Stenhouse scores 1st career Cup victory with last-lap pass

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) - A loose wheel stopped Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s pursuit of another Talladega triumph.

He won back-to-back Xfinity Series championships in 2011 and 2012 and received rookie of the year honors on the Xfinity and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but success in NASCAR's top series proved elusive during his first four years as a full-time Cup Series driver with only 17 top-10 finishes and no victories in 148 career races.

All Stenhouse Jr. knew going into the post-race press conference was that his dad "got escorted to Victory Lane" by track security, and he didn't seem terribly surprised that his dad was so overwhelmed with excitement he nearly got arrested.

"Something just wasn't right", noted Earnhardt, who will make one last Talladega start in October, before his retirement at season's end, "I'm glad I got out of there when I did because we only had one lug left on it and it was going to come off in the race". It's been a good one in the past.

Stenhouse started from the pole and praised the power from his Doug Yates-built Ford engine for the speed. He started the GEICO 500 on the pole and fought hard for the win all day, but it seemed as if he was going to lose out to Kyle Busch.

"I've felt like the way our cars have performed and the way they've driven, I've felt like we could get something in victory lane before the season was up".

"We've brought a lot of people to the victory circle over the years", said Jack Roush, a 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee. This is cool. The closest track to my hometown (Olive Branch, Mississippi). Stenhouse, who has led a resurgent Roush team, won in his 158th Cup start. Busch, in third place, trailed McMurray at the stripe by a mere.004 seconds.

He literally bounced past leader Kyle Busch, who appeared to be breaking away on the final restart.

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"It'll be nice to lead the field to green here", Stenhouse said before the start of the race.

"Stenhouse got a really good run and a good push and got by us there, and then it was just about retaliation to get back on him, and I just never had enough help from behind and just never got it together", Busch said. "This has been a really good track for me", said McMurray, a two-time victor at Tallladega. We did all we could here today.

The most dramatic circumstance on Sunday occurred on the backstretch on lap 169 of a scheduled 188. The Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be run on the Speedway road course for the fourth time next weekend and after that the focus turns to the 101 running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 28. But the crash bunched the field and, a short while later, Elliott had his vehicle almost turned over after contact from A.J. Allmendinger, who did end up on his roof.

The nose of Allmendinger's auto launched Elliott's into the air, and his vehicle landed on the hood of Joey Logano's Ford. Major names such as Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, martin Truex Jr. and last year's race victor Brad Keselowski were among those involved.

Denny Hamlin gave Toyota its first taste of the front of the field as he won the second stage.

"Craig Stanton said, 'No matter what, keep your foot in it, and we got 230 miles per hour, ' " Edwards said. The cars boiled off the corners and down the back straight en route to an eventual 26 lead changes. He finished 22nd in his final spring race at NASCAR's largest oval track.

A second straight top-10 finish for Almirola will come with a price after the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports driver's vehicle failed post-race inspection. They said, 'Who are you?'

Notes: Stenhouse is the 11th first-time victor at Talladega. McMurray climbed to fifth in the series standings in what is rapidly becoming a banner year for Chip Ganassi Racing.

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