The third super speedway race of the 2023 NASCAR season produced an exciting race. We saw a great finish for the first two stages, and the most three-wide action we've seen at a plate in the Next Gen era so far - so we definitely can't complain. The first hundred laps were really clean other than a handful of single-car wrecks, but as always things heated up at the and there were several big crashes.
Kyle Busch Backs Into Another One
Kyle Busch took home the checkered flag for the first time at Talladega in 15 years on Sunday, and admitted himself he got lucky. After coming out of the gates swinging this year with his strong showing at the Clash, Daytona, and winning at Fontana, Busch has definitely cooled off in the last month or so. Kyle Busch made the call to stay out on the final caution after crew chief Randall Burnett ordered him to pit, but it clearly worked out for them. But now he becomes the first non-Hendrick driver to win multiple races this season and continues to pile in playoff points.
Ryan Blaney Comes Up Short Again
There's been a lot of talk this season about Ryan Blaney this year and his career as a whole. It's been nearly two years since his last win, and honestly I'm worried about him in a way. Early in his career he was notorious for being fast all race, then almost winning. Now 10 years into his Cup career we're still talking about Ryan Blaney coming up short of winning - quite often actually. It would be ridiculous to call him anything other than a top-10 driver in the sport, but his ability to continually come upvshort is quite worrying and I imagine quite frustrating for Blaney fans. After three straight finishes of worse than 20th, he rebounded with a 7th place finish at Martinsville and 2nd at Talladega. Hopefully this is a sign of the No. 12 team figuring it out and getting on track to go back to their winning ways.
Scary Crash Shows Potential Next Gen Car Weakness
A story that I think will get talked a lot about moving forward is the damage Kyle Larson sustained in his late-race wreck with Ryan Preece. After contact with Ross Chastain and Noah Gragson sent Gragson to the outside wall, Kyle Larson was turned in the melee and came back up the track directly into the path of Ryan Preece. Preece's in-car video of the wreck was terrifying to watch - but equally as terrifying was the damaged roll cage on Larson's car. Luckily both drivers were okay, but imagine if that hit happened on Larson's driver's side of the car. That would've been scary. Hopefully this is a one time issue but I'm sure NASCAR will look into it.
FRM Drama Could Heat Up
A very underrated storyline this season is the whole Zane Smith and Todd Gilliland drama. I have never really been a huge fan of Todd's (not a hater either) but he's 100% earned my respect this season. Zane Smith clearly has a bunch of talent and high-paying sponsors backing him. For some reason instead of entering the #36 car, he is taking Todd's place in the #38. This move just doesn't make sense to me - but it's the direction FRM is pursuing. Regardless, this could result in FRM losing Gilliland as a driver. If he gets a call from any other Cup team, I'm sure he'd make the move right away given his treatment this year. It is kind of funny that Smith wrecked out so early and Gilliland earned another top-10 as well. I just don't understand why Front Row is giving this special treatment to Zane Smith, unless Ford is giving them a lot of big paychecks. regardless of the reasoning, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Underdogs Get Good Finishes
JJ Yeley was originally scored with a top-10 finish, but was officially given an 11th place finish. Good run by him today that deserved a top-10, but just missed out. Erik Jones got a solid 6th place finish, which was two spots higher than his previous season-best finish at Atlanta earlier this season. Legacy MC has had a rough 2023 so far, but unfortunately missed out on a potential huge day if Gragson could've capped off his strong run. Chris Buescher, who was a standout driver in 2022, scored his second top-5 of the season, his first since the Daytona 500. RFK's day was even better after the final results were updated, because it handed Brad Keselowski his second top-5 of the season as well. Remarkably, RFK's four top-5s this season has all came on super speedways.
Xfinity Race Chaos
I usually don't talk about the Xfinity races on these reactions - but I'm going to take a second here. What a wild race with Blain Perkins' crazy barrel roll wreck, and then Daniel Henric's catch fence crash. That entire race was crazy from start to finish. The Xfinity package is so good - they get massive runs and always are three and four wide. I wish we could see the same thing about the cup race. However there is the change that NASCAR sees the two big flips in the Xfinity and changes the package, but hopefully not.