Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins at Talladega
The 188 laps long Talladega Superspeedway Geico 500 race started around 1:20PM with Jeff Gordon on the lead. However, he was soon overtaken by Tony Stewart who was followed by Kasey Kahne, Dale Jr, Jeff Gordon Ryan Blaney and Jimmie Johnson who switched places during the first laps. Dale Jr. took over the lead on lap 11 and Jeff Gordon climbed to second, aiming to reclaim the lead. He managed to overtake Dale Jr. on lap 16, and battles in the top five were unforgiving as well. First caution flew on lap 19 when Brian Scott’s car started smoking, and Michael Waltrip couldn’t evade a sleading Chevy, unlike Joey Logano who managed to stay in the race. Scott fortunately walked out of the crash. Many cars went to the pits, and Kevin Harvick went to first upon exiting the pits, overtaking Jeff Gordon who was on the lead when caution occurred. Justin Allgaier took the lead when Harvick went to the pits, and soon Bobby Labonte went to first place. During a pit stop, Ryan Newman’s car caught fire in the pits, but the fire was quickly put out. The race restarted on lap 25 with Jeff Gordon in the lead, who was very closely followed by Jimmie Johnson.
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Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson were behind the leading Gordon before a big one struck on lap 47. Twenty two cars were involved in the crash that occurred when Trevor Bayne lost control of his car and hit the wall in the straight, swiping Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson among others. The race was red flagged. After 11 minutes, the race restarted with a yellow flag and while the cars went to pits, Kurt Busch and Matt DiBenedetto briefly took over the lead. The race restarted with a green flag on lap 51 and Jimmie Johnson went to the leading position, followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray. Jeff Gordon dropped to seventh. On lap 55, the third caution flew for debris, and the race restarted on lap 58. Jeff Gordon returned to second place on lap 62, but fell to tenth. Jamie McMurray had a punctured tire and dropped to 27.
With 100 laps to go, Jimmie Johnson was still on the leading position. He was followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart. On lap 90, the caution flag flew when Brendan Gaughan hit the wall because of a punctured tire. David Gilliand briefly held the leading spot, but Jeff Gordon returned to the first as the race restarted on lap 96. Jimmie Johnson soon took over the lead, and was attacked by Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kevin Harvick, while Gordon dropped to eighth at one point. Denny Hamlin took the first place in a three lane drag race. Kurt Busch, Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick battled hard for second, and soon Hamlin lost his lead to Dale Jr, who gave way to Jeff Gordon.
At lap 155, fifth caution flew for debris in Turn 3. Casey Mears briefly had the lead, but Jeff Gordon returned to the first position. The race restarted on lap 119 and a battle between Gordon and Dale Jr. continued immediately. Carl Edwards went to second, in front of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jr. who dropped to fourth. With 65 to go, Earnhardt Jr. took the leading position and was followed by Keselowski and Stewart. Young Ryan Blaney climbed to top 5, even top three, and showed everyone that’s he’s a hot prospect in Sprint Cup and Gordon dropped to eleventh but soon returned to the race. Danica Patrick was battling transmission problems, but with 53 to go, she was still in top 10.
Kevin Harvick managed to climb back to top five, to fourth position at around 42 laps to go. With 41 to go, Tony Stewart briefly took the lead from Earnhardt Jr, but Dale reclaimed it immediately. With 33 laps to go, Jimmie Johnson went into the pits, leaving the lead to Hamlin. Austin Dillon’s car caught fire, resulting in a caution flag with 30 to go. Jeff Gordon was penalized for speeding in the pits. With 30 to go, many cars went to the pits, so Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Cole Whitt took over the lead. With 26 laps to go, the race restarted and Earnhardt Jr. took over the leading position, followed by Johnson and Keselowski. Blaney soon overtook Keselowski and was aiming for the podium with 23 laps to go. The last laps of the race were mostly driven in line with Dale Jr. in the lead and Johnson, Blaney and Hamlin following him. In the final lap, Carl Edwards lost control, as well as Jeff Gordon and without the caution flag, Dale Earnhardt scored his sixth Talladega victory, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr.