William Byron wins Stage 1; rain forces postponement at Talladega
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- William Byron and his fellow playoff contenders are getting an extra day of suspense at Talladega Superspeedway.
NASCAR postponed the final two race stages until Monday after rain forced a halt moments after Byron won the first stage Sunday. It's the middle race of Round 2 in NASCAR's playoffs ahead of an elimination race at Kansas, making stakes high when they hit the track again.
Byron, who came in eighth in the standings, took the lead with three laps left in the first stage by passing Daniel Hemric. Three-time Talladega winner Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five. They were followed after Stage 1 by Kyle Larson, the only driver to have already secured a spot in the round of eight.
Chase Elliott started on the pole after winning at Talladega in April to end a streak of seven consecutive wins by Ford drivers at the Alabama superspeedway. He and his Hendrick Motorsports had the top four starting spots, including playoff contenders Byron and Bowman, along with Jimmie Johnson, who was seventh after the opening stage.
There weren't any wrecks at a track at which chaos often rules, with one of the few mishaps coming when Ryan Blaney spun out coming into pit road too fast.
"We got a little bit discombobulated there on the bottom lane about halfway through that stage and decided to ride in the back," Aric Almirola, the defending race champion, said on NBC. "I figured a lot of those guys in the playoff situation were going to get really aggressive racing for stage points, because I know some of them are pretty desperate.
"I thought that there might be potential for a wreck, and I didn't want to be part of that."
The rains came before that could happen. The Alabama superspeedway has a tight window with no lights to permit racing after dark.