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Keselowski bumps his way to victory in Talladega

by Pete McCole
Sunday, April 26, 2009

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left), driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet, congratulates Brad Keselowski (right), driver of the No. 09 Miccosukee Chevrolet, in Victory Lane on his first Sprint Cup Series win
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

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.

Brad Keselowski  driver of the No. 09 Miccosukee Chevrolet
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com
“Wow, pinch me. Am I awake?” said Keselowski in victory lane. “Man was that fun. We had a lot of fun today. I hope the fans did too because this is NASCAR racing and this is cool. This is the best show on earth.

“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.”

Carl Edwards

Flip Photos

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.”

And Edwards wasn’t the only driver with a torn-up racecar at the end of the day.

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.

Results

FIN

ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 9 09 Brad Keselowski Chevrolet Miccosukee Resort & Gaming 190/5 188 Running
2 11 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Amp Energy 175/5 188 Running
3 25 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Prelude to the Dream / U.S. Army 170/5 188 Running
4 34 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Little Debbie / Kingsford / Clorox 160/0 188 Running
5 8 82 Scott Speed * Toyota Red Bull 160/5 188 Running
6 28 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 155/5 188 Running
7 2 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 151/5 188 Running
8 30 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 147/5 188 Running
9 22 20 Joey Logano * Toyota The Home Depot 143/5 188 Running
10 20 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 139/5 188 Running
11 41 43 Reed Sorenson Dodge U.S. Air Force 130/0 188 Running
12 10 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 132/5 188 Running
13 24 98 Paul Menard Ford Turtle Wax / Menards 129/5 188 Running
14 17 187 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 126/5 188 Running
15 6 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet National Day of Prayer / Furniture Row 118/0 188 Running
16 15 07 Casey Mears Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 120/5 188 Running
17 13 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Dewalt 117/5 188 Running
18 43 113 Max Papis * Toyota GEICO 109/0 188 Running
19 39 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy 111/5 188 Running
20 1 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Tums Dual Action 108/5 188 Running
21 31 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA 105/5 188 Running
22 18 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Freight 102/5 188 Running
23 29 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Old Spice / Office Depot 94/0 188 Running
24 16 99 Carl Edwards Ford Claritin 96/5 188 Accident
25 23 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Pedigree 98/10 188 Running
26 33 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 85/0 188 Running
27 40 34 John Andretti Chevrolet Taco Bell 87/5 188 Running
28 12 96 Bobby Labonte Ford Ask.com 79/0 179 Accident
29 42 7 Robby Gordon Toyota Jim Beam 76/0 179 Accident
30 36 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 78/5 179 Accident
31 37 12 David Stremme Dodge Penske Racing 70/0 179 Accident
32 27 41 Jeremy Mayfield Toyota Big Red 72/5 179 Accident
33 3 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 69/5 179 Accident
34 4 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Penske Truck Rental / AAA 66/5 179 Accident
35 38 44 A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Hunt Brothers Pizza 58/0 164 Running
36 35 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 55/0 133 Running
37 14 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Pepsi Throwback Challenger / DuPont 52/0 128 Running
38 19 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 49/0 127 Running
39 5 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet BB&T 46/0 8 Running
40 26 171 David Gilliland Chevrolet TRG Motorsports 43/0 6 Accident
41 21 36 Scott Riggs Toyota Tommy Baldwin Racing 40/0 6 Accident
42 32 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 37/0 6 Accident
43 7 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Carquest / Kellogg's 34/0 6 Accident

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