Even the best of friends can run into trouble on a racetrack. That was clear Sunday on the final lap of the GEICO 500 as Bubba Wallace and Ryan Blaney both battled for the lead. The two have been friends for a long time, a friendship that is intertwined with their climb to the Cup Series.
With the stakes at their highest, the two longtime buddies shared the lead for a majority of Sunday's race. But they made contact when it mattered most, and both left the race empty-handed in a double-overtime scramble to the finish. The fight for the lead came down to the final lap, with Wallace leading at the drop of the white flag and Blaney close behind him. As Blaney tried to make a race-winning move to the outside through turns one and two, Wallace blocked him multiple times to try to stop his run.
Wallace and Blaney Denied Overtime in Geico 500
Blaney's No. 12 Team Penske Ford and Wallace's No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota bounced off each other, which resulted in Wallace's car turning into the outside wall. The collision slowed Blaney down enough for the No. 8 of Kyle Busch to scoot past for the victory.
When it was all said and done, Blaney ended up with a runner-up finish while Wallace was relegated to a 28th-place finish. After getting checked and released from the infield care center, Wallace told reporters his thoughts.
"Just got jumped by the 12. No I pulled a late block, very close block, and that sent us around," said Wallace, who led 35 laps of the race, second only to Blaney's 47. "Not the 12's fault, I honestly thought he would just leave me high and dry coming back around, and so just hate it, hate it for my team."
Blaney agreed with Wallace's version of events, saying he was in a tough spot where he couldn't afford to lose his momentum.
"I mean, it is so hard to block in these cars. I felt like he kind of triple-moved on me. Can't really do that," Blaney said in his post-race interview. "I mean, he blocked the middle, the bottom, and the top where I was. It's a shame he got turned, but I don't what else I could've done."
Both drivers are former winners at Talladega, and they both looked the part again on Sunday. Wallace was in contention late in the race but had spent most of the day at the front. As for Blaney, he didn't get to the front until the final stage of the race, but that is when you want your car to be at its best. As for their friendship, Blaney said their bonds can only go so far during the pressure of competition.
"You never want to have someone turned off the front end of your nose, no matter the situation, more so to someone that is your friend," Blaney said. "But you know everyone's competitors out there, and it's not like I'm going to race Bubba any less hard than anyone else. Maybe if it was someone you don't really like, you wouldn't bat an eye, but when it's your buddy, it's tough. 'Man, that just kind of stinks that one of us got turned.' "
Neither driver was able to come away with the victory, but both will move on and try again next week. But for Blaney, his winless streak now stands at 56 races, and he was asked about what else can he do to shake it.
"Every single day," Blaney said. "Every single day."
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