On the Longest Day at Talladega – in a war of attrition that required three red flags and left 14 cars running at the finish – Brad Keselowski powered his No. 2 Team Penske Ford past the No. 31 Chevrolet of Ryan Newman on the final lap to win Sunday's Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Two laps after the final restart on Lap 186 of 188, Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano ganged up on Newman, who held the runner-up position after Keselowski shot past him. Trevor Bayne ran third in a damaged No. 6 Ford, with Logano and Aric Almirola finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
Denny Hamlin came home sixth, the only Playoff driver other than Keselowski whose car wasn't heavily damaged in one of the myriad wrecks that punctuated an event that consumed 3 hours, 53 minutes, 17 seconds – not including the three stoppages that totaled 35 minutes, 29 seconds.
But in winning for the fifth time at Talladega, the third time this season and the 24th time in his career, Keselowski claimed the important prize – a ticket into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' Round of 8.
In his final run at Talladega in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, pole winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. restarted third after the 11th and final caution, tried unsuccessfully to push Keselowski to the lead through the first two corners and fell back to seventh at the finish.
"I feel like only eight cars finished the race," said Keselowski, who gave Ford its seventh straight victory in restrictor – plate races, despite running much of the final stage with a broken radio antenna and intermittent communication with his spotter and crew chief. "It was one of those crazy days. I think we've seen that at the plate tracks this year – a lot of attrition…
"This is still sinking in. It's a special place to get to race and a special place when you win here. It was really a collaborative effort with the team and getting a real fast car and making the right moves as a driver and a lot of help from up above with staying out of those wrecks. It really takes all three and we had them all today."
Though Newman surged to the front after the final restart, he assumed his stint at the point would be short – lived.
"We held them off longer than I expected," Newman said. "I couldn't tell how much nose damage I had and I hadn't led all day, so I didn't know what to expect. I saw the No. 2 car in the mirror backing up and then he lost his draft and then he backed up again and he caught the No. 22 (Logano). That was all it took for him to get a good run.
"I would have maybe played it differently and backed it up in hindsight, backed up to them in hindsight, but I don't think it would have made a difference. They were double – teaming me, and it was still a good race to finish second with the Caterpillar Chevrolet."
|Kyle Busch (18) and Martin Truex, Jr. (78) were among those collected in a 16-car pileup on lap 173|
Any of the 10 Playoff contenders whose cars were heavily damaged in wrecks throughout the race would have gladly settled for second. Jamie McMurray was out of the race after 25 laps, his car destroyed in a six – car collision off Turn 4. That was a harbinger of the intense action to come. Playoff drivers Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick all suffered varying degrees of damage in a 16 – car accident triggered by series leader Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 172.
"Well, I tried to get into a hole that was closing up at the wrong time," said Truex, who already had earned a berth in the Round of 8 by winning last Sunday at Charlotte. "By the time that I got in the brakes trying to get out of there I got into the 38 (David Ragan) a little bit on the right rear and he got squirrely out there and all hell broke loose. Just was trying to get to the end and get some track position and try to get towards the front and have a good day and ended up causing a wreck.
"So I hate it for everybody. We definitively had nothing to lose today, but at the same time, you don't want to be the person that causes others problems. Even though I feel like I've never been that guy here before, it looks like today I was, so I hate it for all of those guys and all of their teams. I wish I didn't make that mistake. Just 18 (laps) to go at Talladega, trying to get going and trying to fill a hole. Bad judgement and should have been more patient."
That wreck caused the first red flag. The second came after a Lap 178 accident that ended Harvick's day and that of Playoff contender Ryan Blaney, who had led 27 laps, second only to Logano's 59.
The final caution on Lap 183 – followed by the third red flag – wiped out the Chevrolets of Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, who were fighting for position at the front of the field when contact from Daniel Suarez's Toyota ignited a six – car melee that raised the crash toll of Playoff drivers to 10.
The enormous attrition set up a scramble for the final six Playoff positions entering next Sunday's elimination race at Kansas Speedway. Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Stenhouse and McMurray are below the current cut line, but only 29 points separate Harvick in fourth place from Busch in ninth.
