Ryan Blaney claims victory in the final lap at YellaWood 500 in Talladega

TALLADEGA, AL. – Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske Ford crossed the finish line about a foot ahead of Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick to claim victory in a thrilling final 10-lap push to the YellaWood 500 checkered flag at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Sunday.

Ryan Blaney, the driver of the #12 Menards/Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with his crew, team owner, Roger Penske, and Gianna Tulio in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 1, 2023, in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

With the crucial Playoff win – Blaney’s third on the famed 2.66-mile high-banks – the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford punched his ticket to the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs after being points away from elimination at the Talladega green flag three hours earlier.

His margin over second-place Harvick was just .012 of a second.

For the win, Blaney had to best Kevin Harvick, who was later disqualified in a post-race inspection. Blaney barely beat him to the line by a foot due to a push from William Byron behind him.

As a result, Harvick was moved to the last place in the running order. Playoff drivers Byron, who drives the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and Denny Hamlin, who drives the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota finished second and third. Spire Motorsports’ Corey Lajoie was fourth – his third career Top-5 finish – just ahead of a multi-car accident just before the finish line.

Blaney led eight laps on the day but was out front the final two laps to secure the win by a slight .012-second – about the length of a tire – over former series champion, Harvick, who is retiring at the end of the season. It’s the 29-year-old Blaney’s second trophy of the season and ninth of his career.

Harvick’s runner-up result equaled his best finish so far this season. He also finished second on May 14 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. He earned his seventh top-five and 14th top-10 of the season. It was his ninth top-five and 20th top-10 in 46 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega.

This was Harvick’s second straight top-10. He finished sixth last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Harvick’s 20 top-10s at Talladega are the most among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers. The next best on this list is Denny Hamlin with 16 top-10s.

“I knew we were in a great spot there with Riley (Herbst) behind us and I don’t know where he spun out, but he got spun out and I knew that if he was still there by the time we got to the end of the tri-oval, we were going to be in really good shape and then, at that particular point, it was just kind of where we were,” said Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Camo Ford Mustang. “I tried to put a donut on his (Blaney’s) door and slow him down just a little bit, but just a great effort and we came up a little short. I just tried to block the lanes, and then I was kind of late blocking the 12 (Blaney) there and he got to the outside of us, but it actually worked out OK because the 24 (William Byron) was a great pusher, and then it got shuffled again and I had Riley behind me. I thought I was in a really good spot headed down the back straightaway with everything that was happening. I’ve just got to thank everybody on our Busch Light Ford. They did a great job. Right about there I said, ‘Man, we’re sailing. The spotter is yelling at me to side draft.’ I’m like, ‘We aren’t going to need to side-draft,’ and then Riley got loose and spun out and I’m like, ‘We’re all alone here with two of them below me.’ But it was a great day, a great way to end at Talladega. I always want to win, but it is what it is.” (On the possibility of a walk-off win in his last career race at Talladega:) “Yeah, they might have torn it down (laughing). That would’ve been great. Talladega has been so up and down through the years. We’ve had some great moments and some bad moments.  The last superspeedway race and we went out with everything rolling, so that’s a good thing.” 

Harvick finished eighth in Stage 1 to earn three bonus points.

Harvick led four times for 11 laps to increase his laps-led total at Talladega to 314. He has now led 11,620 laps since joining SHR in 2014. He has led 16,035 laps in his entire NASCAR Cup Series career and is one of just 11 drivers who have surpassed 16,000 laps led. 

Stage 1 Winner:  Ryan Blaney of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 2 Winner:  Brad Keselowski of RFK Racing (Ford)

SHR Race Finish:            

  • Kevin Harvick (Started 11th, Finished 2nd / Running, completed 188 of 188 laps)
  • Ryan Preece (Started 19th, Finished 9th / Running, completed 188 of 188 laps)
  • Chase Briscoe (Started 3rd, Finished 14th / Running, completed 188 of 188 laps)  
  • Aric Almirola (Started 1st, Finished 18th / Running, completed 188 of 188 laps)

SHR Points:

  • Kevin Harvick (13th with 2,140 points)
  • Aric Almirola (22nd with 548 points)
  • Ryan Preece (25th with 527 points)
  • Chase Briscoe (29th with 439 points)

Ryan Preece earned his second top-10 of the season and his third top-10 in eight career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega. He finished 10th in Stage 1 to earn one bonus point.

Ryan Preece

“Ninth-place at Talladega, I’ll take it,” said Ryan Preece, driver of the No. 41 Wonder Bread Ford Mustang. “We even led a few laps in the Wonder Bread car and got some stage points. These superspeedways are all about track position and that was the name of the game all day long. We really tried to execute with tire strategy and fuel throughout the day. My Ford Mustang was fast all day and I knew if we could make that high line work with the other Fords, we could take off. This was a really fun weekend with Wonder Bread on board the No. 41 and Old Spice on the No. 14. Looking forward to getting to the Roval and keeping the momentum going.” 

Preece led once for eight laps to increase his laps-led total at Talladega to 22.


Chase Briscoe

Briscoe earned his ninth top-15 of the season and his fifth top-15 in six career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega.

“It was a long race for the No. 14 team, but we found a strategy that worked for us and were able to stick with the Fords up front for a bit,” said Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 14 Old Spice Ford Mustang. “But that also meant that we had to start from the back a few times, and we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We had damage that really got in the way of getting a better finish, but I was hoping we could avoid whatever was coming at the end. I hate it for the team and Old Spice. I loved having them on the car and I think the fans really enjoyed it too.” 

This was Briscoe’s third consecutive top-15 at Talladega. He finished 10th last October and fourth in the series’ prior visit to the track in April.

Briscoe finished eighth in Stage 2 to earn three bonus points.

Aric Almirola

Almirola won the pole for the YellaWood 500 with a lap of 52.715 seconds at 181.656 mph around the 2.66-mile oval. It was his sixth career pole, his first at Talladega, and his second of the season.

“We just didn’t have the help we needed on the outside lane there,” said Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang. “I was the only car able to push and we didn’t get enough momentum from behind. Our No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang did not handle well as the leader, but our car was great as a pusher. That’s why we lined up the way we did on the last restart. I could push the 48 (Alex Bowman) hard on the straightaway, but no one else could keep up with us to get us back to the front. Happy we came here and got our second pole of the year. Just needed more luck on our side at the end to get back up there.” 

This was Almirola’s sixth straight result of 18th or better. He finished third on Aug. 26 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, 14th Sept. 3 at Darlington, 17th Sept. 10 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, 18th Sept. 16 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and 18th last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

Almirola led five times for seven laps to increase his laps-led total at Talladega to 125.

Next Up:

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Bank of America Roval 400 on Sunday, Oct. 8 on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. The sixth race in the 10-race NASCAR Playoffs starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.