TALLADEGA, Ala. - Ryan Blaney and Michael McDowell were lined up on the inside of the first two rows on the final restart with two laps to go, but came up just short at the finish line as Chase Elliott won Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
The two Ford drivers got the lead, but coming through turns three and four of the final lap, their row got slightly disconnected, allowing the outside lane to gain enough momentum to propel Elliott to the front.
Blaney and McDowell finished second and third, respectively, part of a handful of Ford Mustangs that ended up in the top 10. Joining them were Todd Gilliland (7th) and playoff drivers Austin Cindric (9th) and Chase Briscoe (10th).
There were 17 different leaders in the 188-lap event, including Blaney who led 31 laps and captured stage one. Aric Almirola led the most laps for Ford with 36 before finishing 14th.
With only one race remaining in the Round of 12, all four Ford drivers remain in contention to advance. Blaney is second in the standings (32 points ahead of 9th-place Cindric) while Joey Logano is 5th (+18). Briscoe holds the 8th and final spot on a tiebreaker with Cindric, who has the same number of points.
The Round of 12 concludes on Sunday, October 9 on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
NCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st – Chase Elliott (P)
2nd – Ryan Blaney (P)
3rd – Michael McDowell
4th – Ross Chastain (P)
5th – Denny Hamlin (P)
6th – Erik Jones
7th – Todd Gilliland
8th – Daniel Suarez (P)
9th – Austin Cindric (P)
10th – Chase Briscoe (P)
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
14th – Aric Almirola
21st – Cole Custer
24th – Brad Keselowski
25th – Chris Buescher
27th – Joey Logano (P)
29th – Kevin Harvick
31st – JJ Yeley
32nd – Cody Ware
33rd – BJ McLeod
36th – Harrison Burton
(P) indicates playoff driver
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford Mustang
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE FINAL RESTART?
“I was fine lining up bottom or top, honestly, working with Ross there for a while. I knew he pushed good and I knew obviously Michael could push really good, too. So, I didn’t really care where we were gonna be lining up. I got a good push there and was able to get too good of a push on the restart and got the 9 clear and then he was able to lead the top lane. I had a couple chances to move up to the top and cover it and I was just getting nervous about getting hung in the middle with the 9, the 43 and the 1 lined up. I just didn’t feel comfortable going up there and trusting, I trust Chase, but not that much to where he wouldn’t have hung me out for the greater good of his group, so just chose to stay on the bottom with Michael. We had a great chance at winning the thing, but we got disconnected in the middle of three and four. I don’t know if the 11 laid off of him, but we disconnected and let the 9 and 43 get a big run. Mine was just kind of a little bit too late. I’ll look at it probably pick at a few things I probably should have done different, wish I would have done different, but it’s easy to say that now. Overall, it was a decent day. It just stinks to be that close to our first win of the season.”
WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENT?
“I think the only thing I probably would have done different is, one, realize that the 11 was laying off the 34 in the middle of three and four and faded back with them. It just happened really quick and then I probably would have coming to the checkered – if we would have won or not, I don’t know – but got back to the bottom – kind of do the fake high, go low, but he was watching and I was kind of far back. I think it was gonna be too little too late anyway, but a couple things.”
WHAT WERE YOU ABLE TO DO AT THE END OF THE FIRST STAGE TO WIN IT?
“The middle lane was pretty good and it worked out to where I had the 2 behind me and just got connected at the right spot. He pushed me all the way down the frontstretch and no one blocked it. I just got a really good pusher behind me at the time with good forward momentum to where we were able to carry it all the way to the start-finish line, so that was nice to win that stage. That was big, especially after not getting any stage points in the second one after I bailed thinking I was gonna get wrecked multiple times – not by anyone’s fault, but not a bad day.”
ANY CONCERN WHEN YOU BAILED THAT YOU WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO GET BACK UP FRONT?
“I definitely knew it was gonna be hard to get back up front in that stage, especially they just get too wide and it’s hard to get track position anymore. I knew once we made our bed there and then we pitted and then got shuffled after the pit stop I was like, ‘OK, I’m bailing. I’m riding in the back,’ and never saw a wreck. There were no big wrecks all day, which was good to see, but we did a really good strategy to get us some track position there in the second stage of cycling us to the lead on the green flag stop, and then we were able to keep it. That was a really good job by those guys.”
THE RACE SEEMED INTENSE ALL DAY. WERE YOU SURPRISED THERE WASN’T A BIG WRECK?
“Honestly, year, with how hard we were pushing each other and some big shots there. I mean, I was full cross arm locked a couple times. I think everyone’s gotten better at this speed of taking pushes and what to expect. I think everyone’s gotten more skilled and knowledgeable about it. You still have to be careful what you do, but it just shows that we can push real hard and not really cause any big wrecks, even though I thought we should have had some today. It’s good we didn’t. We had one early, but it was never a big one.”
WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT MAKING SURE YOU HAD A GOOD POINTS DAY?
“I had that thought before the restart and then we got going green and you turn into race win mode. For a moment I was like, ‘It would be good to line up on the front row and see what we can get. I just don’t want to get turned.’ But, I forgot all about that. I just wanted to win the race.”
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang
THE FIRST STAGE WAS A BIG PART OF YOUR DAY.