Martin Truex Jr. (3,120 points, 1 win) leads the points standings heading into the final race in the Round of 12 of the MENCS Playoffs. The rest of the field is as follows: Keselowski 3101 (-19 behind leader), Kyle Larson 3096 (-24), Kevin Harvick 3089 (-31), Denny Hamlin 3088 (-32), Chase Elliott 3087 (-33), Ryan Blaney 3076 (-44) and Jimmie Johnson 3074 (-46). Kyle Busch 3067 (-53), Matt Kenseth 3066 (-54), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3052 (-68) and Jamie McMurray 3045 (-75) are on the MENCS Playoff bubble.
Brad Keselowski – Race Winner
“It’s a special day any day you can win, but to win at Talladega for the fifth time is something I was never sure I'd ever have the opportunity to do," said Keselowski. “Just winning here once felt pretty incredible, and it's hard to believe that was eightâ€'some years ago. To win here again, it still feels pretty darned good. Today, we had the luck that we needed, and then we were able to execute at the end with the moves on the last two or three laps, so just really, really special win to be able to put it all together at the end."
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET SS – Finished 2nd
ON THE RACE.
"I don't know that it was a good kind of crazy, but that's the problem we are in. Proud of the guys on this Caterpillar Chevrolet with RCR and ECR to do what we did. We tried to play it smart and in the end we were close, but not close enough. I got double – teamed with the No. 2 and the No. 22 (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano). That was the difference."
DESCRIBE THE LAST FEW LAPS OF THAT RACE:
"We held them off longer than I expected. I couldn't tell how much nose damage I had and I hadn't led all day, so I didn't know what to expect. I saw the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) car in the mirror backing up and then he lost his draft and then he backed up again and he caught the No. 22 (Joey Logano). That was all it took for him to get a good run. I would have maybe played it differently and backed it up in hindsight, backed up to them in hindsight, but I don't think it would have made a difference. They were double – teaming me and you know it was still a good race to finish second with the Caterpillar Chevrolet."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET SS – Finished 7th
DESCRIBE THE RACING AND WHAT YOUR DAY WAS LIKE TODAY.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]"Yeah, we got lucky. That was just luck being in the right place at the right time and not getting swept up in any of those wrecks. We had one there that knocked the splitter down really bad on the right – front and that is why we couldn't do anything at the end. The car was just dragging the ground and wouldn't go, wouldn't take off, so it was a little wounded out there at the end. Still got a decent finish and came out of here in one piece."
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE THIS AS YOU START TO LOOK BACK ON THIS ONE.
"It's been better than the last couple of trips here, the last couple of trips we had a lot of trouble in wrecks and hadn't been able to come home with a decent finish. I would have loved to have won the race for all the fans that come out here. I know a lot of folks came to see this race just for the fact that it was my last plate race and trust me, I wanted to win it for all those folks more than myself, but just couldn't get it done."
IT LOOKED LIKE MAYBE YOU HAD A RUN THERE AT THE END. WE SAW THE DAMAGE ON THE RIGHT FRONT FROM THE LAST INCIDENT. DID THAT HURT YOU ON THAT FINAL RUN?
"Yeah, the splitter on the right front was about an inch and a half low. When I'd go in the corner, my splitter would just get tight and slow. I couldn't really push anybody or get any runs going. And nobody wanted to push me because they could see I was struggling a little bit. So, nobody wanted to go with us. But we got lucky and missed a lot of wrecks there. Man, it's real hard to get up there to keep that track position. It's a real challenge. These plate races get harder and harder to win. Congratulations to Brad (Keselowski, race winner). His race car there, has got that cheers to Dale Jr. on it, and that's pretty cool. It was nice of him to do. So, I was pulling for a lot of them out there if we couldn't win it. There were a lot of friends out there. But man, it would have been nice. I thought was going to be okay. We got going on that restart and I went down into (Turn) 1 and it was hitting on that splitter and we could get shoved from behind and weren't going anywhere. They were just flying by us. There was just nothing we could do."
THIS WAS THE LAST PLATE RACE FOR YOU. WERE YOU SURPRISED YOU DIDN'T HAVE MORE HELP OUT THERE?
