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ICYMI: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins the Geico 500

Ricky Stenhouse Jr wins the Geico 500 at Talladega, his first career Cup Series win. NASCARMedia

NASCAR

In a wild and crazy Geico 500 on Sunday from Talladega Superspeedway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr was able to outlast the field and win his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Stenhouse started the race from the pole, and was able to lead the field early in Sunday’s race.

Penske driver Brad Keselowski won Stage 1. With 4 previous Talladega wins, Keselowski was a strong contender all day, finishing in 7th. Stage 2 was led entirely by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin. A pit strategy call resulted in Hamlin making his first pit stop before Stage 1 ended. With the track position for Stage 2, Hamlin set sail and led all 55 laps of the stage. Hamlin would finish the day in 11th. Stage 2 was run entirely under the green flag, the drivers knew to race conservatively for Stage 3. For Stage 3, the intensity rose, as multiple wrecks took out many strong cars. Consequently, a red flag occurred with 19 laps remaining after a vicious wreck. AJ Allmendinger made contact with Chase Elliott, spinning him into several others. To no surprise, “The Big One” collected 18 cars. However, Stenhouse and others were able to avoid the carnage.

For the closing laps, Kyle Busch was in command of the race. With 2 laps to go, Stenhouse was able to pass Busch with the drafting help of Jimmie Johnson. Jamie McMurray made a daring move on the final lap, going three wide between Johnson and Kasey Kahne to advance into 2nd place.

This win marks Stenhouse Jr’s first Cup victory in 158 races, and Roush Fenway Racing’s first since 2014. A former Xfinity Series champion, Stenhouse also won Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series in 2013. As a result of this win, Stenhouse is all but guaranteed a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs. The remaining drivers in the top 10 were Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, and David Ragan. After showing speed throughout the race, a loose tire cost Dale Earnhardt Jr a chance at victory, he ended up in 22nd.

Looking ahead, NASCAR heads to Kansas Speedway for this weekend’s action. The Truck Series will host the Toyota Tundra 250 on Friday night. The Cup Series will also run the GoBowling 400 on Saturday night.  Ironically, powerhouse team Joe Gibbs Racing remains winless through 10 races this year, will they rebound to win again in Kansas? At this point last season, Gibbs drivers had swept the month of April. Regardless of their results this year, Gibbs drivers were contenders at Talladega, and look to return to form at Kansas.