Stenhouse Jr., famously known for dating Danica Patrick, captured his first win in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Series.

TALLADEGA, Ala. — NASCAR left Talladega Superspeedway Sunday night with a new race winner, a junkyard of crumpled race cars and a boost from a relatively large crowd on a pleasant, sunny day.

The series rolls on to Kansas Speedway for a Saturday night Mother’s Day weekend race, trailing the confetti from Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s breakthrough victory.

Five takeaways from Talladega:

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. can drive! After all the troubles, all the doubts, all the whispers at the back of garage stalls, the Mississippi driver showed skill and persistence in dueling with and passing Kyle Busch to score his first Cup victory. It took 158 races to get No. 1. The second likely will be easier.

Almost as difficult as Stenhouse’s ride to victory lane was that of his father, Ricky Stenhouse Sr. watched the race from a recreational vehicle outside the track near the backstretch. He frantically tried several avenues — including climbing a fence — to get into the track and to victory lane before being stopped by security personnel. A call to a track official resulted in Stenhouse being escorted to the celebration.


Treacherous Talladega: There is no answer to Talladega’s special brand of turmoil. Sunday’s race was stained by another in a long series of spectacular, multi-car wrecks at NASCAR’s biggest track. AJ Allmendinger and Chase Elliott took the wildest rides. No one was hurt, but the flirtation with calamity continues, emphasizing why drivers leave this track post-race with a certain level of relief.

PHOTOS: Notable wrecks at Talladega through the years

Joe Gibbs Racing: JGR will roll into Kansas Speedway still looking for its first win of the season. Gibbs’ four drivers — Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez — have scored only three stage wins in the season’s first four months. Busch and Hamlin were the top two lap leaders Sunday, however.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: His final spring race at Talladega, one of his favorite tracks, was not one of his best. He failed to lead a lap, lost a chance to race up front late in the race when he pitted with a loose left rear wheel and finished 22nd. The recent announcement of his impending retirement, however, boosted the size of Sunday’s crowd.


More violations: Despite the fact that NASCAR has been more than willing to hit teams with serious penalties for recent rules violations, they continue. Aric Almirola’s car failed the post-race laser inspection station Sunday, and a points penalty and suspension of crew chief Drew Blickensderfer is likely this week. Almirola, winner of Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, finished fourth Sunday.

2017 NASCAR Cup Series race winners