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Multiple NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers crashed during the closing laps of Stage 2 in Sunday’s YellaWood 500 Round of 12 race at Talladega Superspeedway.
The big wreck occurred on Lap 108 when Jimmie Johnson got a huge shove from Clint Bowyer toward the front of the field. The push upset Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, causing Johnson to lose control and slide into Kurt Busch’s No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in the tri-oval. That contact veered Busch’s car head-on into the outside wall, landing on top of Cole Custer in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
“It was a wild ride,” Busch told NBC after being checked and released from the infield care center. “That’s the nature of this sport. … I was hoping for a nice, smooth run and gain some points. … That’s just Talladega, man.”
The melee collected a host of playoff drivers, including Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch. Bowyer was unable to continue due heavy damage on the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, retiring from the race. Bowyer came into Sunday’s 500-mile race 20 points below the cutline.
“You’ve got to go,” Bowyer told NBC of the wreck. “You’ve got to push him. The 22 and the 21 were trying and obviously they gave up on it for some reason. As soon as I got to him I push him in the front and the whole rear of the car went down and I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ and before I know it he was tank swapping all over the place. I don’t know if that was how they had their cars built or whatever, but as soon as you got close to him he was all over the place. Obviously didn’t mean to wreck him, but you’re going hard and three-wide and people are behind you pushing. I was hoping he would save it, but he didn’t and we all wrecked.”
Busch also retired from the race, but a win in last Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has automatically advanced him into the Round of 8.
Johnson received significant damage but was able to continue in the race after repairs.
Other drivers involved in the incident: Ryan Preece, Brennan Poole, Brendan Gaughan and Daniel Suarez.