Talladega Superspeedway didn’t disappoint this past weekend. We had great pack racing, amazing strategy, and no shortage of amazing finishes. It would be Talladega without a little bit of controversy as well.
Let's start with the Trucks Series race on Saturday. Last year, Tate Fogleman and Tyler Hill battled to the finish line with Fogleman stealing the win. There was a huge crash coming to the checkered flag with championship contender John Hunter Nemechek getting collected. The race on Saturday was full of chaos but didn’t breed as many cautions as years past. However with one lap to go, defending ARCA champion Brett Homles and two Thorsport entries, Ben Rhodes and Christian Eckes were side by side up front. However, lurking in the shadows, pushing these trucks to the front all day was Nascar Cup veteran Matt DiBenedetto. Coming down to the final turn, Corey Heim was turned and slammed into his teammate John Hunter Nemechek. Chaos was unleashed coming to the checkered flag. Numerous trucks spun as they approached the finish line. As the leaders came to the checkered, Brett Holmes edged out the win by an eyelash over DiBenedetto. Holmes beat DiBenedetto to the line by 0.002 of a second, tying the closest finish in truck series history.
However, with the pack wrecking behind the leaders, Nascar put the caution flag out before the drivers passed the finish line, freezing the field order. The broadcast declared Holmes the winner, but after several minutes, NASCAR reviewed the tape and overturned the win to DiBenedetto who was ahead of Holmes at the time of caution. So, why was the caution thrown? Last year saw an extremely similar finish to the race and no caution was thrown. Nothing against Matt DiBenedetto being declared the winner, the leader at the time of caution should be awarded the win, but why was the caution thrown when there was so little remaining in the race. In my opinion, Holmes won the race, and because of a bad call from NASCAR, he will have to wait for his moment another day. Also, since no playoff driver won this Truck series event there is no other driver locked into the Championship 4 at Phoenix. Ty Majeski is still locked in with his win at Bristol, and if the championship 4 started today, the contenders for the 2022 title would be Ty Majeski, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith and Ben Rhodes. We will see how the championship will change in a few weeks at Martinsville.
The Xfinity and Cup series races were definitely less chaotic and both had amazing finishes as well. In the Xfinity series race, we saw pure domination from Austin Hill of Richard Childress Racing. Hill swept the stages and looked to be the favorite to win. However, the driver running in second, took over and became the favorite for the win. AJ Allmendinger, after so much bad luck on superspeedways, took the win for the first time in his career at Talladega. Allmendinger is one of the better superspeedway racers and after leading on the final lap in what seems like each of the last 10 super-speedway events, Dinger took the flag. This win locks him into the next round, along with last week's winner Noah Gragson. Sam Mayer placed second and was 0.015 seconds away from his first Xfinity Series win. I think Mayer will have a strong run next week at the ROVAL to advance him to the round of 8.
Cup Series action at Dega was pretty relaxed for a normal event at the superspeedway. Only 2 cautions outside of stage breaks. One happened early, with Harris Burton and Ty Gibbs getting together to bring out the yellow and the other came in the final five laps with Daniel Hemric stalling on pit road. This set up an overtime finish where Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell and Chase Elliott would battle for the checkered flag. Coming out of turn four, Elliott was leading and it looked like nobody had the momentum to get up and contend with him. Elliott took the win, locking him into the next playoff round. Elliott also became the first playoff driver to win in the 2022 NASCAR playoffs. Sure, Reddick won last week and was a playoff driver but he won after he was eliminated. Blaney continues a strong playoff performance and I think he’s safe for the Round of 8, but needs to stay consistent and bring home a decent finish next week at the ROVAL. Michael McDowell gets his 2nd Top 5 and 11th Top 10 with his 3rd place finish. I know that he’s not a playoff driver, but this is the best season of his career, don’t count McDowell out of a win over the remaining races.
We will have you covered later this week as NASCAR continues its push for the championship at the Charlotte ROVAL. Although Talladega didn’t provide the sparks we usually see, buckle up for what could be a wild weekend on one of NASCAR’s trickiest tracks.
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