Brad Keselowski Survives Chaotic GEICO 500 To Earn Fourth Win In Talladegaby Camille Jones May 1, 2016 0 comments
TALLADEGA, Ala. – With impending rain on the horizon, Sunday’s GEICO 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway had a heightened sense of urgency. Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion capitalized on that urgency, taking home his fourth victory at the 2.66-mile track.
This is Keselowski’s second victory and fifth top-10 finish of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The Team Penske driver started seventh and led 46 laps en route to the win.
“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 s team. We made a lot of changes at Team Penske and this feels really good, really good.”
Taking home a second place finish was Kyle Busch, driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Skittles Marvel Toyota. This marked Busch’s sixth top-10 finish at Talladega Superspeedway. He led 12 laps throughout the afternoon, and with the top-five finish he now sits second in the championship point standings, trailing Kevin Harvick by nine points.
“Yeah, it’s just Talladega,” Busch said. “Not real sure what all was going on. You’re just trying to make the best moves you can when you get pushed or when you have the momentum and you try to carry through with those moves and do the best you can to get a good spot and get a good finish, but I thought we had a chance. But when you’re the leader and you’re out front and there’s not a lot of formation behind, it’s hard to overtake the leader.”
Completing the top-five was Austin Dillon in third, Jamie McMurray in fourth and pole sitter Chase Elliott in fifth, who was also the highest finishing rookie.
“Just trying to finish,” Elliott said. “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.”
Restrictor plate racing proved to be thrilling and astonishing once again, with a total of 37 lead changes among 17 drivers. The pack racing saw three-wide and four-wide action from the drop of the green flag, as drivers pushed and shoved in an effort to make their way to the front as teams kept their eyes on the weather radar.
There were a total of 10 cautions for 41 laps, with almost every caution presenting a wild, multi-car crash. Out of the 40 cars entered in Sunday’s race, over 30 cars were involved in an accident over the course of the 188-lap event.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kasey Kahne were both involved in two accidents. After their first wreck occurred on lap 51 to bring out the first caution of the day, the drivers were able to return to the track in their reconstructed cars, only to be involved in separate incidents later in the event.
On lap 97, Chris Buescher flipped and rolled after contact in the midst of a multi-car accident involving Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Austion Dillon, Michael Annett and Matt DiBenedetto. The initial incident occurred at the front of the field with contact between Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon. Buescher was clipped by Annett and then he began flipping, end-over-end.
“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. I saw it happening in front of us and checked up and the next thing I knew I was upside down. I am pretty sick and tired of speedway racing at this point. It has been a rough year for that. We felt we were decent this race. We were holding our own and waiting but here we are. It is unfortunate. I really hate it for the guys.”
The “big one” on lap 162 involved 21 cars, many returning to the race while others were sent to the garage. The chaos began in Turn 1 when a bump draft between Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson went wrong. Busch, sent Johnson into Paul Menard and from there, the chain reaction took on a life of its own.
“I didn’t feel like I hit him all that much and the next thing I know he was sideways,” Busch said. “It reminded me of the qualifying races, the 150’s down in Daytona where he got sideways getting into Turn 1.”
Another scary moment came on lap 182 when Matt Kenseth’s car took flight and went tumbling towards the inside wall, while Danica Patrick made hard contact with the SAFER barrier. The incident began with contact from Michael McDowell to the back of Patrick’s No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet. Kenseth’s roll began after a domino effect from the initial content.
“We got behind a little bit there and I went to pass the 22 (Joey Logano) and he ran me off the race track and lost four or five spots and then got us back there where we didn’t want to be,” Kenseth said. “I don’t know, somebody must have gotten turned out of the top lane and just collected me. I was just going straight and saw a car come from the right side and cleaned our clock.”
As Brad Keselowski was leading the pack towards the checkered flag, NASCAR threw the 10th caution of the day as seven cars crashed on the frontstretch. Harvick got the worse of the accident as his car got onto its side. Keselowski took the checkered flag, and the field was frozen with the yellow flag.
“Landon Cassill trying to cause a wreck for the last 40 laps and he finally got it done there at the end,” Harvick said. “It was just unfortunate for our Busch Trophy Can Chevrolet. We just got shuffled out there and in a pretty big wreck there at the end. But all-in-all it was an okay day. We led some laps and ran up front; just got shuffled out when the No. 20 and don’t remember who else. We got back there and racing where we didn’t need to be racing and got crashed. We still finished, it is just torn up.”
The series returns to competition next weekend at Kansas Speedway on Saturday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. for the GoBowling.com 400. Race coverage will be found live on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN).
Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images