NASCAR Talladega Notebook: Ryan Blaney Delivers Top-Five To Wood Brothers Racing

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Mark McCarter~ NASCAR Wire Service

Action during the Sprint Cup GEICO 500 at Talladega on Sunday (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Action during the Sprint Cup GEICO 500 at Talladega on Sunday (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

TALLADEGA, Ala.– It has been almost 35 years since the Wood Brothers enjoyed their last victory at Talladega Superspeedway, with the late Neil Bonnett behind the wheel. But in the late stages of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500, there seemed a possibility of making history again in the No. 21 Ford.

Ryan Blaney, the 22-year-old son of long-time NASCAR fixture Dave Blaney, steadily rode on the rear bumper of Jimmie Johnson in the final stretch, ready to pounce on the opportunity should Johnson and race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. ignore him.

Blaney finished fourth—Paul Menard sneaked past him into third when the field broke apart on the dash toward the checkered flag—for his best Sprint Cup finish.

“It was a good day,” Blaney said. “We had a fast car and a good starting spot (he qualified third). We went back a couple times and came back up through there. … It’s good to get a good finish with these guys and we’re really excited to go to Charlotte.” (The Wood Brothers run only a limited schedule and will not enter Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway.)

This was the NASCAR Next alum’s second Talladega start and he raced at Daytona in February, but acknowledged that his inexperience affected other drivers’ willingness to work with him.

“You’ve got to go through that rookie deal in the beginning, even the middle of the race nobody wants to go with you,” he said. “Luckily, about three-quarters of the way through the race we made a couple strong moves and guys went with us, and I think that helped put us in position later in the race for guys sticking with us. The yellow stripes back there don’t help out at all, but hopefully this helps us out for the next Daytona.”


Hendrick Motorsports started the race 1-2 and finished that way. However, it was four different drivers filling those spots.

Jeff Gordon was the Coors Light Pole-sitter with Kasey Kahne on the outside pole. Those cars are produced in the same shop.

Then Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson, whose cars are produced in another shop, were 1-2 at the finish line.

“Hats off to Dale Jr. and that whole team, and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports,” Gordon said. “Boy, we had amazing cars this weekend.”

“The Hendrick cars and engines were just extremely tough today,” Denny Hamlin said.

Kahne’s day was ruined when he was trapped in a 14-car crash on lap 47 and Gordon’s hopes for victory were scuttled when he was caught speeding down pit road during a late caution period.

Ironically, Gordon was a guest analyst on FOX’s XFINITY race broadcast on Saturday and talked about how “you’ve got to get to pit road without locking the tires up,” he said. “I thought I was plenty conservative there but the tires were worn out and I just carried too much speed to pit road and kind of locked the tires up I was just speeding. I couldn’t get the car slowed down.”


David Ragan made his final run in the No. 18 Toyota as a substitute for the injured Kyle Busch, a seat now to be filled by NASCAR Next alum Erik Jones. Ragan moves on to take over the No. 55 Toyota of Michael Waltrip Racing next Saturday night in Kansas.

“I wish Kansas was in about an hour,” Ragan said after being caught up in an early wreck and completing only 123 of 188 laps. “I just don’t like the five or six days that you have to dwell and think about last week’s race. Certainly, this is not a good race to go out on. I was hoping we could get a good finish and contend for a win here today, but just wasn’t meant to be. We had a lot of fun. We didn’t end on a good note, but you have that at Talladega sometimes.”


Greg Ives, the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., won his first race in Sprint Cup, but he nearly missed the race.

On Saturday, his eight-year-old daughter Payton broke her arm in a playground accident, requiring surgery. Earnhardt offered to fly Ives back to Charlotte to be with his daughter, but Payton talked her father into remaining at Talladega.

“I wanted to give him that obligation to choose,” Earnhardt said. “She’s tough as nails and she told him not to come home. She was mad at him for the call he (made) in Richmond.”

Earnhardt related encountering a downcast Ives after that race, only to learn that “he’s worried about what she’s going to tell him when he got home. It’s good she keeps him honest.”


Daniel Noltemeyer, a 33-year-old from Louisville who was named winner of the annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award last year, was a visitor to Talladega Superspeedway Sunday morning.

Noltemeyer, who has Down syndrome, established Best Buddies Kentucky, a foundation that creates opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He has become a spokesperson for the foundation and works for more inclusion for those with disabilities.

The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, now in its fifth year, includes a $100,000 from The NASCAR Foundation to Best Buddies Kentucky. People may nominate dedicated NASCAR fans who have made a profound impact on the lives of children in their community at through May 8.

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