The Geico 500 Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway came to a stunning end when Ross Chastain came out of nowhere to win on the final turn. However, his victory became less of a story than a move to the outside by Kyle Larson that sparked a multi-car wreck.
The incident occurred on the final lap of the Geico 500. Erik Jones had the lead with Larson and Chastain right behind him. Kurt Busch went to the outside of Larson in an attempt to steal the win, but the No. 5 steered sharply to the right, collided with the No. 45, and sent it into the wall. Chastain remained on the inside lane and won the final drag race to the start-finish line.
Busch’s No. 45 rebounded off of the wall, collected teammate Bubba Wallace’s No. 23, and sent it into the wall as well. Both drivers suffered hard hits and had to go to the infield care center. Busch did not speak to media members after the incident, but the fans had a considerable amount to say.
“Oh look Kyle Larson slamming people on the outside of him against the wall. Let me guess his spotter is gonna come out and say it was his fault again?” one fan tweeted in reference to Larson moving up and sending Chase Elliott into the wall at Auto Club Speedway.
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Larson Did Not Address the Contact With Busch
The driver of the No. 5, who has consistently struggled at superspeedways, spoke to multiple media members after he finished fourth overall. He mentioned several times that he “made a mistake” by moving up after Chastain baited him, but he did not address the wreck.
“I feel like I did a pretty near perfect job for me at a superspeedway until the last lap there,” Larson told FOX Sports after exiting his stock car, transcript courtesy of Speedway Digest. “Yeah, I should have, like, I think just kind of faked going high, then went back low. I had that run. Ross helped me with that run. It kind of baited me into going to the outside. Just a little inexperience probably there.”
Larson made similar comments to Racing America’s Matt Weaver after the race. He said that he felt he ran a perfect race before letting Chastain bait him into moving to the outside. Larson finished by saying that he did “everything right” except for one thing that helped Chastain win instead of him.
The Team Owner Reacted With a Simple Tweet
The Geico 500 was not a great event for 23XI Racing or team co-owner Denny Hamlin. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota watched both of his cars as they wrecked on the final lap after he dealt with his own issues.
Hamlin, who led nine laps at Talladega, had to make an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 186 due to running out of fuel. He finished 18th overall instead of contending for the win, and then he saw unexpected issues derail promising performances by both Busch and Wallace.
Prior to the Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, Hamlin met with members of the media and addressed struggles at 23XI Racing. He called for the team to get out of its slump and revealed that the competition meetings featured him “cussing out” people.
“We’re trying to address all the issues that there is,” Hamlin said, transcript courtesy of NASCAR Media. “The [No.] 23 car is, the pit crew’s not doing well. You know, I’m in a meeting with Joe Gibbs Racing, and I thank them for everything they do for me, and then we walk out of that meeting into another and I’m cussing them out because we’re just not doing a good enough job over there. So it’s just a very interesting thing that goes on, but that’s part of it.
Busch finished sixth at Martinsville Speedway, but crashes disrupted trips to Bristol Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Wallace, for comparison, finished 16th at Martinsville, 28th at Bristol, and 17th at Talladega. Though he posted his first stage win of the year during the Geico 500.