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NASCAR Cup: Brad Keselowski wins Talladega wreck-fest

No. 2 Team Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

No. 2 Team Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Brad Keselowski got by Ryan Newman on the final lap of the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday to claim his third win of the season and secure his spot in the third round, or round of 8, of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, joining last weekend’s Charlotte Motor Speedway race winner, Martin Truex Jr., with spots locked in for the next round.

“This is still sinking in. It is 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.”

The win was Keselowski’s fifth at Talladega and completed a Ford sweep of the year’s four restrictor-plate races.

Newman finished second. He took the lead from Keselowski on the final restart with three laps remaining but was unable to hold him off on the final lap.

“Proud of the guys on this Caterpillar Chevrolet with RCR and ECR to do what we did,” Newman said. “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 (Keselowski) and the No. 22 (Joey Logano). That was the difference.”

Trevor Bayne finished third, and Joey Logano was fourth after leading a race-high 59 laps. Aric Almirola rounded out the top-five.

The final 20 laps of the race was attrition-filled with three yellow flags that all led to red flags for clean-up of multi-car wrecks, included a 12-car wreck with 16 laps remaining. Jimmie Johnson was parked by NASCAR for the remainder of the race, because his team began repair damage to his car during a red flag.

Really hard to tell what started it,” Johnson said. “I just saw the No. 38 (David Ragan) 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.”

Most of the remaining 12 playoff drivers were at least somewhat involved in one of the late-race wrecks. Cars sustaining at least some damage in at least one of the three wrecks included those of Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in close proximity to all three wrecks but managed to weave his way through all three to survive and finish in the top-10, finishing seventh in what is expected to be his final Cup race at Talladega.

“Yeah, we got lucky,” Earnhardt said. 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.”

Earnhardt’s problems came on pit road. He was among a group of Chevrolet drivers heading for pit road when the yellow flag waved for a wreck involving yet another playoff driver, Jamie McMurray, on lap 26. Pit road closed when the yellow flag waved, but instead of driving down pit road without stopping, Earnhardt, along with a handful of other drivers, still made a pit stop with pit road closed, resulting in a penalty.
After racing back into the top-20, he was hit with another pit-road penalty, this time for speeding, during a caution on lap 51. But with the caution to mark the end of the first stage coming in fewer than five laps, Earnhardt was up to 13th to restart stage two after staying out between stages.

In addition to winning the race, Keselowski also was a stage winner, taking the lead from Logano on the final lap of the opening 55-lap stage. Logano led 37 laps of the first stage after taking the lead from pole-sitter Earnhardt on the first lap.

Blaney won stage two.

Matt DiBenedetto was credited with 12 laps led in the second stage as a result of staying out when the rest of the field cycled through green-flag pit stops around lap 70. DiBenedetto, then, pitted during a debris caution on lap 81.

Another playoff driver, Jamie McMurray, retired from the race early as a result of a wreck on lap 26.

Other top-10 race finishers included Denny Hamlin in sixth, Kasey Kahne eighth, Gray Gaulding ninth and David Ragan in 10th.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on October 16, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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