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Kenseth wins as chaos ensues at Talladega

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Sunday, October 07, 2012

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Kenseth celebrates
Getty Images for NASCAR

The Big One waited until the final corner.

Matt Kenseth escaped a massive pileup in Turn 4 on Lap 189 of Sunday's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to win the fourth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Jeff Gordon likewise dodged the 25-car crash -- triggered by contact between Tony Stewart's Chevrolet and Michael Waltrip's Toyota -- and ran second, followed by Kyle Busch, David Ragan and Regan Smith.

Brad Keselowski finished seventh and extended his championship lead to 14 points over Jimmie Johnson, whose Chevrolet was heavily damaged in the wreck and limped home in 17th.

The handling of Kenseth's car was on the loose side, forcing the driver of the No. 17 Ford to run the middle lane. That turned out to be a blessing, as Stewart and Waltrip collided near the bottom of the track.

Tony Stewart wrecks 20 cars on last lap
Getty Images for NASCAR
"The track kept getting looser for me as the day went on and we never could get it tightened up," said Kenseth, who posted his second victory of the season, his first at Talladega and the 23rd of his career. "On the last lap, that's why I chose the middle groove. I knew I couldn't be on the bottom or I'd get spun out, so I had to run the middle or the top to try to make a move. . . .

"I didn't know what was going happen and I'm still not sure what happened. Somehow, I think Tony got turned and caused a big wreck."

Jamie McMurray, who had led 39 laps, spun in the tri-oval on lap 183, as he got a push from Kevin Harvick. McMurray brought out the fourth caution but, amazingly, no other cars were collected in the incident.

Clint Bowyer led the field to the restart on Lap 188, but Stewart quickly took the point. Trying to block Waltrip in the final corner, Stewart turned across the nose of the No. 55 Toyota and triggered the wreck.

"I just screwed up," Stewart said. "I turned down across -- I think it was Michael -- and crashed the whole field. It was my fault, blocking to try to stay where I was at. I take 100 percent of the blame.

"I was trying to win the race, trying to stay ahead of Matt there, and Michael got a great run on the bottom, had a big head of steam. When I turned down, I turned down across the right-front of his car. It was just a mistake on my part, but it cost a lot of people a bad day because of it."

Gordon wasn't surprised at the last-lap chaos. He was surprised it didn't happen earlier.

"I don't know how we made it to the white flag," said Gordon. "Coming through that trioval, being hit from behind, hitting the guy in front of me, you're sandwiched in between, basically. There are cars doing the same thing on that side of you, cars on that side of them doing the same thing.

"I really don't know how we made it to the white flag. It was just insane. But you're doing all you can to try to move your lane and hope that you make it back around. In today's case, we did."

The first round of green-flag pit stops proved the undoing -- albeit temporarily -- of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Trevor Bayne, all of whom were flagged for speeding on pit road. After serving pass-through penalties, all three drivers were lapped by the pack.

Just past the halfway point, Kenseth surged past Kurt Busch into the lead, marking a full recovery from a Lap 42 spin off the bumper of teammate Biffle and subsequent spectacular save.

Bayne got his lap back as the "lucky dog" on Lap 99, when Kurt Busch lost fuel pressure off Turn 2 and spun off the bumper of McMurray's Chevrolet, slamming the wall and causing the second caution of the afternoon.

Driving James Finch's Phoenix Racing Chevrolet for the final time before debuting for Furniture Row Racing next weekend at Charlotte, Busch --helmet off and out of radio contact with his team and NASCAR -- drove away from the accident scene before NASCAR had cleared him and was parked for his effrontery.

It wasn't until 40 laps later that Earnhardt and Kyle Busch regained their lost laps. Earnhardt paced the field as the last car on the lead lap when NASCAR called a caution for debris on Lap 39. Busch also rejoined the lead lap as the highest-scored lapped car, and restarted third on Lap 144 after the vast majority of drivers returned to pit road to top off their fuel tanks on Lap 142.

Caught up in the wreck on the last lap, Earnhardt came home 20th.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 15 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Ford Ecoboost / National Breast Cancer Foundation 47/1 189 Running
2 6 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 43/1 189 Running
3 13 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 42/1 189 Running
4 25 34 David Ragan Ford MHP / 8 Hour Alert 41/1 189 Running
5 5 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M / National Breast Cancer Foundation 40/1 189 Running
6 28 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 38/0 189 Running
7 22 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 37/0 189 Running
8 36 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 37/1 189 Running
9 2 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 35/0 189 Running
10 26 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar /DriveCat.com 35/1 189 Running
11 23 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Freight 33/0 189 Running
12 9 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 32/0 189 Running
13 1 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet HendrickCars.com 32/1 189 Running
14 21 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser 31/1 189 Running
15 32 38 David Gilliland Ford Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts / Margaret Holmes 29/0 189 Running
16 31 32 Terry Labonte Ford C&J Energy Services 28/0 189 Running
17 17 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 28/1 189 Running
18 40 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Scott / Kingsford / Bush Beans 26/0 189 Running
19 8 21 Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane / Warriors in Pink 0 189 Running
20 18 43 Aric Almirola Ford Gwaltney 24/0 189 Running
21 12 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew "Paint the 88" / National Guard 24/1 189 Running
22 4 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Mobil 1 / Office Depot 23/1 189 Running
23 3 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-Hour Energy Benefiting Avon Foundation for Women 22/1 189 Running
24 10 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge SKF 0 189 Running
25 11 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota Charlie Loudermilk Aaron's Dream Machine 19/0 189 Running
26 19 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 19/1 189 Running
27 20 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Dewalt 18/1 189 Running
28 16 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet CertainTeed Insulation / Menards 16/0 189 Running
29 39 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Golden Corral 15/0 189 Running
30 38 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 14/0 189 Running
31 34 98 Michael McDowell Ford K-Love / Curb Records 13/0 189 Running
32 14 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 12/0 187 Running
33 30 30 David Stremme Toyota SwanEnergyInc.com 11/0 187 Running
34 24 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Allstate 12/2 185 In Pit
35 43 23 Robert Richardson Jr. Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 0 180 In Pit
36 7 99 Carl Edwards Ford Subway 8/0 179 Running
37 41 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet CVP@TMone.com 7/0 163 Out of Race
38 27 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target / Gillette 6/0 156 Out of Race
39 29 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 6/1 98 Running
40 42 33 Cole Whitt Chevrolet Little Joes Autos.com 0 16 Running
41 37 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 0 12 In Pit
42 35 97 Timmy Hill Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 2/0 8 Out of Race
43 33 26 Josh Wise * Ford MDS Transport 1/0 5 In Pit

* Denotes Rookie

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