position. We had a really fast Ford Mustang.
I thought when everybody started getting stacked up on the front straightaway, I was shooting for whatever hole was open, kind of ping‑ponging, weaving my way through there. I got all the way to the front row. I saw the 12 and 20 side‑by‑side side drafting, had a big head of steam on them. Honestly thought that I was going to get to the start/finish line before them.
When I crossed through the tri‑oval, I thought we were going to win the race, I was going so much faster than they were. I just barely got clipped by I think the 47 and spun across the start/finish line, ended up third.
I'm happy to finish top five another week in a row. Felt like we were really close to winning that one.
CURIOUS ABOUT HOW THE REVISION TO THE RULES PACKAGE WORKED. WERE THE RUNS JUST LESS ENOUGH THAT YOU COULD RACE A LITTLE BIT MORE WITHOUT HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT RUNNING OVER EACH OTHER?
Yeah, the runs did seem a little slower. The other thing I noticed was with the cars going a little bit slower, we didn't get the typical single file out right around the fence. We kind of stayed more packed up and together, which to me, I thought there was going to be more wrecks because of it. Early in the race I saw what I had in my racecar, I thought I had a really fast car. I chose to kind of ride around and survive.
These races usually have a lot of attrition, a lot of wrecks, the big one. I thought our strategy was to make sure we were there at the end. We did that. The package seemed to keep the cars a lot closer together. Nobody really broke away.
COULD YOU TAKE ME THROUGH THE LAST 12 HOURS OR SO WITH THE DRIVERS, HOW YOU LEARNED ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY IN THE GARAGE, HOW YOU DECIDED TO DO WHAT YOU DID BEFORE THE RACE.
I got to be honest, I'm not extremely active on social media or with the news in general. I tend to live in my own little bubble with my wife and kids. I hate to admit that to you journalists, but that's just the truth. I actually didn't find out till I got on the plane to come here this morning about 10:00.
My immediate reaction was just speechless. I couldn't believe that somebody would do that. I didn't know really what to think, other than there's just a lot of sadness, a lot of hurt people, a lot of sadness.
I know just from my 36 years of experience on this earth that hurt people hurt people. Happy people don't hurt people. You see people lash out, show signs of evil and darkness. It just comes from a bad place.
I think the most important thing you can respond with that is light and love and showing how to stand up and how to show positivity and have a heart.
I feel like as an industry, that's what we did today.
DO YOU KNOW WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR PUTTING THAT TOGETHER ON THE DRIVER SIDE?
It was a collective effort. They started on the group chat of what are we going to do, how are we going to stand together. Everybody with the 'I Stand With Bubba' kind of came together and said let's literally stand with him and show our support collectively as a unit.
So, yeah, everybody jumped onboard.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN YOU WERE STANDING WITH BUBBA, WALKING THE CAR DOWN PIT LANE? WHAT EMOTIONS WERE YOU FEELING OR SENSING AROUND YOU?
It was a lot of emotion. I think we were all just proud to be together. I think as competitors we all want to beat each other, but as human beings we all want to show love and support for each other.
I think that's one thing about our NASCAR community that has always stood out, is that regardless of what happens on the racetrack, off the racetrack we're a family. We all support each other. You see it when we put fundraisers on or foundation events. We all show up. We all support each other because we're a family.
We live next door to each other 38 weeks a year in the motorhome lot. When you see a brother that's being singled out, that's being hurt, you want to show love and you want to show support.
For me it was just a great reminder of why to have faith. I'm a strong believer in Christ and God. I think as brothers of the human race, we got to stand up for each other and love each other and show that we won't stand for somebody being hurt in our community.
WITH POCONO COMING UP NEXT WEEKEND, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE NASCAR CONTINUE TO DO ANYTHING TO PREVENT SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENING? WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE NASCAR MAKE ANY CHANGES GOING FORWARD TO PREVENT THIS OR PROTECT BUBBA?
I think they're doing it. You saw the response immediately upon them finding out. They have deployed all resources to try and figure out how it happened and who did it, to rectify it, make sure that whoever that person is, you know, never participates in our sport again because we don't have room for those people.
On top of that, I think that sets the precedence and the tone going forward that this is not something that's a joke. It's not something that we will take lightly. It's a serious matter. I think NASCAR has done an incredible job of navigating these last several weeks.
YOU'VE BEEN IN THE SPORT LONG ENOUGH. HOW DO YOU VIEW HOW THE SPORT HAS EVOLVED, THE DRIVERS HAVE EVOLVED, WHAT YOU HAVE DONE THE LAST TWO WEEKS COMPARED TO EARLIER IN YOUR CAREER? HOW HAVE YOU BECOME MORE SOCIALLY AWARE AND WILLING TO SPEAK UP THAN MAYBE YEARS AGO?
