Keselowski bumps his way to victory in Talladega
Brad Keselowski notched his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in dramatic fashion on Sunday, taking the checked flag as Carl Edwards sailed into the catch fence on the final lap of the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Keselowski and Edwards pulled out from the rest of the field in a final five-lap shootout before Keselowski got inside of Edwards as they came to the checkered flag, making contact that sent Edwards airborne into the car of Ryan Newman and into the catch fence just short of the flag stand.
Edwards emerged unhurt and proceeded to jog toward the finish line.
Keselowski’s victory came in just his fifth Sprint Cup start running a partial schedule driving cars fielded by Hendrick Motorsports and Phoenix Motorsports owner James Finch, who also picked up his first win as a car owner in the series.
“I've got to apologize to Carl (Edwards) for wrecking him at the end. The rule is you can't go below the yellow line and he blocked and I wasn't going below it. I don't want to wreck a guy but you're forced in that situation. There was nothing else I could do.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Keselowski’s mentor and car owner in the Nationwide Series, finished second. Newman, despite the crash damage, managed to make it across the finish line in third. Marcos Ambrose and Scott Speed rounded out the top five.
“I had to deal with the No. 39 Ryan (Newman) to break away from the pack,” said Earnhardt. “We were staying tied together and there's no way anybody could catch us and (Edwards and Keselowski) were smart enough to move up which the higher lane had been easier and faster and winding the car out better all day.
“They were smart enough to run in the middle and here they come. I couldn't believe Brad (Keselowski) was pushing that No. 99. I would have guessed anybody else. He did an awesome job.”
The final dash to the finish was precipitated by the second multi-car crash of the day on lap 180. When the dust settled, Newman was out in front followed by Earnhardt.
Communicating through their spotters, Newman and Earnhardt drafted together on the final restart to separate them from the rest of the field. The strategy appeared to work as Newman and Earnhardt opened up sizable gap from the rest of the pack.
Edwards and Keselowski, restarting 9th and 11th respectively, linked up and shot through the field in the middle groove, blasting past Newman and Earnhardt on the final lap.
Keselowski drafted behind Edwards tucked right on his bumper and made his move as the two came through the tri-oval on the final lap.
Keselowski looked to the outside and then dived inside as Edwards moved up to block. Edwards then down came across Keselowski’s nose, spun, and got airborne. Edwards’s Ford Fusion was then hit in midair by the Chevrolet of Ryan Newman, sending Edwards into the catch fence.
Edwards' car suffered significant front-end damage before coming to rest just short of the flag stand. Edwards emerged unhurt and then in the spirit of “Talladega Nights” character Ricky Bobby, jogged to the start-finish line.
“I just felt like I needed to finish the race,” said Edwards, who ended up finishing 24th. “That's too damn close to walk away. And I was very happy not to be hurt.
“We were just racing for the win,” said Edwards of the crash. “Brad did everything right. He faked high, he went low and I didn't think he was all the way in there and I tried to block and I got turned, but that's racing at Talladega. NASCAR puts us in this box and we'll race like this until we kill somebody and then they'll change it, but I'm just glad nobody got hurt today.
“That's the first time I've flipped in a race car. That's it, so we got that out of the way.”
The “Big One” reared it’s ugly head early in the 188-lap race with the first multi-car crash happening on lap seven after Jeff Gordon got bumped by Matt Kenseth, touching off a 14-car pileup that claimed many of the top contenders including last week’s winner Mark Martin and eventually cost Gordon the points lead.
Then, with nine laps to go, another melee broke out on the backstretch after Denny Hamlin made contact with pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya, collecting nine cars including Jimmie Johnson, Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte and Robby Gordon.
Kurt Busch took a wild ride trough the tri-oval but was able to recover and takes over the points lead from Jeff Gordon, who now trails by five points. Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin make up the rest of the top five.
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