It took over four hours, but as the sun was setting over Talladega Superspeedway, Brad Keselowski took the victory. Here’s how it all went down on Sunday.
From his second pole of the season, but his first at Talladega, fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the field to the green in his last ride at Talladega as a full-time driver. Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top five.
Four drivers were sent to the rear of the field prior to the start including Playoff contenders Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch; all were for unapproved adjustments.
Earnhardt had the lead by turn 1; Logano dropped into second, Elliott third Keselowski fourth it was a tossup for fifth.
Logano was able to get the lead up top exiting turn 4 and led the first lap. Earnhardt and Elliott were side by side behind.
The low line moved ahead on lap 3 with Earnhardt taking second and looking to get back to the lead.
Keselowski was leading the high line by lap 5. A Third line had formed on the outside and was moving forward.
It was three wide for second by lap 8 with Logano moving up and down to block.
By lap 10 the front five were single file and moving away: Logano, Keselowski, Earnhardt, Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Clint Bowyer. 22
Logano and several others pitted on lap 14; all Fords. Earnhardt took the lead. Kyle Larson was second followed by Kasey Kahne, Landon Cassill and Ty Dillon.
Elliott too fifth on lap 18. Keselowski reported a “small vibration”.
Elliott charged from the outside with a push from Matt Kenseth and took the lead on lap 21, Kenseth took second; Earnhardt third. Daniel Suarez was fourth, Martin Truex was fifth.
The lead group slowed to pit on lap 27; Jamie McMurray and Jeffrey Earnhardt got together after McMurray got contact from Erik Jones. McMurray was slowing to pit but Jones hit him. McMurray was sent and up into Jeffrey Earnhardt; both were done for the day. Jones also had damage and went ot the garage. Caution 1 came out. Kyle Busch also suffered slight damage.
The Chevy’s who were pitting crossed the line just prior to pit road closing and were sent to the rear of the field. There were six penalized, significant among them: Larson, Earnhardt and Elliott.
A group of the leaders did pit when pit road did open. Suarez was out first followed by Denny Hamlin, Truex, Kyle Busch and Trevor Bayne.
Jones, his crew chief and spotter were called to the NASCAR hauler after the race.
With one to go in the caution; the penalty cars came back to pit road for fuel. Larson, Earnhardt, Paul Menard, Michael McDowell and Austin Dillon.
Elliott who had taken only two tires on his pit stop, came back to take two more before the green came out to start lap 37; Logano led, Keselowski, Bowyer, Stenhouse and Blaney were the top five.
Earnhardt and the penalty drivers started 26th and back.
Logano soon had the lead, Keselowski was second, Bowyer third. The field was two by two behind.
It was an 8-car single file breakaway by lap 39. Blaney was fourth, Kurt Busch fifth.
Earnhardt had moved to 14th by lap 45. With 10 to go in Stage 1: Logano, Keselowski, Bowyer, Blaney, Stenhouse, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Bayne, Suarez and Truex.
Four cars were single file, the field behind them fighting for spots by lap 48.
With five to go in the stage things bot wild’ Menard got up into the wall in turn 3 though and the second caution of the day came out.
NASCAR ruled it a “quickie” yellow to try and get the green flag prior to the end of the stage. A few pitted including Kyle Busch, Larson and Earnhardt. Earnhardt was penalized for speeding and sent to the back of the field again, but he was going to be there anyway.
The green came out with one lap to go in the stage, lap 54.
It was side by side up front between Logano and Keselowski all through the lap; Keselowski had a slight advantage at the line.
Top 10 Stage 1: Keselowski, Logano, Blaney, Stenhouse, Johnson, Bowyer, McDowell, Kurt Busch, Bayne and Kahne. The third caution of the day came out to send the stage.
The leaders pitted. Hamlin was out first with a two tire change, Logano was out second with four, followed by Keselowski, Johnson with four and Cloe Whitt he took fuel only.