Yeah, so personally, and I'm going to do my best to not make this about me, because this is not about me, I'll make that very clear. I came through the diversity program. I would not have the opportunity to be sitting here in front of you today if it wasn't for Reggie White, a black NFL football player who decided to put together a diversity program with Joe Gibbs and Joe Gibbs Racing. That's how I got my opportunity.
I'm a Cuban American. My dad and his whole side of the family came from Cuba in 1966. So growing up trying to race as a Cuban American, sure, I've had things said to me, things that were offensive, that hurt. I actually told Bubba this morning that on a very, very small scale I can relate and I can empathize. I have never had to go through what he's had to go through in the last couple weeks, and especially in the last 24 hours. I feel for him immensely.
I think that the sport has worked so hard since I got my opportunity in 2004 to adapt. I think forever NASCAR has been considered an All‑American sport. All of America has changed and evolved a lot over time. I think that NASCAR has done an incredible job of being inclusive and making sure that the garage area, the spectators, the fan area, that they all resemble all of America.
I have been so proud to be a part of that initiative and that drive. I am making this very clear, this is not about me. I'm just saying I have had a firsthand look at it from the very beginning when NASCAR started the whole diversity program and the Drive for Diversity. I have gotten so much opportunity because of that. I am so grateful and thankful.
They continue to adapt and evolve and make our sport a more inclusive sport where people can feel welcome. If you like racecars, fast racecars, the adrenaline rush of cars going 200 miles an hour side‑by‑side like you saw today, you should be able to come and be a part of it whether as a competitor or spectator and participate and enjoy it.
YOU MENTIONED REGGIE WHITE. HIS INVOLVEMENT WAS CUT SHORT WITH HIS DEATH. ON A WEEKEND LIKE THIS, WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT EVEN NOW YEARS LATER THERE'S STILL AN IMPACT OF WHAT REGGIE DID THAT MAYBE MANY PEOPLE OVERLOOK?
I feel lucky and I feel fortunate that somebody would step up and step out like he did to start the program that he did. Reggie, the very first time I met him, he said, The reason I'm doing this is I love racecars, I love cars, I love watching racing. Coming with Coach to watch a few of these NASCAR races, I fell in love. I want to start a team and give a driver, drivers, crew members an opportunity from the grassroots level to work their way into the system.
That's exactly how I got my opportunity. I'm so proud of him and his wife Sarah and Matt Siegel was a part of that when it all started, all those people along with J.D. and Joe Gibbs put that program together and started the diversity program. I got to be the lucky person that got to fulfill my dreams because of that.
RYAN BLANEY WINNER’S PRESS CONFERENCE
Definitely a good ending to the day for sure on our end, being able to inch them out there at the line. But the start of the day, all the drivers on pit road pushing Bubba's car, showing their support, it was just an honor to be a part of that. Not only the drivers, but the crew members and the fans that were in attendance as well, NASCAR. That's something I think everyone will remember for a long time.
It showed how much we support not only Darrell. That was the main reason we were doing it, to support Darrell. But everybody that has been oppressed not only for the past two weeks but for a long time.
What happened yesterday was disgusting. I don't understand how a person or people can have that hatred in their heart for someone who just looks different than they do. Never something I'll understand. It almost brought me to tears when Bubba told me yesterday what happened. He doesn't deserve that. No one deserves that.
But I think the good thing is us as a community came together, showed our support. I know he really appreciated it. It was the least we can do to show we're behind him 100%. I'm obviously going to be behind him 100%. I have been for 15 years, I hope to make it 50 more years supporting him every step along the way. That was definitely a special moment to be a part of before the race.
YOU'VE MADE A TRADITION OF GIVING A FLAG AWAY AT THE END OF THE RACES. SINCE YOU'VE HAD SO MANY RACES WITHOUT THE FANS, WAS TODAY'S MAYBE A LITTLE BIT MORE SPECIAL TO GIVE IT TO A LITTLE KID?
For sure, definitely. That's been something I've been doing for the past three or four years whenever I win a race. Yeah, it was definitely nice we had people in the stands, they stuck around after it rained. We got really lucky the weather cleared up to run the whole race.
They are excited. Man, it was so great just to have fans back. The atmosphere of them cheering was back. Before and after the race, we love that stuff. Drivers, we love support. We love putting on good shows. Just to see even though it was 5,000 people, it was really cool to just get that cheering again, see everyone having a good time, that they enjoyed the race.
