Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started Sunday's Geico 500 from the pole and used a last-lap pass to finish the race right where he started, in the first position. He was the beneficiary of a late caution for Ryan Newman which sent the race into overtime, setting up his late pass.
Stenhouse leads field to green
Stenhouse Jr. led the field to the green flag with Dale Earnhardt Jr. running right beside him. Stenhouse led the first 12 laps before Kevin Harvick went around him on the low side of the track. He only led for one lap before Brad Keselowski got a run and claimed the lead. He was leading when the first caution of the day came on Lap 17 after Kyle Larson hit the wall for the second time in as many laps.
The caution allowed the leaders to hit pit road, putting them inside the fuel window to make it to the end of the first stage. Clint Bowyer won the race off pit road and led the field to green with Stewart-Haas teammate Harvick running in the second position. Kyle Busch took the lead on Lap 28 thanks to a push from Martin Truex Jr., but he lost the lead on Lap 34 when Keselowski narrowly took the lead at the line.
Keselowski wins stage one
Keselowski never looked back in the stage, as he won with Stenhouse Jr., Busch, Truex Jr. and Trevor Bayne rounding out the top five in the first stage. Hamlin won the race off pit road and led the field back to the green flag to start stage two, which he held until Lap 80 when Busch took the lead for the second time of the race.
Busch led on Lap 82 when the caution flag returned, this time after Reed Sorenson hit the front stretch wall hard. All the lead cars hit pit road, and Busch led them off and to the green flag. He lost it on Lap 89 when Newman took the lead before being overtaken two laps later by Bowyer.
Hamlin takes stage two
Bowyer was almost immediately passed by Hamlin, who cruised to the stage two win. Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five in the stage. After the field made another round of pit stops, Kenseth led the field to the green flag. Harvick regained the top spot on Lap 123 and gave it up to Harvick on Lap 127, who was passed one lap later by Johnson.
Green flag pit stops began on Lap 144, and after the field cycled through it was all Toyota in the top-five, with Busch leading the pack. He was leading on Lap 160 when the caution flag flew after Blaney found the backstretch wall.
The big one strikes
Busch led the field to the green flag on Lap 165, and was in the lead on Lap 168 when the “big one” struck, as almost 20 cars were involved, Aric Almirola ended up on his roof, and Chase Elliott rode on the wall for a little while. The large wreck prompted NASCAR to throw the red flag to allow for clean-up, though everybody ended up being OK.
Larson got the free pass, and the green flag returned on Lap 173 with Busch still leading. It was a clean restart, and the green flag stayed out until Lap 178 when the yellow was again displayed, this time after Landon Cassill was unable to fully get off the track, and ended up stalling out near the exit.
Newman hits wall setting up late restart
Busch led the field to the restart with just seven laps left and had his hands full as everybody was trying to do anything to get to the front. It looked like he would cruise to the win but Newman hit the wall with three laps to go to bring out another caution and set up a green-white-checkered finish.
Busch took the green flag, but when he came around to take the white flag, he was side-by-side with Stenhouse Jr. The final lap saw Stenhouse pass Busch coming out of turn two after a push from Johnson, then it was Stenhouse blocking every lane coming back to the checkered flag, where Stenhouse came across the line first to pick up his first win of the season.
McMurray finished second, with Busch in third, Almirola finished in fourth, with Kasey Kahne in fifth. Kurt Busch, Keselowski, Johnson, Paul Menard, and David Ragan rounded out the top-10 finishers. It was an entertaining end to the race and sets up the next race at Kansas perfectly.
The Monster Energy Cup Series will next be in action Saturday, May 13 when they take to the Kansas Speedway for the Go Bowling 400. They will be joined by the Camping World Truck Series, which has been off since April 1. They will take to the track on Friday night for the Toyota Tundra 250.