Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2022 GEICO 500

Who… should you be talking about after the race?

Races at Talladega Superspeedway are both the most predictable on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule (not much action for most of the race and a couple big wrecks, usually including one on the last lap) and the most difficult to predict the winner. This week’s race was no different, with Ross Chastain leading only a few yards to win Sunday’s (April 24) GEICO 500 as chaos erupted around him.

Chastain took his Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet to victory lane for the second time in 2022, becoming the second driver to post multiple wins this year. He’s shown that in the right equipment, he’s the real deal, to the point where he’s not just playoff-bound but an early favorite for the title fight as NASCAR’s youth movement scored another tally in the win column.

And don’t forget… Erik Jones. If not for one understandable mistake when he moved to block a move by Kyle Larson instead of holding his line, Jones might have been the winner. Larson killed his own momentum and Chastain didn’t follow the No. 5, so for Jones, staying the course would have been a winning move. The 25-year-old certainly made his presence known, though. The No. 43 has shown flashes of brilliance this year and Jones still scored a top 10 Sunday, his third of 2022. That’s already half of his 2021 total just 10 races in. Petty GMS Motorsports might not be racing for wins each week, but he’s definitely moving his team forward.

See also
Erik Jones Loses Chance at Talladega Win on Final Lap

What… is the buzz about?

Will he stay or will he go? Kyle Busch was anything but forthright about his future with Joe Gibbs Racing following the departure of longtime sponsor Mars at the end of this season. He was flippant with his words Saturday, saying “If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, it don’t. Goodbye.”

Gibbs didn’t indicate that the situation was dire, stating simply that negotiations were ongoing. But JGR has three potential drivers who are free agents after 2022: Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell. Plus, with Ty Gibbs in the wings, ready or not, something has to give.

It’s possible that Truex, who has the most loyal backing in Bass Pro Shops, could retire or re-sign for one year while the younger Gibbs gets another year in the Xfinity Series under his belt. Indeed, that’s the most likely scenario. It’s unlikely that sponsorship would not materialize for two-time champion Busch, who will only be 37 at the end of the year. And Bell, at just 27, has so many years ahead it would be a rash move to let him go.

The comments, though? Just Kyle Busch being Kyle Busch. Probably much ado over nothing. That said, keep an eye on Silly Season just the same because you never know…

See also
Could Kyle Busch Leave Joe Gibbs Racing? Why The Surprise?

Where… did the other key players wind up?

Polesitter Bell led the Toyota charge in qualifying but wasn’t stout enough to keep the lead for long. Still, he worked with his teammates when he could right up until the final round of green flag pit stops when he tangled with Kyle Busch exiting his pit. Bell got the short end of that stick as the caution didn’t fly and he lost a lap following the spin. The No. 20 Toyota finished a lap down in 22nd.

Fall 2021 Talladega winner Bubba Wallace won stage one and looked like a contender all day. He got trapped midpack in the closing laps, though, and took the biggest of the lumps in the last-lap dustup. Wallace walked away but took a hit hard enough to knock the wind out of him and finished 17th for his troubles. He’s become one of those drivers who’s always going to be a factor at the superspeedways, but this time, luck wasn’t on his side.

Active Talladega win leader Brad Keselowski lost a lap early after a pit road speeding penalty but was able to get it back during a stage two caution. In the final segment, he worked his way into the top 10 and was able to work in the draft… until another speeding penalty cost him another lap. This time, there was no caution to help out. Keselowski finished 23rd, his playoff hopes rapidly waning after a massive 100-point penalty earlier this year for a repaired body panel. He’ll need a win to make the dance in 2022.

When… was the moment of truth?

Raise your hand if you didn’t think it was going to end that way. Yeah, me neither. It almost looked like the field would get to the finish line without a multi-car wreck, but as is typical at Talladega, the move by Larson came a split second too late. Larson wasn’t clear of Kurt Busch on his outside, and the impact sent Busch careening into the wall. Trying to stay with Larson killed Jones’ momentum, allowing Chastain to get by for the victory.

Wallace took the brunt of it along with his teammate as a successful day for 23XI Racing turned into a forgettable one in the last few yards of the race.

See also
Only Yesterday: How the Talladega Game Was Changed

Crashes have become the norm at Talladega and Daytona, with restricted engines tightening the pack and recent incarnations of the Cup cars only making those packs bigger. It’s hard to place blame unless something egregious happens because it’s the nature of the beast.

Why… should you be paying attention this week?

Next Sunday will feature 400 laps on the concrete at Dover Motor Speedway. The track will put the Next Gen car to the test as recent events have been rather tame affairs, with little action at the front in clean air.

Clean air still matters, but so far, the new car has given fans better shows at tracks of a mile or more. For Dover and its fans, the next few races are critical. Since its purchase by Speedway Motorsports, the track could wind up on the chopping block if the Smith family wants to add a date at another facility. Despite their denial of ever wanting to add a Cup event at North Wilkesboro Speedway, those plans could change. Great shows will be the best way for tracks to keep their names out of the race removal conversation going forward.