I was lucky the little boy and his father were really close. Figured what a better welcome back present for fans to come to NASCAR races than do that for that kid.
YOU SEEMED SUBDUED AFTER YOUR WIN. WHAT WAS THE MAIN REASON FOR THE LACK OF WILD CELEBRATION?
I've never been too wild of a celebration guy. Yeah, it was definitely exciting. I was thinking of what I could have done better. The 20 and I kind of made contact there, kind of banged doors. I didn't really mean to go up there and bang his door. I was trying to get close to him to slow him down. I saw him hit the wall hard. I was a little concerned about that, if he was okay. Definitely wasn't my intention to hit him. I thought we were just going to kind of get close. We kind of met in the middle of the racetrack.
No, there's a lot of stuff going through your head from how the race ended. We were fortunate to be the winner. What happened the last couple days, I was just thinking about that, too. With Bubba coming up beside me after the race, that meant a lot. It showed his support. It was cool to see him after I got done with the start/finish line deal.
Yeah, just a lot going through your head, man. It's a good day. I'm really happy to be able to win the race. Yeah, just thinking about some stuff with Darrell and things like that, how the race ended. Yeah, that was kind of I guess the reason.
YOU'VE BEEN ON THE VERGE AND IN POSITION TO WIN MANY TIMES. TO BE ABLE TO SEAL THE DEAL ON A TRACK THAT IS THE HARDEST TO DO THAT ON PROBABLY?
You're right. I was talking about that on FOX a little bit ago. The whole year really, but the past month and a half has been really good for us. We've had some really good runs. We've had really fast cars, had a chance to win I feel like every race the last month and a half. It just really hasn't fallen our way. We just haven't been in the right place at the right time or not been quite fast enough.
Coming here, you just don't really know your outcome. You don't really know how things are going to be. You can't work on your car really too much to get better throughout the race. You can change a little bit, get better, but you don't control your destiny a whole lot like other racetracks.
It is a little funny. We've been knocking on the door all year, and it just happened to be here. We kept ourselves in contention all day. Todd did a great job with strategy calls all day. It was really good. We worked with our teammates, me, Brad, Joey and Matt all day. We worked great together. We couldn't find each other at the end. That's usually how that goes.
Nice to finally break through, get the first one of the year. Hopefully this opens the floodgates here and we can get on a roll. This team has been awesome. They've been so much fun to work with all year.
YOU SEEMED TO HAVE FOR MOST OF THE RACE THE ABILITY TO WORK AROUND EACH OTHER EXCEPT AT THE END GETTING SEPARATED.
Just stayed disciplined to each other. You can plan and plan all you want, but sometimes things just don't work out. For a lot of the race today we had all four cars, three of our cars and the 21, right together. I thought we were strong pulling the bottom line. The top could kind of run up towards us. We would start pushing again really hard, be able to surge back out in front.
I think we do that really well with the Penske cars, DiBenedetto, really disciplined with each other. The reason we broke up at the end, everybody had different pit strategies, could just never really find each other. I think we're really good at just having each other's backs. That's something we definitely take a lot of pride in. It seems to work out at a lot of these places, so…
COULD YOU EXPLAIN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH BUBBA. WHAT DOES THE FRIENDSHIP GO BACK TO?
We started racing together in this thing called Bandoleros around the Charlotte area, Concord, Nashville area. We were both the same age. When you're a young kid, 10 years old, there's a kid your age you're racing against, you get along well, they naturally become your friend. A fun journey racing together throughout the years.
We didn't race against each other kind of in our late teens or early teens because we went a different route of late model racing. Then we got back together at K&N and Xfinity and Truck. It's so cool. I look back where he and I started, now we're both at the Cup level, driving for great owners, get to compete against each other every single week like we used to when we were kids. That's really hard to do. The odds of that happening are very low that both of us were able to make it to the Sunday level.
It's just somebody I've gotten along with. He and I would be great friends even if we weren't racing together. We have a lot in common, get along really well. Someone you can talk to, a good friend you've known for a long time that will always have your back, whether it's me having his back or him having mine. Someone I've known for a long time and really fortunate to get to know over the years, race against.
Like I said, I support him 100%. I'm always going to be behind him. If you run afoul to Bubba, you run afoul to me. Just a great person and a great family he comes from that makes him who he is today.
NASCAR FOUND ITSELF AT A CROSSROADS THIS WEEKEND. HOW DO YOU WANT THIS WEEKEND TO BE REMEMBERED FOR THE SPORT?
I want the weekend to be remembered by, I don't know, I guess a good word would be 'unity', everyone coming together and showing support. I hate focusing on the bad things because that's what gets a rise out of people. But I feel like what everyone has said the last day has really shown that it's not going to be tolerable any more. We're all going to stand behind the people who are mistreated. That just shows what a family we are.
