Brad Keselowski wins attrition-filled race at Talladega
Brad Keselowski celebrates in victory lane at Talladega Superspeedway after winning the Geico 500 on May 1, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Brad Keselowski claimed his second win of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season on Sunday when he took the checkered flag in the Geico 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. joining Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards as multi-race winners through 10 races.
“I’m so proud of everybody at Team Penske,” Keselowski said. “To be back in victory lane with two wins this year, and we feel like we can get a lot more. We’re growing as a team. We made a lot of changes at Team Penske, and this feels really good, really good.”
Kyle Busch finished second in his 400th-career Sprint Cup start. Austin Dillon was third, Jamie McMurray fourth, and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five after starting on the pole and leading 27 laps, including the first 13 of the race.
“Just trying to finish,” Elliott said of his strategy at the end of the race. “You can’t have a good day unless you finish. Just trying to focus in on that. Obviously, it got a little wild. For us, we just tried to keep that in mind and make it to the end.”
Keselowski also was credited with a race-high 46 laps led. He took the lead for the final time with 15 laps to go when Busch pushed him past Team Penske teammate Joey Logano. Keselowski got drafting help from Busch again, to push him out in front of the race field on the final restart of the race with three laps to go. After pushing Keselowski out front, Busch took second.
“It was some moves that you made that were just lucky and just trying to get through some of the holes that were there and that were forming and guys bumping and banging each other, pushing all around and everything and trying to get the most out of what we had with our Skittles Camry,” Busch said. “You know, second’s not bad. I think the quota of almost three cars on their lids today is a little high, but it’s racing.”
As Keselowski was driving to the checkered flag, cars were wrecking behind him. The race was attrition filled. Counting the caution that was a result of the wreck at race’s end, the yellow flag waved 10 times for a total of 41 laps of the 188-lap race. A reported 33 cars of the 40 that started the race were at least minor casualties in on-track incidents, including two that got airborne and flipped.
“I didn’t have a great frame to see what happened to everyone else,” Keselowski said. “The guys at Team Penske gave me a great Miller Lite Ford, and this Fusion was hauling it. One of the best tickets to stay out of the wrecks at Talladega is if you can stay up front, and you’ve got a great shot of not getting wrecked.”
Chris Buescher was among the drivers caught up in a wreck just past the halfway point, on lap 96. While airborne, his car flipped three times before landing on its wheels. Matt Kenseth, who led 39 laps of the 188-lap race caught air and flipped with eight laps to go. Kevin Harvick, who led significant laps, along with Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola, were also caught up in the wreck.
While Elliott ran at or near the front throughout the race after starting on the pole, all three of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates failed to avoid the carnage, so much so, that all three were each caught up in two wrecks.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought out the first caution of the race with a wreck on lap 50. In that wreck he collected teammate Kasey Kahne. On lap 110, Earnhardt’s race ended for good when he was collected by a wrecking Carl Edwards. Kahne’s second incident came with 61 laps to go. The remaining HMS driver, Jimmie Johnson was a part of two larger on-track incidents, once on lap 96 and again with 28 laps to go.
“Hell, I’m going home,” Earnhardt said. “I’m done. We need to park the car for while, too.”
In all, the yellow flag waved 10 times for a total of 41 laps. A reported 33 cars of the 40 that started the race were at least minor casualties in at least one caution.
Ty Dillon finished sixth after replacing the still-recovering Tony Stewart behind the wheel of the No. 14 during the lap 50 caution. As the driver who started the race in the car, Stewart will receive the points earned from Dillon’s top-10 finish.
“It sucks to be honest,” Stewart said of having to climb out of the car. “I know why we got to do it, but it sucks. It still sucks that youo have to do it, but if I hadn’t broke my back at the end of January, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Good news is this is the last time we have to do it, and I am back in next week. I really appreciate Ty. He’s been a rock star through this whole thing and especially this weekend. He’s done all the heavy lifting, and I just got in to ride around for 50 laps and turn it over to him.”
Clint Bowyer, Stewart’s replacement in 2017, finished seventh. Kurt Busch was eighth, Ryan Blaney was ninth, and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top-10 after leading several laps.
Seventeen different drivers spent time at the front of the race field, accounting for 37 lead changes. Aside from Keselowski, Kenseth and Elliott, Bayne also led more than 20 laps, running up front for 22 circuits.