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Ryan Blaney ekes out win at Talladega

Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney is making a habit of winning at NASCAR’s largest superspeedway.

Blaney made a last-lap pass of Kevin Harvick in a wild finish Sunday to win the YellaWood 500 NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama.

The two drivers were door-to-door taking the white flag, but Harvick — driving his final race at the massive track — cleared the No. 12 Ford. However, Blaney fought back down the backstretch, saw an opening underneath and regained the lead.

As the field crashed behind him coming to the checkered flag, Blaney held off the 47-year-old Harvick by 0.012 seconds for his second win of 2023 to advance to the Round of 8 postseason.

Blaney won for the third time in the past nine Talladega races.

“Just getting clear to the bottom to get to the front row and drag race it out with Kevin,” the 29-year-old Blaney said. “I won it by more than I have the last couple of years. That one might’ve been by four feet, the others were about two.”

Harvick needed more help from Riley Herbst, who was pushing him on the high side coming to the flag.

“I knew if I could get off the tri-oval with Riley right on my bumper, I was going to be okay, and then he got spun,” said Harvick, a 2010 winner at the superspeedway.

Seven of the past eight races at Talladega have been won on a pass on the final circuit.

William Byron, Denny Hamlin and Corey LaJoie rounded out the top-five finishers in the four-caution race.

The bottom four below the cut line to advance to the field of eight after the Charlotte elimination race next Sunday are Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace and Kyle Busch.

Aric Almirola, the 2018 Fall winner on the 2.66-mile high-banked Alabama superspeedway, set the pole-winning lap, but reigning Cup champion Joey Logano — eliminated from the postseason — soon assumed the point around the treacherous, high-speed layout.

Needing playoff bonus points, Blaney put his No. 12 up front and grabbed 10 of them by winning the 60-lap Stage 1. However, fellow title-hopeful driver Chastain in the middle lane bounced off cars and hit the Turn 3 wall after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran out of gas in front of him.

Busch also made some contact, banging against Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet as he went underneath Stenhouse, while playoff driver Christopher Bell received front-end damage on his No. 20 Toyota while hitting Chastain, who finished in last.

After a late round of pit stops in Stage 2, Byron held the lead in the final laps, but he lost the top spot on the final circuit as Austin Dillon pulled out and helped push Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 Ford to the point to win the most stage points.

With 27 laps to go, Keselowski turned Carson Hocevar’s No. 42 in the tri-oval, causing a melee that collected Keselowski, Ty Gibbs, Dillon, AJ Allmendinger and Harrison Burton and created a 10-minute red-flag period.

–Field Level Media

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