We're competitors all on the racetrack, but at the end of the day we're one big traveling family. We're going to support anybody who we compete with. If they get threatened in a way, we're going to have their back.
I just want everyone to know we're all in this together and we support everybody. I thought it was a really great thing we did that happened at the beginning of the race. I hope people remember that. It shows we're all one big family and we're going to support each other no matter what.
EVERYONE WILL REMEMBER TODAY PROBABLY FOREVER. WHAT DID IT MEAN TO BE A PART OF IT? YOU HAD A DIFFERENT VIEW OF IT. ANYTHING YOU REMEMBER SPECIFICALLY, ONE THING OR PERSON THAT YOU'LL TAKE AWAY?
I mean, I just think looking around, whether it was walking up to the front of the grid, standing there, everyone who was in support of it. Like I said, it wasn't only drivers, it was crew members, fans, NASCAR, everybody. So that moment just shows how much everybody supports each other.
You may not like each other all the time. May tick each other off on the racetrack from time to time. At the end of the day we're going to support each other.
What really got me was we got Bubba's car to the front there, he had to take a little bit to pause and compose himself because it was a very emotional moment for him. I think it was emotional for him because everyone was supporting him. It's just something different that I couldn't personally be a part of because I've never been in Bubba's position, but I'm going to support him the best I can.
Just the emotion he showed, he was really thankful to see everyone's support. That got me a little bit. Then just everyone going up to him after the anthem or before the anthem was special. I just think the whole day, it's hard to pick out one certain moment. I think everybody coming together was very special.
The last three superspeedway races, you've been involved in finishes for the win. What have you been able to take away from the last two that you were able to apply tonight?
You're always learning, right? This package was a little bit different than the one we had in Daytona, or last year even. Especially at these places, a big notebook. You're constantly remembering things, I should have done this here, this here. This worked pretty decent. You're always kind of remembering that.
Like I said, everything happens so fast, you have to make a decision in a split second. If you wait a split second too long, it's too late. Just have to kind of go with your gut. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.
I've been on the wrong end of it where it doesn't work out. Exactly like Daytona, it was the wrong move I made that put us in a particularly weird spot. That happened. So you learn from those things, learn to maybe not put yourself in those positions again.
It's easy to plan those things out and think of them ahead of times, but it's sometimes hard to react to them. Our speedway program is fast. We have fast cars. Just good to be with good teammates that will help you go.
A lot of it's just what line goes, what line moves. If you have a fast enough car, you can kind of make a line move. That was something we had today.
Yeah, just experience. Honestly some of it is just things working out for you. Three races before, the three speedway races before we won Talladega last year, we got involved in someone's mess. That's just part of it. It's just part experience, learning, understanding, then right breaks, getting a little bit of luck at the end to make it to the end of these things.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURS AND BUBBA'S EMOTIONS LAST NIGHT? WAS IT MORE SADNESS? DISBELIEF? ANGER?
Me personally, when I heard of it, Darrell told me, we were sitting in my bus when he told me after he talked to NASCAR. He was obviously really emotional and hurt, really hurt by it. I just didn't know what to say. I couldn't find the words to describe how I felt. I felt a mixture of anger and sadness for him, confused how anybody could do something like this. I just felt all these different emotions. I know he went through a big range.
You hate to see your buddies or anybody you love be sad and be hurting. I tried to support him the best I could. Gave him a big hug before he left. I think it was just a multiple range of emotions. Last night I was really angry. I couldn't fall asleep. It's just something that's difficult to try to describe, but there were a lot of emotions that went into it and multiple stages of the night.
AT THE START OF THE DAY THERE WAS TALK ABOUT THIS IS ONE OF THE WORST DAYS IN NASCAR HISTORY, NOW THE FEELING YOU HAVE ABOUT THE SENSE THERE'S BEEN A SHIFT TO SOME SORT OF PRIDE AND HOPE?
I think that's how you got to handle these situations, right? You can't let some idiot trying to threaten somebody, you can't let that affect you. I think it shows how strong Bubba is to be able to when you're hurting, saddened by it, I'm sure he's still hurt by it, but to come together and be strong. That's how you got to deal with that stuff. If you let it really eat away at you, that person wins, those people win.
I think it's great that everyone rose up, Bubba included, and really came together. I don't want it to be remembered as a terrible day or a bad day in NASCAR. I want it to be remembered as there was an incident and we all overcame it together, showed that we were not going to take it any more, man. I'm getting sick of this shit. It's not something that he should deal with. That's all I got to say about that.