Several among the lead group stayed out. The top five when the green came out to start lap 62; Kahne, Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Suarez, and David Ragan. Keselowski restarted 20th.
Kenseth had the lead by turn 2; Kahne had second, it was a mad scramble behind.
It was a four wide battle for second on lap 64; Hamlin moved from the outside and took the lead.
The top four were able to break away by lap 66.
Several cars came to pit road on lap 68; Johnson made contact with Ty Dillon slowing and then with Danica Patrick. Johnson had right rear damage. Hamlin and Keselowski also pitted. The rest of the lead group pitted on the next lap.
Brendan Gaughan was scored as the leader followed by Matt DiBenedetto, Menard and Chris Buescher. They pitted on lap 71 with the exception of DiBenedetto who was scored as the leader with a 30 second lead over Suarez, Kurt Busch, Stenhouse, and Hamlin.
Stenhouse had moved to third on lap 73. He took second on lap 75.
By himself DiBenedetto was soon being caught.
Hamlin reported a loose tire on lap 79 and dropped to the back of the field to pit.
The fourth caution came out on lap 81 for debris.
Several teams behind the leaders pitted when pit road opened. Included: leader DiBenedetto, Johnson, Earnhardt, Kahne and Larson. Stenhouse was scored as the leader followed by Kurt Busch, Logano, Ty Dillon and Keselowski when green came out on lap 88. Stenhouse and Kurt Busch race side by side for much of the lap with Stenhouse getting the lead by turn 3.
Kurt Busch was soon back on the outside and he took the lead entering turn 3 on lap 89; Blaney followed into second; Bowyer and Truex were side by side behind. Blaney was looking for the lead by lap 90 side by side with Busch.
Blaney was scored as the leader on lap 93.
Stenhouse was second bay lap 95; Elliott was third.
Earnhardt had recovered to 10th by lap 97.
Elliott was second on lap 100; Stenhouse third, Bowyer fourth.
With 10 to go in Stage 2 the top 10: Blaney, Elliott, Stenhouse, Keselowski, Truex, Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Johnson, Larson.
Keselowski took second with 9 to go in the stage.
With 5 to go in the stage Blaney was leading and moving and blocking both lanes behind him.
Pit road closed with two laps to go in the stage, with only Gaughan pitting just before.
Top 10 Stage 2: Blaney, Keselowski, Bowyer, Elliott, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Johnson, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Hamlin. Stenhouse had ben shuffled out of the draft and finished the stage 22. Caution five came out to end the stage.
The leaders all pitted. Dillon took two tires and was out first, Hamlin also took only two and was out second followed by Blaney, and Keselowski who took four, and Suarez who took two.
Gaughan again stayed out and was the leader when green came back out to start lap 116.
Gaughan held the lead until lap 117 when Hamlin took the lead on the outside; Blaney followed. Truex was third on the outside and soon Hamlin was moving up and down trying to block.
Blaney retook the lead on lap 119 with Elliott following. Soon it was three wide behind Blaney.
Elliott was looking for the lead and was side by side Blaney by lap 124.
Elliott was finally able to get the lead on lap 125.
By lap 128 Earnhardt suddenly appeared in second. Blaney was back in second on lap 130. Larson was beside Earnhardt for third.
The top lane opened up and soon the top 10 cars were single file.
It was an eight car breakaway by lap 140. The second line led bay Hamlin in ninth was slowly reeling them in by lap 142; Hamlin was there to start lap 143.
The top 20 were single file by lap 144.
Green flag stops started on lap 144 with 10 cars mainly Fords pitting. The rest of the lead pack pitted on the next lap. When the stops cycled through, Kyle Busch led followed by Hamlin, Truex, Kenseth, and Earnhardt.
Logano led a line on the outside and was looking for the lead on lap 147. Logano was able to clear Busch at the start of lap 149. Blaney, Bayne, Keselowski and Larson were the top five.