"Well, I thought we did when the car was fine. But they could see when it's low – ended. When other cars have a momentum going by you, you go with that guy. We kind of stuck out like a sore thumb there at the end. But, there were a few times there where we could have used a little help and we didn't have none. But, I'm not going to complain."
TY DILLON, NO. 13 GEICO CHEVROLET SS – Finished 11th
"We were able to avoid a lot of the crashes today at Talladega and the GEICO Chevrolet was really fast. We suffered a little bit of nose damage early, but it wasn't anything that affected the car. I thought if we had a chance to work with another Chevrolet we would be able to get to the front, but I couldn't get any help from behind. We ended up 11th. It was a good day for our team, but I know our car was better than 11th. It's just tough and it's disappointing we couldn't get any help from behind to make a run at it at the end."
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 FIRST DATA CHEVROLET SS – Finished 13th
ON THE LAST WRECK.
"I think the 24 got into the 19 and got him sideways and in to me. There are a lot of torn up cars, but we still finished 13th and maintained our points on the cutoff there. It would have been a worse day. But it also could have been better… could have won.
"I was glad we decided to race there in the second half. There was a lot of opportunities to get caught up in crashes. It was just crazy that a lot of the playoff guys, pretty much everybody except Brad (Keselowski) and Denny (Hamlin) got collected in wrecks. Pretty crazy day, but a typical Talladega.
"Just need to go to Kansas and have a solid race. A top – 10 run will be all we need to do probably."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET SS – Involved in a multi – car accident on Lap 173
"Really hard to tell what started it. I just saw the No. 38 turning down across the group and hooked me and sent me up into the wall. What we are trying to get to the bottom of is our spotter was informed to let us start working on the car and I guess there was some miscommunication there from NASCAR to our spotter and we may have lost some valuable points on pit road as a result. So, we've got to get to the bottom of that and find out what happened there."
HOW ARE YOU?
"I'm OK. It knocked the wind out of me for sure. But the thing I'm most concerned about is that there was a cue given to our spotter for our guys to start working on the car. We went out and made a lap and advanced quite a few spots as a result. Now it looks like NASCAR is trying to take that away from us. Us and a few other cars heard the cue to allow the guys to start working when the red flag had finished but we didn't get the cue on pit row. I'm still not clear on what all went on. I think we're in a bad situation as a result. Hopefully NASCAR can look at it and we can get this rectified."
HOW VALUABLE ARE THE STAGE POINTS YOU PICKED UP IN HINDSIGHT?
"Definitely valuable. That was part of the plan coming in here, and I think the whole field kind of had that same mindset. We had a very fast Lowe's Chevrolet even with it torn up after a couple of little incidents on the track. We were still in there mixing it up for the win. I hate that we're not on the track now. Whatever is going on with this red – flag issue certainly could hurt us."
JAMIE McMURRAY, NO. 1 CESSNA CHEVROLET SS – Involved in multi – car accident on Lap 24
WAS THIS AN EXAMPLE OF THE PERILS OF TALLADEGA?
"Yeah. We wanted to pit a couple of laps earlier, and you're somewhat dependent on the spotters to tell you when you're going to pit. You assume everyone is working as a group. It was my fault. I assumed that they said the 18 was going to let me in, so I thought we were all going to pit. I didn't even know where the 77 was. When I got on the brakes, I thought we were all coming to pit road as a group. I'll take the blame for that. I just kind of assumed we were coming to pit road right there. Obviously not everyone was."
THIS OBVIOUSLY HURTS YOUR PLAYOFF HOPES. HOW DO YOU PERSEVERE AND MOVE FORWARD TO KANSAS NEXT WEEK?
"There's nothing you can do about it. It's part of Talladega. We know you can come out of here with a lot of points and be a winner or you can be in the position we are right now. We'll go to Kansas and do our best. I'm sure I won't be the only Playoff driver disappointed today."
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 6th
Are you kicking yourself a little bit here at the end?
"I maybe should've pushed the 31 (Ryan Newman) a little bit longer. I tried to pass him in a different spot, yeah just a flick shy of clearing him there and I knew if I could clear him then the runs were going to be very small because there were very few cars out there. I did what I wanted to do. I pushed him out there to the lead, stay attached and then make a move, but I just didn't do a very good job there those last two laps."
