NASCAR Cup Series
Race Results: NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega
Oct 1, 2023
Ryan Blaney, the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang, is on to the Round of 8 with a win in the Yellawood 500 at Talladega by just 0.012 sec. over Kevin Harvick in a photo finish. Harvick was later disqualified.
What a race! What a finish! Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series Yellawood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was a non-stop action-filled thrill ride, and it ended with Ryan Blaney scoring a victory in a photo finish over Kevin Harvick.
One of NASCAR's younger emerging stars winning over a legend, who is retiring at year's end -- You can't write a script better than that. However, Harvick was stripped of the runner-up finish after his No. 4 car was found to have windshield fasteners that did not conform to the NASCAR rule book.
Regardless, it was an excellent finish. Here is a video of the finish of Sunday's race at Talladega:
Following the electric finish, Blaney credited young part-time NASCAR Cup Series racer Riley Herbst for putting him in a position to score the win in the event.
“I have to give a big thanks to Riley Herbst," Blaney explained. "He did a really good job there the last couple restarts. He doesn’t have a lot of Cup starts, but he did a great job and pushed me so thanks to him. This is so cool.”
At the end of the day, the electronic scoring transponders on the cars state that Blaney won the race officially by 0.012 sec. over Harvick, which is a blowout by Blaney's standards, as he has two wins by 0.007 sec. at the 2.66-mile speedway in his career.
There's just something about Ryan Blaney and close wins at Talladega Superspeedway.
“I’ve won it by more than I have the last couple years," Blaney quipped. "That one might have been by four feet, the others were by two but you just don’t know. You just kind of drag race a line and hope you get help. William [Byron] gave me a pretty good shove on the bottom. He was kind of forced to, but I wasn’t sure until [Spotter] Josh [Williams] said something. Josh did a fantastic job on the roof like always. This is always such a special place to win at so I can’t wait to drive to Victory Lane.”
While it was another nail-biting win for Blaney at Talladega, Sunday's win was possibly the biggest triumph at the track to date for the Team Penske racer, as he is onto the Round of 8, and will continue to battle for his first career NASCAR Cup Series championship.
In an interesting twist of fate for team owner Roger Penske, he's seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows of the Playoffs over the last few weeks.
Joey Logano, who won the championship for Penske a season ago, was eliminated in the Round of 16 after a crash in Bristol.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and Penske is celebrating another one of his drivers scoring an important win at Talladega, which moves him on to the penultimate Round of the Playoffs.
Penske chalks the strange dynamic up to the state of the competitiveness of the sport right now.
"That's the sport," Penske stated. "You can be on the top, and you can be on the bottom. Because all of these new teams coming in, you can see the success that they're having. We can't just ride on our laurels. Just because we won last year, doesn't mean anything when you roll out at Daytona. I think we saw that. We've won races, which is good. We didn't have the speed, but I think each week we're getting better..."
Prior to the disqualification, which will result in Harvick being credited with a last-place finish, the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion was all smiles about his day.
“I just tried to block the lanes and then I was kind of late blocking [Blaney] there and he got to the outside of us, but it actually worked out OK because [William Byron] was a great pusher, and then it got shuffled again and I had Riley [Herbst] behind me.
"I thought I was in a really good spot headed down the back straightaway with everything that was happening because I knew I could get off the tri-oval with Riley right on my bumper I was still gonna be OK and then he got spun in the middle of the tri-oval."
Harvick continued by saying, "Right about there I said, ‘Man, we’re sailing. The spotter is yelling at me to side draft. I’m like, ‘We aren’t gonna need to sidedraft, and then Riley got loose and spun out and I’m like, ‘We’re all alone here with two of them below me.’ But it was a great day, a great way to end at Talladega. I always want to win, but it is what it is.”
Even though he didn't win the race, Harvick was asked if he could imagine pulling off a walk-off win at Talladega.
“Yeah, they might have torn it down," Harvick laughed. "That would have been great. Talladega has been so up-and-down through the years. We’ve had some great moments and some bad moments. The last superspeedway race and we went out with everything rolling, so that’s a good thing.”
William Byron, who secured his place in the Playoffs Round of 8 with a win at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend, initially finished third in the race, but was elevated to a runner-up finish following inspection.
Byron was followed to the line by Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin rallied back from a mid-race speeding penalty, which set him back for a good portion of the race. Hamlin kept hoping and praying for the caution that would get him back on the lead lap, and when one finally came, Carson Hocevar found himself in the free pass position ahead of Hamlin.
"It's just out of your hands when you go a lap down," Hamlin explained to Racing America after the race. "You're just helpless. Other than, I've got to race [Cindric] to get back into the lucky dog spot. [Hocevar] stole it the first time. For me, it was just pray. Praying for a caution. Needed something that I wasn't involved in. It's such a tough balance because I try to manage risk on these tracks. It forced me to have to race harder, sooner. The odds were I was going to get caught up in a wreck, but there was just too much to gain. I had to get back on the lead lap at any cost."
Hamlin kept his head in the game and even mixed it up at the front in an effort to get his lap back the old-fashioned way. However, on Lap 162, a multi-car crash brought the caution out and put Hamlin back on the lead lap.
From there, Hamlin says he was just trying to be smart on his path to the finish. It worked as he came home third.
Corey LaJoie, the driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Spire Motorsports collected a solid fourth-place finish. The racer, who finished fourth in the spring at Atlanta Motor Speedway, now has two top-five finishes this season. LaJoie had never recorded more than one top-five in a season prior to 2023.
Austin Cindric, Justin Haley, Chase Elliott, Ryan Preece, Riley Herbst, and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top-10 finishers in a frantic dash to the line, which involved a multi-car crash as the pack approached the finish.
While Hollywood would be hard-pressed to come up with a better script for the finish of Sunday's race, they would have an equally difficult time choreographing the level of action we saw on Sunday, as well.
In all, there were 70 lead changes on the day between a total of 24 drivers. It was an incredible showcase of drivers leaving it all on the racetrack, as we saw at minimum two-wide racing all day long, and the field got up to four-wide on a few sustained occasions throughout the event.
And while the action was tight, and fierce, there weren't a slew of accidents to slow the action.
The race only featured a total of four cautions, and only two were for on-track incidents.
While three of the top-four finishers in the race were Playoff drivers, it turned into a not-so-great day for those looking to hoist the Cup.
Christopher Bell was the fourth-highest-finishing Playoff driver in 14th, while Ross Chastain, and Brad Keselowski were swept up in crashes and finished 37th and 32nd on the day.
Here are the Round of 12 Playoff Standings following Sunday's race (top-8 advance):
The next stop for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, which will serve as the cutoff race for the Round of 12. The Bank of America ROVAL 400 is set for Sunday, October, 8th at 2:00 PM ET. That race will be televised on NBC, and the radio broadcast will be provided by PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Photo Credit: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images