Stenhouse powers way to victory

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. pulled off a stock-car racing magic trick at Talladega Superspeedway: He started first and finished first.

Earnhardt started behind only pole-sitter - and eventual race victor Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - at a track where he's won six times, more than any other active driver.

"It's been a long time coming", added Stenhouse, a MS native, now in his fifth full season of Cup competition, "We've run really well here at Talladega". To no surprise, "The Big One" collected 18 cars. Elliott was then hit by Joey Logano, and that contact caused Elliott's vehicle to lift onto Logano's hood. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had another issue, this one not caused by Jimmie Johnson.

"Just got to keep, myself, got to keep working hard".

"Now, we've finally got all those pieces in place to make sure we can maintain that speed and maintain that performance", Stenhouse said. Larson didn't lead any laps Sunday.

Earnhardt, who's on his farewell tour after saying this will be his final season, made a late surge but had his victory chances end when he was forced to pit with 14 laps remaining. Stenhouse started the race from the pole, and was able to lead the field early in Sunday's race. However, the "one manufacturer, one team" approach went out the window in the closing laps of the race, and that should not be a surprise. The two-car McLaren-Honda team has failed to finish six times out of eight opportunities in the four races this year.

"But I got the feeling that it was just one of those days where he was going to make it happen".

"I mean, it's really circumstantial as to what the guys do in front of you and what is happening behind you", McMurray said. Yet more importantly, certain drivers emerged as the competitors who had the fastest cars and who could work the draft the best over the course of the race. His auto did not even make the green flag in the most recent race.

McMurray finished second in a Chevrolet and was followed by Busch in a Toyota, then Aric Almirola, another Ford driver and victor of the Xfinity Series race Saturday. More than one competitor has remarked over the years that the former sprint auto standout couldn't acclimate to significantly longer races where conserving one's equipment and tires is paramount. Brad Keselowski won stage one and was a contender for much of the race but claimed seventh. And we were lucky to get to pit road and get it changed.

Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Trevor Bayne, Logano, Paul Menard, Patrick, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones rounded out the top 10.

After a stoppage of 26 minutes, 51 seconds to clean up the wreckage, Kyle Busch led the field to green on lap 174 with JGR teammate Denny Hamlin beside him and Earnhardt running third. Of course, when that first win comes after a few wild, breakneck, overtime laps at the sport's most chaotic superspeedway, a little leeway is probably in order.

Kasey Kahne moved up to fifth by the finish and Kurt Busch was sixth. The polls are open, and the driver with the most votes at the cutoff (11:59 p.m. on May 19) will earn the final spot in the exhibition race that will make an instant millionaire of the victor.

A Saturday night stop at Kansas Speedway.