Brad Keselowski had to survive what fans called ‘The Big One’ four times on Sunday in conquering the 2.66-mile Talladega SuperSpeedway before winning the GEICO 500, his fourth win at the Alabama track, after directing the pace of the race in the last three laps.
The complicated format of getting ahead at Talladega and which driver would help the other gave Keselowski a prime spot being the leader on the restart. He went by first Kurt Busch on the outside to be on point leading the pack down the backstretch, picking his performance line deciding to go with the faster outside line led by Kyle Busch and it was just the boost Keselowski needed to get distance on the field.
Just as the Penske Racing Ford was approaching the finish line, chaos erupted behind him with last major crash of the day taking out five cars including notables Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. putting the race on video hold for just a moment from NASCAR officials. Keselowski was clearly out front when the yellow flag waved earning his 19th overall Sprint Cup win.
“That’s one of the tricks to staying out of the wrecks at Talladega is to stay up front. Daytona didn’t go the way we wanted and we thought we were going to be better than that and didn’t show the speed in the 500. The guys went back to work and delivered me a super fast car for here. This feels really good,” said Keselowski.
On the final restart, the No. 2 Ford took the outside line instead of his normal inside position that he had used earlier to get his best run.
“The last three or four restarts before that, the high lane had (left), and as the leader a lot of it is out of your control. You need the cars behind you to push, a couple of them did, and a couple didn’t. That’s just part of racing, and there was nobody at fault with that.
“We actually lost the lead and got a better run. Jamie McMurray behind me gave me a great push, and then Kyle Busch gave me a push that was big to clear the 41 (Kurt Busch), and without those two I couldn’t have made it to the front. So ‘Thank you’ to them. It’s Talladega. This is my fourth win here. I never thought I’d win at Talladega four times, and I’m super-pumped. This is awesome.”
Kyle Busch looked like the high side was going to send him to the front until Keselowski moved in front to intercept and the momentum tap by Busch gave Keselowski the clearance he needed.
“You know, it’s just Talladega,” Kyle Busch said, summing up the afternoon. “It is what it is. These cars, you try to get a little bit aggressive, start bumping people and pushing people, they’re real easy to get out of control.
“I really don’t know why we’re bumping and pushing and everything else, because these cars go slower when you push. Makes a lot of sense. That’s how stupid we are.”
The ‘Big One’ happened four times during the day with the first coming on lap 96 involving seven cars sending Chris Buescher barrel rolling three times down the backstretch after being hit by Michael Annett.
The second occurred on lap 161, leaving 21 cars with some sort of damage after Kurt Busch tapped Jimmie Johnson the wrong way, sending him into the turn one wall ricocheting back in front of the field crashing a cluster of cars.
A speedy Matt Kenseth blamed Joey Logano for a 12-car chain-reaction accident down the backstretch on lap 181 that sent him hurtling in the air also involving Danica Patrick, who was running seventh at the time.
The last yellow period came out on the white flag lap with seven cars tangling behind Keselowski, sending cars scattering everywhere to gain a position or two with the finish line that close.
Finishing behind Keselowski and Busch were Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, and rookie candidate, Chase Elliott rounding out the top five.
Ty Dillon finished sixth subbing for Tony Stewart as an agreement with his doctors to get an early permission to return to racing if he would get a relief driver for Talladega avoiding any severe crashes that could have occurred causing Stewart even more recovery.
There were 10 caution flags for 41 laps slowing down the average speed of the GEICO 500 to 140.046 mph. The race had 37 lead changes among 17 drivers with winner, Keselowski leading five times for 46 circuits.
The next NASCAR Sprint Cup race is next Saturday night in observance of Mother’s Day Sunday racing at the Kansas Speedway for the running of the GoBowling.com 400 airing on FOX Sports 1 at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
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