The NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega has been suspended until Monday afternoon, after rain left the field stranded in the pitlane after 55 of the scheduled 188 laps.
Having begun racing at 2pm local time on Sunday afternoon, the 40-strong field for the second race in the ’round of 8′ was able to complete stage one, with Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron scooping the 10 points for victory in the segment.
Moments after stage one had ended and preparations began for the start of the second 55-lapper, rain started to fall over the superspeedway, leading to a delay of around two hours before the decision was made by series bosses to delay the remainder of the race until 2pm local time on Monday.
The racing that was possible was a slipstreaming fest, with 15 changes of lead for the race among 12 different leaders and Ryan Blaney leading a stage high 12 laps.
At the start, Penske’s Brad Keselowski was pushed into the lead by fellow Ford Mustang exponent Clint Bowyer, before Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch took brief turns in the lead.
The running settled down when Busch’s brother Kurt, in the #1 Chip Ganassi Chevrolet hit the front on lap eight, staying there for 11 tours of the 2.66-mile circuit, until Blaney made a pass for the lead, assisted by Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick.
Blaney looked comfortable in the lead until he, Harvick and Bowyer pitted at the end of lap 34.
Blaney attacked the pit-entry too fast, and spun onto the infield. The #12 was also slapped with a drive-through for speeding in the pitlane.
A larger gaggle of cars responded on the next lap, with the likes of Denny Hamlin, who had made up 33 places in the opening five laps from the back of the grid in his Toyota Camry #11 Joe Gibbs entry, polesitter Chase Elliott and Hendrick team-mate Jimmie Johnson making their stops.
As the order cycled out after the first round of stops, a caution was thrown for the stopped Spencer Boyd, with Keselowski leading from Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano on the lap 40 restart.
Tactical work from the manufacturers was then evident, with the Chevrolet runners working together, deploying the high line that allowed Byron to hit the front on lap 51,
He regained the position on the final tour of the stage after Logano had made a move and was able to hold the lead until the end.
Logano will start the rescheduled race in second as the highest Ford runner, with Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Johnson, Suarez, Blaney and Kurt Busch rounding out the top 10.
The highest Toyota runner will be Matt DiBenedetto in 11th.