“Absolutely. Stage points are a big deal. Obviously, helping the 12 car get a stage win was big and recovery from the wreck, damage control and driving back up through the field, I think when everybody kind of scatters to try and do what’s best for them, it’s very important to be decisive and I was able to make some good moves and be able to be in some lanes that moved. Call it 50/50 decisiveness and 50 percent luck, but, overall, it certainly puts us in a good spot to race for a spot in the Round of 8 at the Roval, so we’ll put our best foot forward and have some fun next week.”
WHAT DIDN’T GO RIGHT IN THE SECOND STAGE?
“The leaders kept snaking back and forth and we had that damage on the front end. I was really slow, to be honest, and slower than I probably realized. I even pitted with the Chevy’s just to make sure I could stay in the middle of everybody and I still lost the draft, so I was pretty committed just issuing a warning to myself in the middle of the field. It was very important to do that to get a good result today and have a shot at the end. I don’t really know why the top stacked up as bad as it did. I thought we would have had a better shot to maybe have a clearer hole or at least be able to get into the top five, but, overall, a top 10 isn’t too bad.”
HOW BAD WAS THE CRASH DAMAGE?
“Bad enough for us to lose the draft. We had crash damage the last time we were here that unsealed the air box and that was probably worse. Even in the pack I just lost the draft, so today I was just slow because the damage caved in on the front – enough to where I was plenty good behind three cars, but not leading anybody, that’s for sure.”
CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang – IT SEEMED LIKE A TAME RACE BY TALLADEGA STANDARDS.
“I mean, it was tame in the sense there was no wreck, but I think that was the most racy race from start to finish. We barely ever ran single-file and these cars it’s so hard to make up ground. It seems like track position is such a big deal and you’ve got guys pushing so hard, just trying to maintain the lane that they’re in. I guess from my side of things it was really racy because you’re never really riding around. You’ve got to go so hard all the time and shove the guy in front of you. We never really got single-file around the top, but I was surprised we didn’t see a wreck. I was figuring with how out of control these cars are when you get pushes from the back, especially the big ones we were having there towards the end I figured something was gonna happen. I’m glad there wasn’t anything happening, but it was kind of a surprise to me.”
ANY REASON WHY?
“I think this place is a little bit easier than Daytona as far as being able to kind of keep it under control, but I the teams have done a really good job of getting the cars to drive way better. I think we all learned a lot at Daytona as far as what we need to do to our race car to be able to be pushed. They’re still out of control being pushed. I didn’t feel like I was as out of control as I have been the first three races, but they’re still a handful to drive when somebody is shoving you. I was definitely surprised we didn’t see a big wreck.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang – WHAT WERE YOU BATTLING DURING THE RACE?
“Not a whole bunch. We just wreck all the time so we thought, ‘Boy, we’ve got a big points lead, let’s just be smart and don’t wreck and we’ll be able to get out of here with a top 10 assuming they would wreck because they always do. That was the only time I’ve ever stayed in the back, ever, was today and they didn’t wreck. We gave up a bunch of our points lead. We’re still plus-18, which is a decent spot to be, but, the goal was to race for stage points and then drop to the back and wait for the crash. I hate racing that way. I’ve gotten beat many times from people that do that then I tried it and it didn’t work.”
TODD GILLILAND, No. 38 Georgia Peanuts Ford Mustang
“It was great to have Georgia Peanuts on board today. They’re a smaller company out of Georgia and we’re kind of close to home here in Talladega, but I’m just really happy to come home with a top 10. Race car drivers are greedy. I wish I could have gotten a couple more there, but it was still a really good day. We ran up front most of the day and my car handled really well, so, overall, there are definitely a ton of positives to take out of this.”
THE RACE LOOKED COMFORTABLE FOR YOU RUNNING UP FRONT. WAS IT?
“It really did. I feel like our superspeedway stuff is pretty good. It’s still scary when we qualified 34th, but to have that kind of speed in the draft is a good thing. It’s really nice to have Ford teammates out there. I worked a lot with Kevin Harvick and a lot of different Fords. I was really happy to work with a great manufacturer like that.”
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang
“It’s tough to be that close. I felt like I probaby should have backed off of the 12 a little bit sooner when the 11 got off of me, but I was trying to make sure a Ford was gonna get to Victory Lane and we kept that momentum up. I wish I could get a re-do, but I’m proud of everybody at Front Row Motorsports on this Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang. We’ve got Peak Performance on the car this weekend, so it’s a great day to get a top five finish, but when you’re only a car length away from winning the race, obviously, it’s disappointing. I’m proud of the season we’ve had and the run that we put together and everyone did a great job on pit road executing today and getting us track position when we needed it. It’s good to be there at the end and have a shot at it, just disappointed.”
HARRISON BURTON, No. 21 DEX Imaging Ford Mustang – WAS IT JUST A BAD PUSH?
“I guess so. I haven’t seen it yet. I know he hit me and as soon as he did I was crossed up and going side-to-side. I don’t know what to do different. I pulled up kind of conservatively to give him time to prepare and I’m not sure why. He gave me a pretty hard shot for sure, but I don’t know if it was off line, where he was when he hit me, or if I was moving while he was moving. I haven’t seen anything yet. These things happen so fast and all of a sudden you’re sideways. You know you got hit and you don’t understand what really caused it. It’s unfortunate for us. I felt like we had a good DEX Imaging Ford Mustang. We were gonna go and try to make a move to get out front and try and control track position and all of a sudden you go sideways. It’s pretty sad. I hope it didn’t affect any of our Team Penske alliance playoff guys. I don’t think they got any damage or anything. We’ll just try and keep it going and get some momentum going in the right way.”