Earnhardt flirts with pole before Stenhouse steals show

Posted May 15, 2017

Through some close racing and a big crash, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. powered through and won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

Stenhouse is the first Mississippian to win at Talladega since 1988.

"This is for all the guys at the shop-we've been awful for a long time", an exuberant Stenhouse said of the Roush renaissance. "This year, every race we're getting better".

At first, the excited man in his mid-50s tried to climb the Turn 3 fence to get on the track and run to Victory Lane.

"This is the closest race track to my hometown (Stenhouse is a MS native), and man, the fans were out here this weekend".

And whenever Stenhouse and the No. 17 team make their next trip to victory lane, something that seems increasingly likely given the team's improved performance, Stenhouse's father will be a little more familiar with the route. Glad to see Jack smiling here in victory lane, know he's been wanting this for a long time.

Blaney was forced to go to the garage, but did re-enter the race.

Busch led the field to the green flag on Lap 165, and was in the lead on Lap 168 when the "big one" struck, as nearly 20 cars were involved, Aric Almirola ended up on his roof, and Chase Elliott rode on the wall for a little while. Sunday at Talladega, Logano was strong - as has been the case in recent years at Talladega, but he got swept up in the "Big One" and ended up 32nd. "Let me call the director of security.' (They) called our security guy, and our security guy said, 'Take him to Victory Lane'". "We did all we could here today, and it's all circumstantial on how you win these things".

"You can't do much about it because the cars don't create the runs like they used to", Earnhardt said. For McMurray, it was his best finish since a runner-up performance at Martinsville Speedway on November 1, 2015. "So it's disappointing. I was having a hard time figuring out what I needed to do or what we were missing there for most of the race".

He needs to put together a string of finishes like the one he had Sunday at Talladega to pull himself out of the hole he started in this year, but Kahne & Co. should celebrate the top-five finish. Danica Patrick's Ford also hit the inside wall. Allmendinger was subsequently flipped by Logano and remained upside down for upwards of five minutes before safety crew extricated him. In all, 18 drivers were involved in the accident and the race was red-flagged. All drivers whose cars were unable to continue were evaluated and released at the infield care center.

From there it was a drag race to the white flag.

Earnhardt announced last week he's retiring at the end of the season, and this first of two stops at Talladega has him nostalgic for one of his favorite race tracks.

Hamlin led the race's second-most laps at 43. The stage win was his second of the season. But over the final few circuits, which included a two-lap overtime, Earnhardt couldn't make progress and finished 22nd. The top 10 at the end of each stage collect points in descending order depending on their position.

Denny Hamlin gave Toyota its first taste of the front of the field as he won the second stage. Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Truex and Johnson.