How… many cars were involved in incidents on Sunday, anyway?

You didn’t see the most cars get into scrapes this week, but there were still quite a few drivers left fuming after being involved to some degree in at least one incident.

The grand total for being involved in at least one crash totaled at least 19 at Talladega.

Daniel Hemric got turned to kick things off as his engine blew, collecting Chase Briscoe and Chris Buescher.

BJ McLeod had a solo spin in stage two after losing a wheel.

The biggest wreck of the day took place just after the restart for McLeod’s spin when Truex braked harder than expected and caused a chain reaction behind him, culminating in Joey Logano turning off the bumper of Wallace. Both Truex and Wallace avoided the resulting chaos, but drivers listed as being involved to some degree included Logano, Harrison Burton, Austin Cindric, Daniel Suarez, Kyle Busch, Todd Gilliland, Cole Custer and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

A Cody Ware spin brought out the final caution for an incident, but Busch and Bell collided exiting pit road. Then, one more melee broke out coming to the checkered flag, involving Larson, Kurt Busch, Wallace, William Byron and Corey LaJoie.

Not all of them suffered heavy damage, but that’s still a pretty large total considering there’s a shortage of car body panels for the Next Gen chassis, a shortage which was supposed to mean tamer racing. Guess not…

RACE WEEKEND CENTRAL: TALLADEGA

About the author

Amy is an 18-year veteran NASCAR writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found filling in from time to time on The Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and her monthly commentary Holding A Pretty Wheel (Thursdays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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DoninAjax

When Clint was driving the 28 on the track, it was the only time the fans could get to see the closest thing to a real race car since the use of restrictor plates. He should have opened it up for a lap. Then the kit cars went on the track for their traffic jam and demo derby.

TiminPayson

The reason we have these cars isn’t because of cheating it’s because the inspectors are lazy. If we can’t check for it with a machine (aka laser) we can’t find it.

Bobby

Please give us more actual reporting on the race instead of the usual fawning over Bubba’s usual histrionics after he crashes. He is an avowed attention seeker as proven by his noose-gate accusations and his parade on talk shows afterwards. We have all seen Dale Sr. get out of a twisted car at Talladega with broken ribs and not even grimace. We have seen Gordon hit the turn 1 wall at Pocono at 200 mph and wave to the crowd. Bubba hits the soft wall and every time he is bent over giving birth. What a phony. Sure, are there hard hits in NASCAR racing? There sure are…….but this guy has worn out his compassion welcome for most.

DoninAjax

I think it was ironic that it was the 45 that put Bubba into the wall. Or maybe Karma. I wonder if Bubba has a glass jaw too?

stubbscupseriesdotcom

they talked about his crash for one sentence in the article. If all you’re here to do is hate on a driver then just leave. There’s no place for that here.

Mugrad

He (Bubba) lives in their heads absolutely rent free

Echo

Nope, not rent free. Bubba suffers from depression due to fans not liking him and him not being a very good racer.

Mugrad

Then why the hell bring his name up? If he’s that miserable in your little pea brain, ignore him, just like you do Corey LaJoie and some of the others… smmfh

Echo

I didn’t bring his name up 🤣😂 you did lololol thinking is tough isn’t it !

Mugrad

Echo, I never brought up his name… I pointed out the silliness of continually posting about him since he’s so irrelevant

DoninAjax

Only on Sunday while we wait for him to make another stupid decision. It’s like when I’m driving on the highway and wondering waiting for the stupid thing the lunatic in front of me will do.

Old Fan

But, of course, you have no problem with Bubba’s hatred toward race fans (DARF’s – Dumb A** Race Fans) if they don’t kiss his feet and worship the ground he walks on. Sorry, I lost all respect for him after he threw the water at Alex Bowman and the EMT at Charlotte.

DoninAjax

I don’t know if DARF is the right one. It might be AWDLM (Anyone Who Doesn’t Love Me).

Bobby

It looked like a whole fawning paragraph to me. Do you know the difference between a sentence and a paragraph? People here have been ragging on Ricky Crashhouse and Krybaby Busch for years, but I never see you complaining. I wonder why that could be?

Mugrad

You people who are allowing Bubba to live rent free in your little skulls of mush amuse the living hell out of me. For someone who is irrelevant as a racer, you all are sure obsessed with him. Have any of yall thought about just ignoring him? Probably not.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

“Wallace took the brunt of it along with his teammate as a successful day for 23XI Racing turned into a forgettable one in the last few yards of the race.”

That is a sentence. A somewhat long sentence, but still the only sentence directly related to Bubba where they mention his name in the entire article.

Stu Pidphukor

Boy, just imagine if another driver tossed a cup of water in his face while he was in discomfort! Oh wait, that kind of action only works one way.

