Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney tangle on last lap, Kyle Busch steals victory at Talladega

Logan Ploder
FiredUp Network Sports Writer


Monday, April 24, 2023

LINCOLN, AL – What makes Talladega Superspeedway a must-watch race for NASCAR fans each and every year are its massive crashes, unlikely contenders, close-quarters racing, and overall unpredictability.


For much of the 2023 Geico 500 at the 2.66 mile circuit, the two latters were especially prominent. Throughout the opening 180 laps of the 188-lap event was endless, clean, double-file racing, comers and goers, manufacturer-alliances, and an element of fuel strategy at the end.


But anybody who knew Talladega well enough knew what was to come.


Three pile ups in the final five laps, including the latest instalment of the famous ‘Big One’ caused by leaders Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney, saw Kyle Busch survive and secure his second win of the 2023 season.


“Sometimes you need to be lucky, these (superspeedway) races come down to that,” Busch said after the race. “The seas parted at the end.” 


Due to a fuel strategy that was coincidentally caused by Busch missing his final pit call, the No.8 Richard Childress Racing machine crossed the line on fumes to score the victory.


“(The engine) shut off right here when I was doing the burnout,” Busch continued. “We were sweating it being so close, but we already had a win at Fontana. We needed to gamble, and it worked out. Knock on wood for this one!”


Wallace and Blaney, the two dominant cars that both led over 30 laps each, ran first and second to start the final lap. Entering Turn 1, Blaney looked to make a move on his best friend several times, before the leading Wallace finally threw a block a fraction of a second too late, and sent himself into the wall. The stricken No.23 also collected several others in the incident, including Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., and Austin Cindric among others.


“It was a close, close block,” Wallace told Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass post-race. “Not the 12’s fault at all. I thought he would hang me high and dry going into (turn) one. Great day, but a (expletive) result. I caused that one.”


Within the wreckfest in the final five laps of the race was a very scary incident between last weekend’s Martinsville winner Kyle Larson, and Ryan Preece. Larson came up the track in between Turns 1 and 2 after being spun, and was t-boned by Preece with such force, that Fox’s in-car camera inside the No.41 of Preece violently bounced and moved position. 


The left-side door roll cage of Larson’s car was punctured badly in the incident. The crash could’ve had a very different result if the No.5 was hit on the opposite side. 


A few unlikely contenders managed to have solid days, such is the reputation of NASCAR’s longest and fastest speedway. Most notably, Legacy Motor Club’s Noah Gragson, carrying the Wendy’s Hamburgers colours once again, ran in the top three for much of the last stage in what was a much-needed turn of fortune for the struggling operation.


Things didn’t end the way he would’ve wanted, though. After spinning leader Harrison Burton with 46 to go, Gragson then found himself on the wrong side of some Ross Chastain shenanigans in the race’s first overtime attempt, and crashed out of the race to a 32nd place finish. Still, the team’s other driver, Erik Jones managed to finish a very respectable sixth.


Other surprise results included Todd Gilliland finishing tenth, J.J Yeley close behind in 11th, Ty Dillon in 14th, and B.J McLeod in 18th.


Next weekend on Apr. 30, NASCAR moves from the high banks of Talladega to the concrete high banks of Dover at the ‘Monster Mile.’ The green flag is scheduled to be waived just after 2pm ET on FS1.


Stage 1 Results:

  1. Chase Elliott

  2. Alex Bowman

  3. Ross Chastain

  4. William Byron

  5. Kyle Larson

  6. Austin Cindric

  7. Noah Gragson

  8. Joey Logano

  9. Ryan Preece

  10. Todd Gilliland


Stage 2 Results:

  1. Aric Almirola

  2. Chase Elliott

  3. Kevin Harvick

  4. Bubba Wallace

  5. Harrison Burton

  6. Martin Truex Jr.

  7. Ryan Preece

  8. Denny Hamlin

  9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

  10. Noah Gragson


Final Results (Top Ten):

  1. Kyle Busch

  2. Ryan Blaney

  3. Chris Buescher

  4. Chase Briscoe

  5. Brad Keselowski

  6. Erik Jones

  7. William Byron

  8. Christopher Bell

  9. Daniel Suarez

  10. Todd Gilliland