Brad Keselowski survives ‘Dega demolition derby to win
Brad Keselowski won the GEICO 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on an absolutely crazy, overcast Sunday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway.
Kurt Busch took the lead on the final restart with three laps to go, getting a push from behind by the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Trevor Bayne.
But soon enough it was a battle for the lead between Keselowski on the outside and Busch in the inside. Keselowski eventually got a push from Kyle Busch and surged back into the lead he had held prior to the final caution coming out for a wild wreck involving Danica Patrick, Matt Kenseth and others.
Yet another multi-car wreck occurred as Keselowski rushed toward the checkered flag, bringing out one final caution and freezing the field with Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford just yards from reaching the start-finish line.
On a day when 33 of the 40 cars in the field were involved in at least one wreck — and some in more than one — that was good enough for Keselowski to secure the 19th Sprint Cup victory of his career, including his fourth on the 2.66-mile Talladega track.
Keselowski was one of the minority few drivers whose cars escaped the day without damage from a wreck, as he led a race-high 46 laps.
"I didn’t have a great frame to see what happened to everyone else," Keselowski told FOX Sports in Victory Lane after taking his second win of the season. "But the guys at Team Penske gave me a great Miller Lite Ford, and this Fusion was hauling it.
"That’s one of the tickets to staying out of the wrecks at Talladega — if you can stay up front, you’ve got a great shot of not getting wrecked."
Kyle Busch ended up second, with Austin Dillon, pole-sitter Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray rounding out the top five.
It was an afternoon full of scary, spectacular wrecks — including one with eight laps remaining in which Danica Patrick appeared to get hit from behind by Michael McDowell, which led her to tag Matt Kenseth, sending Kenseth’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota airborne and sailing into the inside wall.
They were running mid-pack, battling for the sixth position, at the time of the incident. Both fortunately were able to walk away from the wreck, after which they were taken to the infield care center for further evaluation. Both eventually were cleared, although Patrick complained of pain in one of her arms and one of her legs, and underwent X-rays as a precaution.
Among the many others who suffered through a miserable day was Dale Earnhardt Jr. — the defending race winner who always is one of the pre-race favorites at Talladega, where he owns six Sprint Cup wins overall.
And his troubles started early.
Earnhardt was exiting the second turn when the rear end of his Hendrick Motorsport came around and he made contact with Kasey Kahne and the Toyota of Matt DiBenedetto.
The contact caused heavy damage to "Amelia," the nickname Earnhardt gave to this, his favorite restrictor-plate race car. Earnhardt also crashed out of the Daytona 500 in a wreck he called "identical."
"I got in a bad area with the wind and the air and it just got loose and spun out," said Earnhardt, whose day finally ended for good later when he and Carl Edwards were involved in yet another wreck. "The same thing that happened at Daytona to us."
This time, Earnhardt also took out Kahne, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
"I saw the No. 88 (Earnhardt) went left and then he came back right spinning in front of me," said Kahne. "So, I didn’t really know exactly what happened. We didn’t have anywhere to go once he came back across the track. We were done at that point."
Earnhardt and Kahne were not alone in suffering through terrible, sometimes frightening days.
Sprint Cup rookie Chris Buescher fortunately was able to walk away after a horrifying wreck on Lap 96. That one occurred when McMurray tapped Austin Dillon on the backstretch — wadding up the field behind them and setting off a chain reaction that included Buescher, whose car went airborne and barrel-rolled three times before coming to a rest.
"It was so quick I never had any time to react," Buescher said. "We got clipped in the right rear and as soon as it turned it went up on its lid. I thought we were clear of the wreck."
Other incidents throughout the crazy afternoon, when rain threatened but never interfered with the action, involved the likes of Edwards, Michael Waltrip, Danica Patrick and Paul Menard tangling in the pits, and finally, with just 28 laps to go, "The Big One" — a wreck involving a total of 21 cars.
It seemed to be only a matter of time.
Talladega is a breeding ground for huge crashes and Sunday’s biggest of many came on Lap 159.
As the field drove down the frontstretch, Kurt Busch bump-drafted Jimmie Johnson hard down the track, eventually turning the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet sideways as the drivers entered Turn 1.
Once Johnson hit the wall, all heck broke loose and of the 21 cars involved in the ensuing carnage were three of the four Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas.
"He just drove through me the whole front straightaway," Johnson said of Busch over his team radio.