Talladega, Ala., — It all came down to a game plan for Brad Keselowski, a plan that worked toward victory in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
It was a quiet 380 miles at the 2.66 mile Alabama track until a crash on lap 143 began a myriad of chaos that Keselowski was able to circumvent.
“At Talladega patience is a bit of an oxymoron because you have to go hard to win this race,” said Keselowski, who had a slight glitch in the patience plan—making contact with Kurt Busch on lap 181 who was running second in front of Keselowski.
“I went hard a little bit early there with Kurt [Busch] and got him,” Keselowski added. “I want to say sorry Kurt if you’re watching. It was just a miscommunication on our part.”
Keselowski said the pack racing paired with tandem racing made the perfect combination, “we were really strong with that combo.”
The pack racing stayed true to form at the end of the race. On the lap 185 restart a block by AJ Allmendinger on Denny Hamlin triggered a melee that would set up the green-white-checkered finish and a perfect scenario for Keselowski, who took the final green flag with Kyle Busch doing the pushing.
“I had this whole plan if I ever got in that situation where I was leading, and I thought about it, and thought about it, and dreamed about it what to do and sure enough going into three it was just me and Kyle [Busch] and I knew the move I wanted to pull and it worked,” Keselowski said. “The guy running second should have the advantage but I had this move all worked up in my mind.”
“Now everybody’s seen it and they know it, but I was glad I was able to get a win with it,” added Keselowski. “I went into the turn pretty high and broke the tandem up which allowed me to drive untouched to the checkered flag.”
Busch was that guy in second—where the Joe Gibbs Racing driver wanted to be—but Busch said the two cars didn’t get connected soon enough.
“We did get connected, the 2 [Keselowski] and I,” said Busch. “I drove by him and it was him and I as I went into Turn 3”
“I just got disconnected from him and once that happened the race was over,” Busch added.
Matt Kenseth dominated much of the day, but came across the stripe in third even with a slightly damaged car.
“I think we had the winning car we just didn’t have the winning driver,” Kenseth said.
“We got in front of the 2 [Keselowski] and Kyle [Busch] and as soon as we became clear it wasn’t long after that that I looked back and we were separated and those guys were outside of him,” added Kenseth. “With nobody behind him he lost his speed and with me not paying enough attention during that to keep us hooked up it cost us a shot at the win, it cost Greg [Biffle] a shot at the win.”
Kasey Kahne finished fourth and said missing the wrecks and a good push from Clint Bowyer a the end gave them the top-five finish.
“We survived,” Kahne said. “That was the biggest thing.”
Biffle, who finished fifth, said Kenseth pulled away and if the duo could have stayed locked together the outcome may have been different.
“It would have come down to him and me at the end,” Biffle said. “But we just couldn’t stay locked up with him there at the end.”
Bowyer finished sixth, David Ragan finished seventh, and Trevor Bayne finished eighth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. dodged two crashes to finish ninth, and Jeff Burton rounded out the top-10.
Biffle remains the Sprint Cup points leader ahead of Kenseth by seven points, and Earnhardt by nine points. Hamlin is fourth, Kevin Harvick is fifth, and Martin Truex, Jr., is sixth. Seventh is Tony Stewart, eighth is Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Busch is ninth. Bowyer rounds out the top-10 in points, while Keselowski adds another win and is in one of two wildcard positions.
Other news from the Aaron’s 499:
Reagan Smith brought out the first caution on lap 16 when the motor expired on the No. 78. Crew chief, Pete Rondeau said the team was not sure what caused the engine to expire, but “the folks at ECR (Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines) are going through an analysis process.”
Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman were both sidelined early with similar engine issues that were not due to overheating, but an oil pump belt. Johnson and Newman finished 35th and 36th. .
The block by AJ Allmendinger on Denny Hamlin that set up the final restart and the Green-White-Checkered finish collected Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Michael Waltrip, Paul Menard, and Joey Logano. Allmendinger said he had no immediate comment not having seen a replay of the events, but did say “It’s the restart everybody is getting after it. I tried to block and if Denny [Hamlin] was already there, my apologies, if not then I don’t know.”
Hamlin added, “I think what he saw was that I was going to the inside and he hooked a hard left to try to block, but I was there. I turned him and a couple other guys. Ruined a bunch of guys days, but that’s part of it.”
Polesitter Jeff Gordon was involved in the multiple car incident on lap 143. Gordon said, “this is just one of the most bizarre years that this team has ever gone through. It’s almost comical at this point.”