Bayne crashed on lap 152 getting up into the wall in turn 3 and caution six came out. Earnhardt also got into Suarez from behind but both continued with Earnhardt apparently suffering only slight damage. Only a few cars deeper in the field pitted.
The restart came to start lap 155.
At the back of the pack a huge crash reputed as the front runners got to turn 1. Among those involved was Bowyer, Aric Almirola, McDowell and AJ Allmendinger. In all eight cars were involved as caution seven flew.
Keselowski pitted from fourth as the crew worked to fix the radio. The rest of the leaders stayed out. Keselowski restarted 30th when green came out to start lap 159. Logano dove to the bottom and had a clear lead by turn 1, Blaney fell into second, Hamlin third, Larson fourth. Behind them it was three wide.
Kahne slowed on the backstretch on lap 161 with a flat tire.
Joey Gase crashed behind the pack exiting turn 2 after contact with DJ Kennington on lap 164 and caution eight came out. During the caution none of the leaders pitted, but Bowyer dropped out of the race.
The restart came to start lap 171, with 18 laps to go. Logano leapt to the lead; Menard dropped to the apron and slowed. Larson took second, Blaney third. Suarez got a run on the outside and grabbed the lead on lap 172.
Behind them the much-anticipated crash erupted coming to turn 3. NASCAR immediately threw out the red flag. The crash started when Truex got into Ragan who spun down across the track. In all 25 cars were involved.
Among those in it: Kurt Busch, Truex, Johnson, McDowell, Kyle Busch, Stenhouse, Danica Patrick, Austin Dillon, and Earnhardt Jr. Most were down, but Earnhardt Jr. was able to escape major damage.
The red flag was lifted after 12 minutes and 30 seconds. Johnson was parked due to his crew working on the car during the red. Under the caution most pitted especially those who had driven away from the accident.
The top 5 when green came back out on lap 176 12 laps to go: Suarez, Logano, Bayne, Elliott and Larson. In all there were 20 cars still running. Those included Stenhouse and Harvick who had heavy damage.
Suarez and Logano were side by side but Elliott took the lead underneath as the two entered turn 3.
It was three wide behind them but on the next lap on the back stretch another crash broke out. Harvick, Blaney, Logano and Bayne were involved. NASCAR put of the red flag again.
The crash happened when Blaney pushed Logano down into Bayne. Brendan Gaughan was also involved.
The red was lifted after a short time.
The top five; Suarez, Elliott, Earnhardt, Larson and Keselowski.
Green came out with 8 laps to go. Suarez was pushed to the lead by Larson; Elliott on the outside was soon looking for second; Larson took the lead as the field crossed the line for seven to go. Suarez stayed close and the two were side by side with six to go.
Elliott tried to make it three wide and spun Suarez in front of the field; Elliott, and Suarez were done. Chris Buescher was also involved; all were done for the day; Larson also took a hit but was able to continue.
The red flag came out for the third time. It was lifted after 17 minutes and 14 seconds. Five cars pitted behind the leaders. In all there were 15 cars on the track, four were playoff drivers.
The top five for the three lap dash to the finish: Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Earnhardt, Hamlin and Ty Dillon.
Earnhardt was pushing Keselowski; Hamlin was pushing Newman; Newman too the lead. Then Hamlin was looking for the lead as the field crossed the line for two laps to go. Almirola shot to third in turn 4, Logano followed.
Newman had the lead at the white. Keselowski had second, Logano third; entering three Keselowski was looking for the lead; he had it exiting turn 4 and held off the rest of the field for the win. Newman was second, Bayne third, Logano fourth and Almirola fifth.
Hamlin was sixth, Earnhardt seventh, Kahne eighth with Gray Gaulding and David Ragan rounding on the top 10. In all 15 cars were running at the end of the race.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Kansas for the Hollywood Casino 400 next Sunday with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network starting at 2:30 p.m. ET with the green flag coming just after 3.