TALLADEGA, Ala. — Just when it appeared there would be no “Big One” at Talladega Superspeedway and drivers would exit the 2.66-mile monstrosity with nothing more severe than a mild case of fatigue, AJ Allmendinger made contact with Chase Elliott, Elliott made contact with the wall, Joey Logano made contact with Elliott and cars turned — over, sideways and every which way.
It was, indeed, the “Big One” at Talladega, and its toll on Sunday’s GEICO 500 field was not surprising. Officially 18 of the 40 cars that started the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race were involved to some degree. Some had dings and dents. They were the fortunate ones.
Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet came off the ground after being broadsided by Logano. Allmendinger’s No. 47 Chevy wound up on its roof. The three were among those running inside the top five, which made avoiding the spinning, crashing cars a bit of a challenge for those behind.
The wreck unfolded just shy of Lap 170 in a race only scheduled for 188, bringing an end to what had been a somewhat clean — if tense — afternoon of racing on NASCAR’s largest track.
Nine of the 18 cars went to the garage, not to be seen again.
Elliott and Allmendinger chatted after each was evaluated and released from the track’s infield care center.
“He just apologized,” Elliott said. “I don’t know that it was really his fault, per se. He had a big run and he kind of got to my bumper and just happened to be in a bad spot coming up off the corner, skewed a little bit to my left rear.
“And when that happens, it just unloads these cars too much.”
The Hendrick Motorsports driver, still seeking his first career victory, finished 30th.
Allmendinger remained buckled in his overturned JTG Daugherty entry while rescue workers righted the vehicle.
“I’m fine … happy I didn’t get hit upside down,” he said. “It’s just Talladega. It’s all it is. … The No. 18 (Kyle Busch) and No. 24 of Chase, they were kind of moving around and at the time I think (Kevin) Harvick got behind me and we were shoving.”
Elliott “opened the door,” said Allmendinger, who was credited with a 31st-place finish, “and then kind of closed it and I tried to check up a little bit and tapped him, and when I checked up it was a big wreck after that.”
As for Logano, twice a winner in the fall race here, the view out the windshield of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford was a disturbing one.
“I saw Chase tank-slapping it down the backstretch,” Logano said. “I was hoping he’d turn to the left when he started spinning, but he went up the race track and I was just sitting there in the outside lane saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to be the first one there and I can’t get away from him.’ ”
Logano finished 32nd, with he and most of the others involved officially making it to Lap 168 but no more.
“That’s kind of a bummer,” he said. “It’s part of it and part of superspeedway racing. Sometimes you win these things and sometimes you get caught up in them.”