Who’s in the headline
Joey Logano won the race at Richmond last spring only to have the win “encumbered.” That was the last time he graced Victory Lane in a Cup race until Sunday. This time around, he was not to be denied, leading four times for a total of 70 laps, including the final 42. Brad Keselowski took the win in the first stage before his day was unceremoniously ended on lap 166 during the Big One. Paul Menard grabbed the win in the second stage, scoring his first playoff points this season, making it a Penske/Penske affiliate clean sweep of the race.
Kevin Harvick led the early laps of the race from pole, only to lose the top spot to Alex Bowman. Darrell Wallace Jr. led five laps but couldn’t hold off Keselowski for the stage win. Stage two saw the first big incident of the day with six cars caught up in the mess, including Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. A group of drivers led laps in stage two, for a total of eight lead changes among seven different drivers. Menard was the ultimate winner of the stage for his first playoff points of 2018.
The final stage saw a true Big One, as 14 drivers were involved in a smash up on lap 166. Amazingly 22 drivers finished on the lead lap after two large incidents. Logano was already leading at that point and went on to lead every lap after the lap 171 restart to claim his third Talladega victory.
Why you should care
Being a plate race, there isn’t a whole lot to care about, but Ford continues to demonstrate its prowess on plate tracks. It is good for the teams who ran near the front to know that their shot at some success in the playoffs is within reach when the series comes back to Talladega. Outside of that, there isn’t anything else to care about.
What your friends are talking about
When your main product is struggling, your ratings are down and your title sponsor is probably on its last legs with your sport, what should you do? Buy another racing series of course. Especially one that has had attendance issues for a long time. NASCAR bought the ARCA series this week or at least agreed to take it over in 2020.
After losing his ride last season and being forced away from the sport, Matt Kenseth is coming back and rejoining Roush Fenway Racing. It is on a part-time basis rather than full-time. Kenseth will split time with Trevor Bayne in the No. 6. It is hard to discern the logic of returning to an organization that you left years ago because it wasn’t contending only to rejoin it, despite having shown little capability of contending for victories.
James Hylton and his son were killed on Saturday morning as they were returning from the ARCA race at Talladega. Hylton ran races in six decades and still owned an ARCA race team. The driver of the truck was not identified. For some reason, the individual driving the truck ran off of the left side of the road and hit an embankment. Hylton and his son died at the scene.
Get your Bloomin’ Onions while you can. There is a distinct possibility that Outback will end its associate sponsorship with SHR this year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be releasing a book entitled: Racing to the Finish: My Story. It reveals intimate details of Earnhardt’s battles to overcome his concussion issues. It is written with Ryan McGee, who has previously penned two books.
Who is mad
The Team Penske cars were fast on Sunday and Keselowski was in the middle of the hunt for the win. Unfortunately, he was taken out in the second giant wreck of the day and lost a chance at another win at Talladega. Fords are still the strongest in the series but the other manufacturers are catching up and the Ford teams need to make hay while they can.
Bayne had a lousy week. First, it is announced that he’s out of his ride for part of the races over the rest of the year. Then he goes to a plate track, where he has had his only success in the Cup Series, although it was at Daytona instead of Talladega. He then gets taken out in the first wreck of the race, ending his day in 38th.
Who is happy
Daniel Suarez has not been having the kind of success in the Cup Series that he’d hoped for but the potential is there looking at this teammates. Suarez managed a 10th-place finish on Sunday which was his second consecutive 10th-place run and third of 11th or better. If Suarez can shake off the early-season doldrums, he just might live up to the expectations that were heaped on him after his rookie season.
Things might actually be turning around for Jimmie Johnson. After a horrible finish to last season and start to this season, Johnson has had a couple of good runs recently. When he does well on a plate track, things are definitely looking up for seven-time.
When the checkered flag flew
Logano won Sunday’s race at Talladega Super Speedway for his 19th career victory in 337 starts.
This is Logano’s third triumph at Talladega.
This is the first win of 2018 for Logano.
19 career wins give Logano a tie for 41st on the All-Time list with Donnie Allison, Greg Biffle, Buddy Baker and Fonty Flock.
Second place went to Kurt Busch for his first career top two run at Talladega
This is Busch’s best race result of 2018.
Busch has 23 career top-two finishes which ranks him 35th on the All-Time list, tied with Kasey Kahne and Dick Rathman
Chase Elliott crossed the finish line in third position Sunday.
Elliott’s podium finish was his best career finish at Talladega.
The third place is Elliott’s 16th of his career.
That ties him for 85th on the All-Time podium list with Bill Blair and G. C. Spencer.
This is Elliott’s third top three of the season and second in a row.
Wallace finished 16th and claimed the Rookie of the Race Award.
For the year Wallace and Byron have each won the Rookie of the Race award five times.
Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are the six race winners in nine races of 2018. Assuming there are 16 or fewer unique winners in the regular season, they will be locked into the playoffs based on winning a race. Harvick and Busch have locked into the playoffs thanks to two victories, assuming they attempt the remaining races in the regular season.The remaining drivers who would qualify for the playoffs and their associated playoff points:
5) Kurt Busch – 2
6) Brad Keselowski – 4
7) Denny Hamlin – 1
8) Ryan Blaney – 2
10) Kyle Larson – 0
11) Aric Almirola – 0
12) Alex Bowman – 0
13) Erik Jones – 0
14) Jimmie Johnson – 0
15) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 0
What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)
If your idea of a great race is a giant wreck with the entire field in a huge pack with no room for escape, then you are most likely thrilled with Sunday’s activities. For those people who like to see clean racing with drivers in control of their destiny, you were most likely disgusted by the way it played out. In the end, it was a plate race with the Big One and zero effort by the pack to make something happen as the race wound down. As they go, it was a plate race. That is about all there is to say about it. We’ll give this one three Urban Farmers from Good People Brewing Company.
Where do you point your DVR for next week
Dover International Speedway hosts the Cup Series next weekend for 400 miles of intense racing. The activity can be seen on FS1 and the Fox Sports Go app. It can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate, www.motorracingnetwork.com or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.