The NASCAR Cup Series is on a break due to the Olympics, providing ample time to examine past races and where certain drivers excelled. There are several dates on the schedule that created intrigue and shook up the playoff standings, including the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
This trip to the Alabama track on April 25 started with a wreck and featured several surprising moments. Chief among them was Brad Keselowski racing to the front of the pack and taking the lead. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang only had control for one lap, but it was enough for him to lock up the win and punch his ticket to the playoffs.
Keselowski entered the weekend as one of the favorites to win due to his past success at the track, as well as his victory in the iRacing event. He proceeded to fulfill expectations, tying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon with six wins at the 2.66-mile oval.
The Final Shuffle for the Lead Served As the Main Highlight
There were several moments that entertained viewers as they tuned in for the Geico 500. The final race to the checkered flag, in particular, featured a wild battle for the front of the pack and some strategies that faced scrutiny after the race came to an end.
DiBenedetto had the lead as the official waved the white flag to mark the final lap. However, he raced to the right attempting to block Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney. This move opened the door for Keselowski to race past him and take the lead.
The driver of the No. 2 received a big push from Michael McDowell on the final lap, moving him ahead of DiBenedetto. Keselowski continued to press his advantage while drivers behind him fought for position. He raced across the finish line while several of his peers slammed into the wall, collided with each other, and slid through the grass.
Following the race, there were questions about whether DiBenedetto should have blocked Blaney’s move or stayed on the bottom in front of Keselowski. The Wood Brothers Racing driver’s decision in the moment led to a fifth-place finish instead of the win, only further creating questions about the strategy.
While Team Penske and the Ford drivers created headlines at the end of the race, Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron quietly turned in yet another strong performance. He somehow managed to avoid all of the incidents on the track and utilized a smart strategy to add even more points to his total. For example, he stuck on McDowell’s bumper around the final turn and then dove to the bottom to finish second just behind Keselowski.
An Early Wreck Disrupted a Promising Day
While there were several exciting moments during the Geico 500, there was another that created conversations about safety concerns. Joey Logano wrecked in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang late in Stage 1, sending him to the infield care center for further evaluation.
The incident occurred on the final lap of Stage 1. Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all raced on the outside lane, with the latter two pushing each other for position. Stenhouse tapped Hamlin’s car from behind, making it swerve side to side before hitting the rear of Logano’s car. This series of moves prompted a chain reaction where Logano spun to the left and then went airborne after colliding with the front of Stenhouse’s car.
The No. 22 Ford Mustang flew through the air, bounced off the track surface, and then went across the roof of Bubba Wallace’s No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota Camry. The driver of the Hamlin and Michael Jordan co-owned team avoided a collision with the flying car but told his crew chief that the No. 23 suffered minor damage.
Logano entered the Geico 500 as one of the top options to contend for the win, and the fans wanted to see him and Keselowski race each other on a superspeedway after late contact in the Daytona 500 knocked them both out of the season-opening race. Instead, the fans watched as Logano headed home early while Keselowski ultimately captured the win.