Are you happy you had a good points day after so many cars were involved in accidents today?
"You always want to win, I don't care about the points. Our FedEx Toyota team really did a good job all weekend. The three big wrecks that happened, they all started in front of us and somehow we got through every time so it was quite amazing. Still a good day overall, but wish we had a little more."
Do you have any regrets on those last few laps?
"I wish I would've pushed him a little bit further because I was attached to him pretty good and we got a big lead. Maybe just continue pushing, I don't know. I don't know what the right thing to do is. I mean, I almost cleared him there in the tri – oval, almost cleared him and that was the race for us."
Are you disappointed you didn't get the win today?
"There's so few race cars out there, my chances were pretty good to win this thing especially given the circumstances we were the only ones with no damage. Just did everything I wanted to do for one lap, it's just the last two I didn't. It certainly could've been worse. There were guys around us that got caught up in wrecks and so that part of it was good for us, but you just want to have a shot to win and we had a shot to win and just didn't quite have all everything just right. It was just there was so much battling going on with just a few cars. If you lost a run it would just take forever to try and get it back so we finished kind of back of the pack there."
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Finishing Position: 23rd
What happened to take you out of the race?
"I'm not real sure, I got into the right – rear of the 38 (David Ragan) car a little bit and he got squirrely and then they started wrecking in front of us so I don't know if I turned him sideways and he hit somebody on the inside and then hit somebody on the outside in front of me. I'm not sure if that was the cause of the accident or it was just a secondary thing. I hadn't seen anything up ahead of us. If it was my fault I hate it for everybody involved. Just Talladega. Just everybody running hard with 18 to go and trying to get in a hole that really wasn't there yet."
Is it a relief to know that this incident doesn't ruin your Playoff chances?
"I mean we came here knowing that we were in good shape and we were just going to race hard, try to put ourselves in position to hopefully get another win and unfortunately we couldn't. We could never even get to the lead all day. We tried hard and got close a bunch of times and had a lot of fun out there, just there were some really strong cars and we weren't one of them."
What happened in that incident?
"Well I tried to get into a hole that was closing up at the wrong time and by the time that I got in the brakes trying to get out of there I got in the 38 (David Ragan) a little bit on the right rear and he got squirrely out there and all hell broke loose. Just was trying to get to the end and get some track position and try to get towards the front and have a good day and ended up causing a wreck, so I hate it for everybody. We definitively had nothing to lose today, but at the same time you don't want to be the person that causes others problems. Even though I feel like I've never been that guy here before it looks like today I was, so I hate it for all of those guys and all of their teams. I wish I didn't make that mistake. Just 18 to go at Talladega, trying to get going and trying to fill a hole. Bad judgement and should have been more patient."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Caramel Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 27th
Are you okay after the accident?
"I'm fine. I just didn't know where the heck the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) came from with all of the headrests and all of that stuff I never saw him coming. I wish I would've obviously, I would've tried to dodge left and go to the apron and shoot down there. Looking at it, it looks like I could've missed it. Just never seen him coming, so unfortunately we got caught up in that mess. None of our own wrong doing. I thought when I cleared the 38 (David Ragan) I was home free of it and then had another one come up from the left side. Just hate it for my guys and everything going on with what our situation was today. We'll just have to go on and go to Kansas now."
How does this set you up for Kansas?
"I have no clue. I don't know what's going on around us. I don't know who all was in it with us. Obviously the 48 (Jimmie Johnson), the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.), the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), the 1 (Jamie McMurray) has been out for a while, so we should probably be the last guy through."
What happened from your perspective?
"I had no clue what happened. I just saw the 38 (David Ragan) get sideways above me and then he came across my back and I missed him and he must have got the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the 48 shot up right across in front of us. I never seen him. I wish I would've saw him a little bit down there. I could've shot to the apron and tried to miss him, but unfortunately we just got messed up in that deal. I hate it for our situation and what we've got going on, that's not what we needed today, but that's what we got so we'll just move on to next week."
ERIK JONES, No. 77 5 – hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Finishing Position: 36th
What happened on the race track to cause the incident?
