All photos courtesy of NASCAR via Getty Images
After turning off most fans this season due to a lack of excitement, NASCAR seemed to find a spark this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
Sparks Energy 300
Saturday afternoon’s Sparks Energy 300 would be jam packed with a pair of multi-car crashes, which caused a red flag in each of the opening stages, and would give last weekend’s runner-up driver and Dash 4 Cash winner his first race win of the 2017 season.
Despite failing to pick up the pole for the XFINITY Series race at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, race winner Aric Almirola would race to the lead within a few short laps. After picking up the Stage 1 win, Almirola would fall back on lap 49 after nudging the No. 16 of Ryan Reed, which caused an eight-car pile-up that took out drivers like Reed and pole winner Blake Koch.
Almirola’s struggles would give the No. 7 of Justin Allgaier the opportunity to pick up the second stage win, but despite this the race winner never gave up on picking up his first win of the season.
As the battle continued, Almirola would find his way back up front where he would avoid a late-race scramble to finally come home with the win.
“I have so much fun at these speedway races,” said Almirola. “Doug Yates brings some awesome horsepower and our Ford Mustang was super-fast. I knew it right from the beginning of practice.”
Series point leader Elliott Sadler finished second, just .142 seconds behind Almirola at the finish. Sadler will have a chance to attempt a race win at the Hisense 4k TV 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 27.
Although most tracks that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series have made a visit to this season had more than a few empty seats, fans returned in droves to Talladega Superspeedway for the Geico 500 on Sunday. Fans would not be disappointed in making this decision as the type of racing that once made this sport famous seemed to return to the popular speedway.
As the green flag waved over pole sitter Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. a packed house of race fans seemed to be on the edge of their seats waiting for the big one.
Although the race lead would continue to change throughout the opening laps of this race, fans would have to wait until lap 169 before watching the carnage that would incur. After AJ Allmendinger made contact with Chase Elliott, the No. 24 of Elliott would be left slamming into the wall and making contact with No. 22 of Joey Logano, which would set off a chain reaction with a total of 18 of the 40 cars in the field. Nine of the 18 cars went to the garage, not to be seen again.
Check out the BIG ONE
Following the wave of the red flag, which left this race on hold for 26 minutes, 51 seconds to clean up the wreckage the No. 18 of Kyle Busch would lead the field to the green on lap 174. Although Busch would hold this lead for much of the remaining laps of this race, Ryan Newman’s single car crash on the final few laps of this race would give the pole sitter a chance at the win. Following a strong push from the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson, Stenhouse Busch would lose his race lead along with the win to pole sitter and first time Cup Series winner Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
“This is for all the guys at the shop,” said Stenhouse. “This year, every race, we’re just getting better and better. We knew Talladega was a good race track for us and I 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 is the 11th first-time winner at Talladega. Despite his win 12th-place finisher Kyle Larson would retain the Monster Energy Cup Series points lead going into Kansas.
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