Bobby

If I remember correctly, after tossing the water, then he threw the bottle at a prone Bowman and the EMT. A real class act, that guy!

Mugrad

Something I just don’t understand about people like you… If Bubba’s so irrelevant, why do you keep bringing him up? Why not just ignore him and the articles or paragraphs written mentioning him? Why are you allowing him to live rent free in your skull of mush?

Bill B

You used that “rent free in your head” line (or a variation of it) 3 times, FYI…. it isn’t that great of a line.

Bobby

You’re right. Mugrad is just trying to be an agent provocateur but his third grade FB mentality level precludes him from having the ability to get us in to a poop slinging contest with him.

Bill B

I am fine with someone stirring up chit, but the “rent free in your head” line is just stupid. It ranks up there with Costanza’s “The jerk store called and they’re running low on you” comeback in Seinfeld. It’s just lame.

Mugrad

Yet, it’s those who hate Bubba the most who keep bringing him up and now with the personal insults… you’re a real tough guy…

Mugrad

I don’t give a rat’s behind what you think of it… facts are facts…

Bill B

Well I know the rat’s ass part.
You see what makes it stupid is that everything you ever see, hear or feel in your entire life is in your brain, so it’s all kind of in there rent free. You can’t “unknow” something once you know it. That’s what makes the whole “rent free in your head” line soooo stupid.
I’m just trying to help you in future comments you may leave. You might want to retire that phrase.

Last edited 2 months ago by Bill B
Mugrad

I don’t need “help” from the likes of someone who, in his little pea brain, thinks someone is irrelevant as a race car driver yet continually posts comments about said irrelevant race car driver…. And, yet, somehow, I’m the stupid one…

Bill B

In all my posts above, not once did I mention or talk about any driver. So you must have comprehension issues or be confusing me with some of the other commenters.
All of my post have been specifically about pointing out how stupid the phrase “rent free in your head” is because it makes no sense.
Now, make like a tree and get out of here Biff.

Mugrad

Wow… when I’m wrong, I admit it… but, in all fairness, I didn’t mention a single person (aka YOU) in my responses. I just chose to respond to your post. And, frankly, I really don’t care if the phraseology I use makes sense to you or not… You just aren’t that important

Bill B

Nor you.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

I forget, drivers aren’t allowed to show emotion after the race. Was it right? No. But every driver in NASCAR history besides Mark Martin has likely had some sort of stupid pit road altercation. Just like the rain shortened race win, Bubba didn’t invent pit road altercations.

Bill B

I think you are missing the point in your blind worship of your driver. Throwing a bottle or a punch at a driver after the race is one thing, doing it when the driver is receiving medical attention is another.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

Never said it was okay, just saying it’s definitely not the only time where a driver has done something stupid on pit road.

Shayne

Jenna Fryer’s AP article, “Ross Chastain surged into the lead as he closed in on the checkered flag Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway to steal his second career NASCAR Cup Series victory”.

Stealing a victory? I thought that only applied to a driver sitting in the pits praying for rain to get their first win.

When will NASCAR put an end to smashing watermelons? Just something to chew on.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

They say “stealing a victory” all the time. It’s nothing new. Chastain went from 5th to Victory lane in the final 1,000 feet, I would call that “stealing a win” for sure.

Bubba clearly lives rent free in y’all’s heads. Of course he wanted rain, literally every driver who’s ever been leading ever during a rain delay has wanted it to rain harder so they could win. Bubba hoping for rain isn’t the first time it’s ever happened.

Nobody went berserk when Jeb Burton won at Talladega last spring, but of course, they all jump on Bubba for him getting his first win by virtue of rain since apparently he controls the weather. If you’re just here to hate on a driver, leave. Nobody cares for it.

Carl D.

I figure if he grew it (or bought it), he can smash it. Besides, it’s way better than whatever that land-swimming ridiculousness is that Austin Dillon does when he wins.

DoninAjax

It sure beats smashing a one-of-a-kind guitar.

JD in NC

NASCAR doesn’t mind smashing millions of dollars worth of race cars during a typical Talladega weekend, so Ross smashing the occasional watermelon shouldn’t be a problem.

john dawg chapman

The 6 car is one I’m following closely this year. Brad took a huge leap of faith, & I hope it pays off in the long run. But so far it’s been rockier than he probably expected. As for playoff hopes, he realistically doesn’t have any. Prayers maybe, but with the loss of 10 playoff points. He’d have to win at least 3 races, or a bunch of stage wins to even have a chance of getting past the first round if he were to pull off a win.

I was impressed by Lajoie, Cassil. Gregson, Jones, & of course, Chastain.
I’m just happy he wasn’t a pig farmer.

Bill B

I don’t think you will be able to make a determination on how wise Brad’s move was for 3 to 5 years. The Roush teams are so far behind the top tier teams that there is no way just changing the driver will right everything.

BTW, “I’m just happy he wasn’t a pig farmer.”… Good one!

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