"It was kind of hard to see from my view. I was behind the 18 (Kyle Busch) and he started checking up, he swerved off to the left and the 1 (Jamie McMurray) was sitting there really slow on the race track so I didn't really have any choice. Unfortunately ran him over and kind of caused a chain reaction from there. It's a bummer. We didn't get to race today and I was hoping we'd just get a chance to go up and see what we had. It's unfortunate, but those kind of things are going to happen here."
|1||6||2||Brad Keselowski (P)||Miller Lite Ford||188||59||Running|
|2||27||31||Ryan Newman||Caterpillar Chevrolet||188||35||Running|
|3||10||6||Trevor Bayne||Liberty National Ford||188||36||Running|
|4||3||22||Joey Logano||Shell Pennzoil Ford||188||42||Running|
|5||26||43||Aric Almirola||Smithfield Ford||188||32||Running|
|6||15||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||FedEx Ground Toyota||188||32||Running|
|7||1||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Mountain Dew Chevrolet||188||30||Running|
|8||11||5||Kasey Kahne||Farmers Insurance Chevrolet||188||30||Running|
|9||39||83||* Gray Gaulding #||Dustless Blasting Toyota||188||28||Running|
|10||33||38||David Ragan||Juice Batteries Ford||188||27||Running|
|11||25||13||Ty Dillon #||GEICO Chevrolet||188||26||Running|
|12||20||27||Paul Menard||Knauf/Menards Chevrolet||188||25||Running|
|13||12||42||Kyle Larson (P)||First Data Chevrolet||188||24||Running|
|14||19||20||Matt Kenseth (P)||DEWALT FLEXVOLT Toyota||187||23||Running|
|15||14||19||Daniel Suarez #||Camping World Toyota||184||22||Accident|
|16||2||24||Chase Elliott (P)||NAPA Chevrolet||182||28||Accident|
|17||28||37||Chris Buescher||Bush's Chili Beans Chevrolet||182||20||Accident|
|18||9||21||Ryan Blaney (P)||Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford||177||37||Accident|
|19||35||75||* Brendan Gaughan(i)||Beard Oil Distributing Chevrolet||177||0||Accident|
|20||22||4||Kevin Harvick (P)||Busch Light Outdoors Ford||176||20||Accident|
|21||13||10||Danica Patrick||Aspen Dental Ford||175||16||Accident|
|22||24||47||AJ Allmendinger||Kroger ClickList Chevrolet||172||15||Accident|
|23||21||78||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota||171||14||Accident|
|24||8||48||Jimmie Johnson (P)||Lowe's Chevrolet||171||23||Parked|
|25||4||41||Kurt Busch||Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford||171||21||Accident|
|26||5||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (P)||SunnyD Ford||171||18||Accident|
|27||16||18||Kyle Busch (P)||M&M's Caramel Toyota||171||12||Accident|
|28||30||34||Landon Cassill||Love's Travel Stops/CSX Play It Safe Ford||171||9||Accident|
|29||18||3||Austin Dillon||American Ethanol Chevrolet||171||13||Accident|
|30||29||95||Michael McDowell||K – Love Radio Chevrolet||171||11||Accident|
|31||32||32||Matt DiBenedetto||Can – Am/Kappa Ford||171||6||Parked|
|32||37||23||Joey Gase(i)||Dr Pepper Toyota||164||0||Accident|
|33||40||55||* DJ Kennington||Dirt and Rock Toyota||164||4||Accident|
|34||38||72||Cole Whitt||RTIC Chevrolet||155||3||Accident|
|35||7||14||Clint Bowyer||Haas Automation Ford||155||15||Accident|
|36||23||77||Erik Jones #||5 – hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota||26||1||Accident|
|37||17||1||Jamie McMurray (P)||Cessna Chevrolet||25||1||Accident|
|38||34||33||Jeffrey Earnhardt||Hulu Chevrolet||25||1||Accident|
|39||36||15||Mark Thompson(i)||Phoenix Air Chevrolet||25||0||Accident|
|40||31||7||* Justin Marks(i)||Golden Corral/Katerra Chevrolet||16||0||Accident|