TALLADEGA, Ala – For the second time in as many years, a NASCAR race saw a driver cross the finish line first only to have the win taken away as a result of the out of bounds line.
In last year’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at the Daytona International Speedway, Justin Haley faked his off the exit of Turn 4 in the annual July race, then bolted down to make a pass below Kyle Larson heading into the tri-oval.
The move worked. Haley, crossed the finish line first to earn his first career win. Or so he thought.
Haley, went below the out of bounds line to get by Larson and NASCAR not only took the win away, he was scored at the end of the lead lap instead of being place runner-up.
Same scenario with a bit of a different situation occurred in Saturday’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at the Talladega Superspeedway. Johnny Sauter had a command of the lead but he moved to block second place runner at the time Riley Herbst off. Herbst, tried the same move Haley did last year in Daytona. Sauter, left Herbst no room and blocked him below the out of bounds line. With an owners championship on the line for Herbst’s No. 51 Toyota team for Kyle Busch Motorsports, he lifted, got back in line, and would settle for third. His momentum stalled though which NASCAR deemed never should have.
They blamed Sauter.
But, his momentum did stall and Spencer Boyd crossed the finish line in second behind Sauter. With Sauter being penalized and put at the tail end of the lead lap as a result (14th), Boyd was scored as the winner.
What happens if this same situation occurs for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on the 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway?
Pole sitter Chase Elliott had a very blunt but stern warning what he thinks others may do, him included.
“I guess the bottom line with that situation, the yellow line is out of bounds,” said Elliott. “If a guy is going to run you down there, you just need to crash him and just be done with it. It’s not worth you being penalized for not causing a wreck. I guess at the end of the day, just need to wreck them and go on down the road.”
Back at Daytona this past July, Brad Keselowski sent a blocking message to William Byron and the rest of the garage too. See, he was mad at a situation of blocking early on in the 2018 Coke Zero Sugar 400 with Byron blocking Keselowski’s momentum which sparked a huge melee in Turn 3.
In final practice three months ago in Daytona, the two came together again, this time it was Keselowski backing up his words at Daytona after his crash a year ago.
With about 15 minutes to go in final practice that day, Keselowski got into the left rear quarter panel of Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet in Turn 3 which sent Byron’s car out of control. Luckily, Byron was able to keep control of his car enough to not come back up the banking and take several other drivers out. But, it was a move that look intentional on Keselowski’s behalf.
Why make a move like he did in practice? Well, go back to last year, remember?
Byron was leading last year’s race but switching lanes from top to bottom. He moved low to block Keselowski, an incident that ended with the No. 2 Ford spinning high and smashing the wall.
“I need to wreck more people so they’ll stop throwing bad blocks,” Keselowski said that night.
On the Fourth of July incident, Keselowski blamed Byron for putting him in that exact same position again, this time, Keselowski didn’t back down.
“Just had a big run,” Keselowski told NBCSN when he brought his car back to the garage. “He put me in a position where I had to lift, and I keep telling these guys I’m not lifting. Just trying to send a message. I’m not lifting.
“I’m tired of getting wrecked at these (superspeedway) tracks,” he added. “They’re all watching. They know. I’ve been put in positions these last few plate races – not just by William (Byron) but a handful of other people too where I’ve had to make a decision to risk myself on being loaded up on the trailer and watching the end of the race or drive through the guy in front of me. I’ve been too conservative and ended up watching too many of these plate races from the back of the trailer and that is not the responsible thing to do for my team. I’m not going to do that anymore. I’ve made that commitment. If you’re going to make that commitment, then you make that commitment today and make that commitment in the race as well.”
So, will Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 see a lot of wrecks due to blocking, especially on the last lap?
You have to remember, it will likely be manufacturer vs. manufacturer at the end. There’s a really good chance it may be five or six cars of one manufacturer against a couple of another rival one.
Toyota finished 1-2-3 in this past year’s Daytona 500. Ford finished 1-2-3 in this race last year. Chevrolet went 1-2-3-5-6 on this track back in April. They backed that up with going 1-2-3-4 in the rain shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400 back in July too.
Toyota started this new trend back in 2016. Ford perfected it after. Chevy used their strength in numbers to their advantage from the spring race at Talladega on. Will the end of the race feature a lot of blocking and an out of bounds rule being called to focus when it could very well be teammate vs. teammate for the win?
Hendrick Motorsports’ Elliott and Alex Bowman finished 1-2 in April. All four cars swept the top four of the starting lineup for today’s race. Last year, SHR went 1-2-3-4 in Talladega qualifying and used that to their advantage and led a majority of the race.
The Cup race may look a bit different in terms of the ending and outcome than the NXS or Truck races of recent past due to teammates and manufacturers being able to work together easier.