Elliott Wins Photo Finish at Talladega to Advance in Playoffs

Chase Elliott beat Ryan Blaney to the finish line at Talladega, advancing to the Round of 8 in the playoffs.
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports

A restart with two laps remaining set the stage between Elliott, Blaney, and a host of other hopeful drivers. Typical Talladega disaster was avoided as drivers were able to keep their cars pointed in the right direction all the way to the finish line. Elliott used a push from Erik Jones on the final lap to edge out in front, holding off his good friend for the win.

"It was a wild last couple laps," Elliott said. "I wasn’t super-crazy about being on the bottom lane and fortunately I got just clear enough off of Turn 2 to slide up in front of Erik. He gave me some great shoves. He’s a Team Chevy partner there. Just had a good enough run to get out front and then was able to stay far enough in front of Ryan at the line to get it done. These things are so hard to win and you have to enjoy them. I just appreciate everybody’s effort today."

The margin of victory was just 0.046 seconds. Blaney was disappointed that he was unable to grab his first victory of the season, but the Team Penske driver won the opening stage of the race and collected some valuable playoff points.

"The middle, or the second lane was the strongest," Blaney said. "I thought about blocking but when you go to the middle, your chances of getting split are so high. As much as I trust Chase, I don't trust him not to take me three-wide. Overall not a bad day, just probably going to replay in my head like five different things I could've done."

Elliott Wins Photo Finish at Talladega to Advance in Playoffs

Blaney led 31 laps in this race, but that just didn't include the last one. "You want to turn into race-win mode, so for a moment, I thought it would be good to line up on the front row and see what we can get. I just didn’t want to get wrecked. I don’t want to get turned. But I forgot all about that. I just wanted to win the race."

Michael McDowell put together another great run on a superspeedway, finishing in third after pushing Blaney at the end. Rivals Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five on Sunday.

Jones ended up finishing in sixth, with rookie Todd Gilliland in seventh, capping a great day for Front Row Motorsports. Trackhouse Racing also had both cars inside the top-ten, with Daniel Suarez coming home in eighth. Ford drivers Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe also scored top-ten results to help their playoff outlook.

2022 YellaWood 500 at Talladega - Race Results
Pos Driver Team Manufacturer
1Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
2Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord
3Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord
4Ross ChastainTrackHouse RacingChevrolet
5Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
6Erik JonesPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet
7Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord
8Daniel SuarezTrackHouse RacingChevrolet
9Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord
10Chase BriscoeStewart Haas RacingFord
11Landon CassillSpire MotorsportsChevrolet
12William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
13Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
14Aric AlmirolaStewart Haas RacingFord
15Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet
16Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota
17Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
18Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
19Noah GragsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
20Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
21Cole CusterStewart Haas RacingFord
22Ricky Stenhouse JrJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet
23Ty DillonPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet
24Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord
25Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord
26Martin Truex JrJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
27Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord
28Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
29Kevin HarvickStewart Haas RacingFord
30Justin AllgaierBeard MotorsportsChevrolet
31JJ YeleyRick Ware RacingFord
32Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord
33BJ McLeodLive Fast MotorsportsFord
34Daniel HemricKaulig RacingChevrolet
35Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet
36Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord
37Ty Gibbs23XI RacingToyota

It only took five races, but finally, a playoff driver has won a race. Oddly enough, it came in the race that is typically a crapshoot.

All of the talk surrounding this race centered on risk versus reward. How aggressive would the drivers be? Who would opt to chase stage points rather than go for the race win? How much did safety concerns factor into teams plans? Talladega has always been a true wild card, and while everyone predicted chaos, the race was very tame.

Perhaps too many drivers were apprehensive, not wanting to shoot themselves in the foot heading into next week's cutoff race at Charlotte. The top four playoff drivers in today's race just happen to be the top four in the standings with one race to go.

There weren't many losers today, in terms of playoff drivers having a nightmare race. Joey Logano got caught up in an early incident and finished 27th, but he is still fifth in the standings, 18 points above the cut line.

After starting on pole, Christopher Bell saw his day fall apart on a pit stop, when he spun trying to slow down. Not only did he spin, but he was issued a penalty for speeding on pit road, pouring salt into the wound. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver finished 17th today and is now 33 points below the cut line in 11th place.

Elliott Wins Photo Finish at Talladega to Advance in Playoffs

William Byron had a decent day and finished 12th, but the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet still sits in tenth in the standings. It has been a rough week for the Hendrick Motorsports organization, with Byron losing 25 points for wrecking Hamlin under caution at Texas, then Alex Bowman was forced to miss this race as he deals with concussion-like symptoms.

Elliott's win today gives the organization a much-needed morale boost. Both Byron and Bowman are below the cutoff line, and could be eliminated next weekend. Kyle Larson had a fast car but finished 18th today. The reigning series champion is sixth in the standings, 18 points above the cut line.

Bowman is 12th in the standings, 54 points below the cut line. It will likely take a win for him to advance next week, but the team still isn't even sure if he will be cleared to drive in that race. Briscoe and Cindric are actually tied for eighth position but Briscoe hold the tie-breaker in that scenario. The two talented road course racers will need a solid finish next weekend on the ROVAL at Charlotte.

The dust has settled on a mild Talladega race, but the anxiety will be felt next weekend when four drivers will be eliminated from the playoffs. Coverage for Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte begins at 2 PM ET on NBC.

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