Most Talladega Superspeedway finishes can be boiled down to the following process: leaders run single file until the final few laps, if not the white flag, before everyone tries to make their move, only for hell to break loose in the tri-oval—often involving the leader—and someone else to seize the moment to win. Ross Chastain was that ‘someone else’ as he was running third on the last lap in Sunday’s GEICO 500 but wrecks involving leaders Erik Jones and Kyle Larson propelled him to the lead and his second win of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Christopher Bell won the pole while Saturday’s Xfinity Series race winner Noah Gragson was sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments. Bell and Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing Team partner Daniel Suárez saw early success before Larson and Bubba Wallace did so as they led laps throughout the first stage; conversely, the Fords of Cody Ware and Brad Keselowski suffered pit road misfortunes by spinning and getting penalised for speeding, respectively. Chastain also suffered a speeding penalty on his stop midway through the segment and fell a lap down while trying to regain momentum with Michael McDowell, while Tyler Reddick exited with an engine failure.
Stage #1 ended four laps early when Daniel Hemric spun up turn four and collected Chase Briscoe and Chris Buescher. As the leader, Wallace won the stage ahead of Larson, Bell, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Jones, Alex Bowman, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“Just towards the end of the stage and we were trying to get stage points because at the end of this deal you never know what can happen,” Briscoe commented. “That is not normally the mentality I would go with. I normally try to ride around and wait until the end. It seems like we always get so desperate towards the end of the stages. I felt like if I could get to the bottom I could get to eighth or ninth if I was lucky. Looking back that obviously wasn’t the right decision. The #16 (Hemric), I don’t know what happened to him. I know I got into the back of somebody and then the #16, I saw him on the apron and he kind of landed in my lap when I came back across the race track. It was a hard hit but I feel a lot better than I thought I was going to when I saw the hit coming.”
Greg Biffle, whose #44 NY Racing Team car has struggled with reliability issues in its part-time schedule, retired with a fuel pump issue for the second time after stopping on the track for the first caution of Stage #2. On social media, Biffle explained it “[a]ppears sandlike debris is getting into the fuel cell somehow which is making the fuel pump fail…”
Shortly after the ensuing restart, B.J. McLeod‘s right-rear wheel came off due to a loose lug nut, which will result in a four-race suspension for crew chief Lee Leslie and a crewman.
On lap 91, the dreaded “Big One” struck when Wallace gave Logano too strong of a push that shot him into the wall as the field entered turn one. Logano’s car bounced off the wall and into the pack, where he collected Stenhouse, Suárez, Harrison Burton, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, Ty Dillon, and Todd Gilliland.
“We were getting pushed back and forth and I was the one that got shuffled to the right and hit the wall and came back in front of the field. That is superspeedway racing,” said Logano. “It is going to happen again. It keeps happening every week and every time we come to a superspeedway and it is going to happen again here in a little bit. Hopefully everyone stays okay.”
Ware brought out the fifth and final race-related caution on lap 107 for a spin. Byron, who took the lead on lap 84, led the rest of the way to win the stage. Elliott, Larson, Truex, Bowman, Aric Almirola, Jones, Chastain, and Busch rounded out the top ten.
Perhaps surprisingly, the final stage ran completely green. Much of the on-track action interspersed with stretches of single-file processions as drivers jockeyed for position. At the front, the lead changed hands fifteen times between nine names beginning with Jones.
Best friends Ryan Blaney and Wallace worked together for much of the stage, with the former enjoying the longest continuous time in front in Stage #3 with twenty-three laps. With no wrecks, green-flag stops took place at around the lap 150 mark.
As the laps ticked down, Larson (inside line) and Jones (outside) found themselves as the contenders. With five circuits left, Jones found enough of a run to pass Larson but could not come down to block. The pack broke up behind them a lap later, upon which Jones capitalised to finally clear Larson for good.
The leaders ran in a train as they took the white flag, where matters derailed as everyone began making their loves. Jones continued to hold the lead as they exited turn four, but the field’s scramble caught up to him. As both 23XI Racing drivers (Wallace and Kurt Busch) and Byron hit the outside wall while Corey LaJoie slid into the inside, Jones attempted to move up to block Larson’s advance.
With Jones no longer obstructing his path, Chastain seized the chance on the inside and beat Austin Dillon to the finish. Chastain is the first driver of the #1 car to win multiple races in a season since Jamie McMurray won thrice in 2010.
“Holy cow, I’m always the one going to the top too early, making the mistake,” Chastain told FOX. “There at the end, it was like eight to go, I was like, I’m not going up there again. I did that a couple times today. I was like, I’ll just ride on the bottom. If it works, I’m not going to lose the race for us, I’ll just let them. You know me. I’ve wrecked myself so many times and gotten into it with guys. I’ve probably got a watermelon seed. This is a true seedless.
“Justin Marks (Trackhouse co-owner) and what he laid out for us was ambitious. I had no idea, you know, what to expect other than I knew I had my group from last year. […] We started the year with a lot of races open. We’re almost full now. It’s because of the vision of Justin Marks.”
|1||19||1||Ross Chastain||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|2||14||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|3||12||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||188||Running|
|4||5||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|5||2||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||188||Running|
|6||16||43||Erik Jones||Petty GMS Motorsports||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|7||28||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|8||21||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||188||Running|
|9||27||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|10||24||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||188||Running|
|11||22||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||188||Running|
|12||11||31||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|13||23||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||188||Running|
|14||33||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|15||8||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|16||6||45||Kurt Busch||23XI Racing||Toyota||188||Running|
|17||9||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||188||Running|
|18||7||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||188||Running|
|19||39||77||Landon Cassill*||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|20||31||62||Noah Gragson*||Beard Motorsports||Chevrolet||188||Running|
|21||18||2||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||188||Running|
|22||1||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||187||Running|
|23||15||6||Brad Keselowski||RFK Racing||Ford||187||Running|
|24||36||15||David Ragan||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||186||Running|
|25||38||55||J.J. Yeley*||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||185||Running|
|26||37||78||B.J. McLeod||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford||172||Running|
|27||32||38||Todd Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||121||Accident|
|28||34||51||Cody Ware||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||105||DVP|
|29||29||41||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||98||Engine|
|30||26||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||95||Accident|
|31||4||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||92||DVP|
|32||13||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||89||Accident|
|33||20||42||Ty Dillon||Petty GMS Motorsports||Chevrolet||89||Accident|
|34||25||21||Harrison Burton||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||89||Accident|
|35||35||44||Greg Biffle||NY Racing Team||Chevrolet||79||Fuel Pump|
|36||3||16||Daniel Hemric*||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||56||Accident|
|37||17||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||56||Accident|
|38||30||17||Chris Buescher||RFK Racing||Ford||56||Accident|
|39||10||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||31||Engine|
* – Ineligible for Cup points