E.A. Sports Today

Delayed by rain

Talladega race suspended by weather, will have its first Monday finish since 2006

Alex Bowman (88) pushes teammate William Byron to the lead late in the first stage.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
TALLADEGA – It will take one more day before Grant Lynch can drop the checkered flag on his tenure at Talladega Superspeedway.
The rain that crept into the area Sunday made it too difficult for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 to continue, so NASCAR officials suspended the race until Monday at 1 p.m. Gates open at 11 a.m. Ticket information is pending.
It will be the third Monday finish at Talladega and first since the 2006 Aaron’s 499, won by Jimmie Johnson with Elliott Sadler on the pole. The 1991 Winston 500 (Harry Gant) also had a Monday finish. The 1997 spring race won by Mark Martin without a caution flag was rescheduled to the Saturday before Mother’s Day, a traditional NASCAR open week.

There have been two other Monster Energy Cup races this year that finished on a Monday – Dover in May (Martin Truex Jr.) and Michigan in June (Joey Logano).
The field was frozen and will start Monday with 57 laps in the books. There are 33 cars on the lead lap with five playoff contenders occupying the first six spots. The field had to complete 95 laps for it to be an official race.
There was racing. William Byron, the youngest driver among the Cup contenders, won the first stage after getting a push from teammate Alex Bowman on the last lap of the stage.
The race started under cloudy skies — but not cloudy enough to prevent a squadron of F-18s from a pre-race flyover — and rain was expected to come in from the West. Brad Keselowski said “everyone felt like Superman” today because of the weather, racing invincibly three- and four-wide topping 200 mph with the uncertainty of future conditions.

Martin Truex Jr. heads back to the hauler after NASCAR officials suspended Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 due to weather.

There were 15 lead changes among 12 drivers during the stage. Ryan Blaney led the most laps (15), but later spun entering pit road and was penalized for speeding. Keselowski led three times. Byron led twice, for a total of four laps.

Byron, who qualified third, took the lead on Lap 51 of the scheduled 55-lap first stage with Bowman and Johnson right behind him. Logano made a move to the bottom of the track and took the lead heading into the last lap, but Bowman pushed Byron back into the lead and he held on to win the stage with four-wide racing behind him.
“We had a good initial start with all the Hendrick guys, but the bottom was not really going for us,” Byron said. “It was a combination of things. Once we got to the restart we had no option but to go to the top … It’s going to be an insane finish to the race.”
“We started the race a little too free, a little too dependent on the bottom working,” Bowman said. “When you’re 1-2 like that it’s pretty much wide open, but knowing when to make those pushes is pretty critical.”
During the stoppage the Chevrolet drivers met in the driver’s lounge presumably to talk about the strategy of manufacturer drivers linking up to help each other whenever the race resumes.
The race marks the close to Lynch’s 25-year run at Talladega and he was emotional as he stood on the pre-race stage with legendary owner Richard Childress, who drove the iconic black 3 of Dale Earnhardt Sr. on the parade lap.

Lynch has been at the track during some of its most significant growth. In his final act as chairman he has overseen the construction of the track’s $50 million infield transformation project that opened to the racing public this week. Lynch actually moves into retirement at the end of the November, but this was to be his final race with the track.

“These guys did something amazing, they brought something together in a short period of time,” Lynch said of the project during the drivers meeting. “You know we changed the face of what we’re gonna do for race fans at Talladega.”

The iconic Black 3 Dale Earnhardt Sr. drove to his final win at Talladega Sujperspeedway was back on the track with Richard Childress behind the wheel during the parade lap.

Cover photo: Ryan Newman (L) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leave the track to wait out the weather.

Photos by Jonathan Fordham

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