Talladega, Ala., — The big one came on the final lap taking out much of the field behind Matt Kenseth, who took the checkered flag under the yellow flag to win the Good Sam 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Kenseth has picked up two wins and added to two third-place finishes on restrictor plate tracks this season. Regardless of the stats Kenseth said he still feels, “clumsy at plate racing.”
“It feels great, but I’m not sure it balances out,” said Kenseth.
As the pack came into the tri-oval Kenseth looked in the mirror and could see three-wide.
“I kind of let Tony (Stewart) have his spot there,” said Kenseth.
“It didn’t look like he had a big push behind him and lined up with Kevin (Harvick) and we pretty much stayed locked together there until we got to turn three and I thought it was going to be a drag race to the finish,” Kenseth added. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, and I’m still not sure what happened. Somehow I think Tony got turned and caused a big wreck.”
A big wreck was the understatement of the day. The melee on the final lap gathered up 25 cars, sent Stewart airborne, and jumbled up the finishing order that has not been called official.
Second place finisher Jeff Gordon didn’t see anything but the rear bumper of Kasey Kahne coming to the checkered flag.
“That was the craziest, craziest finish I’ve ever experienced at Talladega,” said Gordon, who has the most wins (6) of active drivers at the Alabama track. “I finally came out on the good side of it.”
“I had my teammate in front of me, which was perfect and I had the 18 (Kyle Busch) behind me, one of the best pushers out there,” Gordon added. “We took the green and we were pushing but we weren’t going anywhere.”
Gordon said the outside lane just wouldn’t move, and tried not to crash as they came to the final lap.
“When we came through the tri-oval to take the white I really have no idea how we all made it to the white flag because it was three-to-four wide and had cars moving everywhere,” Gordon said. “I went into turn three and I was right on Kasey (Kahne), and I saw smoke and they checked up and I hit him and I got hit by the 18 (Kyle Busch).”
“Somehow I got turned down on the apron and I just put it back on the floor and drove by every car and came out of there second behind the 17 car,” added Gordon, who was happy to survive and looks forward to the remaining races.
Kyle Busch was also happy to make it out of Talladega in one piece. Busch spend a majority of the race one lap down following a pass-through speeding penalty on lap 62. A lap 138 caution for debris gave Busch the lap back. Busch said plate racing always comes down to survival.
“That last lap man, everybody goes for broke,” Busch said. “We were on the bottom there behind the No. 5 (Kasey Kahne), who was behind the No. 24 (Gordon), who was behind the No. 15 (Clint Bowyer).”
“I was pushing, I was quarter throttle and we weren’t going anywhere running in the back of those guys and everybody was going by us on the outside and we got to turn three and I saw the No. 14 (Tony Stewart) car turn sideway,” added Busch. “Everything ensued after that so I just cranked it left and went to the apron and tried to get through there as fast as I could.”
David Ragan was able to get through for a fourth place finish, and Greg Biffle squeaked through to grab fifth place.
“My voice is gone from screaming,” said Biffle. “I’ve been racing a long time and I’ve never seen anything like that (wreck).”
Biffle said it looked much like a video game with cars upside down, and going everywhere.
“I don’t know how I got slowed down, got to the bottom and got through that thing,” Biffle added. “If I would have had an in car camera—that’s the million dollar shot, from what I seen out the front of my windshield. It was unbelievable.”
Reagan Smith picked up a sixth place finish in his final race with Furniture Row Racing. Smith will move to the No. 51 car of Phoenix Racing at Charlotte. Brad Keselowski survived to pick up seventh place and retained the points lead. Travis Kvapil was eighth, Ryan Newman was ninth, and Jeff Burton rounded out the top-10.
The points did get a shake-up following the checkered flag, but due to the melee all point counts are unofficial. Keselowski extends the points lead to 14 over Jimmie Johnson, and 23 over Denny Hamlin. Kahne gains two spots to fourth (-36), Clint Bowyer gains one spot to fifth (-40), and Gordon jumps four spots to sixth (-42). Tony Stewart drops two spots to seventh place (-46), eighth place is Martin Truex, Jr., (-48). Ninth place is Greg Biffle who gains two spots and is 49 points back from the leader. Kevin Harvick loses one spot to 10th (-49), and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., drops four spots to 11th (-51). Kenseth remains 12th (-62).
Other news from the Good Sam 500:
It was Kurt Busch’s last ride with the Phoenix Racing team before moving to the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team. Busch brought out the second caution with a spin on lap 99 hitting the inside wall hard. Busch said on the team radio, “I’m out of fuel and I got wrecked. Why am I out of gas?” Busch said in the garage it may have been a miscalculation or the fuel cell wasn’t picking up all the available fuel.
“That is just small team blues,” said Busch. “You work as hard as you can to keep up with the big teams and sometimes little itty bitty numbers will take you out.”