Chase for the Sprint Cup Rundown: Talladega

The big one was the big story following Sunday's Good Sam 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Matt Kenseth took the checkers, while most of the field was wreckers. (Getty Images)
The big one was the big story following Sunday’s Good Sam 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Matt Kenseth took the checkers, while most of the field was wreckers. (Getty Images)

Talladega, Ala., — The Good Sam 500 was billed as the Chase for the Sprint Cup wild card and the 2.66 mile superspeedway delivered chaos as Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag ahead of Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch.

The final caution on the final lap for “the big one” that gathered 25 cars and sent Tony Stewart airborne was described as “unbelievable” by Greg Biffle, who barely made it through to get a top-five finish.

*Point totals are unofficial.

Brad Keselowski
Keselowski extends the points lead going into Charlotte. Keselowski was able to get through the chaotic last lap to grab a top-10 finish.

Jimmie Johnson (-14)
Johnson did not make it through the big one on the final lap and caught a ride to the garage with teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who was also involved in the last lap crash.

“We knew it was going to happen, it was just getting really tight.” said Johnson. “I think we were probably four-wide going into (turn) three and I could see some tire smoke off the guys in front of me, and then everybody just merged together and we were all in a big wad at that point.”

Denny Hamlin (-23)
Hamlin was one of several Chasers that chose to drop to the back of the pack for much of the race hoping to avoid the big one that happened later than Hamlin expected.

“I was at the very tail end of the field and once they started crashing immediately I just stood on the brake and waited on everyone to kind of wash down the track and then I drove around them,” said Hamlin. “We don’t have a scratch on our car and it sucks to get a good finish that way, but that’s the strategy in which we played today is to not get in a wreck.”

Kasey Kahne (-36)
Kahne picked up two Chase spots. Kahne said they were along for the ride once the big one started, and almost made it out unscathed.

“Somebody got me I think in the right rear corner and turned me back to the right and sucked me up into it (crash),” said Kahne. “We ended up making it back to the line; a few cars passed us so we might be a little better than 13th.”

“You can feel it coming, you can see it coming. It is just whether it is going to hit you or not,” Kahne said. “It just hit us.”

Clint Bowyer (-40)
Bowyer gained one spot in the Chase after having one of the quicker cars during the race. Bowyer said the car was good, he was patient, they were in position, and the big one took the chance at a great finish away.

“That’s why we all come out and watch,” said Bowyer. “I wish this thing — we need to shorten this race up, because it’s all waiting to see what happens right there at the end anyway.”

“Were in position to win,” Bowyer added. “We just didn’t win.”

Jeff Gordon (-42)

Cars on the track at Talladega Superspeedway. Sunday’s Good Sam 500 was the final restrictor plate race of the 2012 season. (Getty Images)

Gordon had the biggest point jump this week, gaining four spots after a second place finish. Gordon said during the last lap crash he did not see anything but the bumper of teammate Kasey Kahne.

“That was the craziest, craziest finish I’ve ever experienced here at Talladega,” Gordon said. “For a change, I finally came out on the good side of it.”

“That is definitely what we needed to do,” added Gordon. “That is like a win. I am sure we survived it. We’ll see what we can do with it from here on out.”

Tony Stewart (-46)
Stewart took 100 percent of the blame for the last lap crash that sent the No. 14 airborne.

“Unfortunately. I was trying to win the race, and I was trying to stay ahead of Matt (Kenseth) there,” said Stewart. “Michael got a great run on the bottom, had a big head of steam.”

“When I turned down, I turned down across the right front of his car,” Stewart added. “It cost a lot of people a bad day because of it.”

Martin Truex, Jr. (-48)
Truex was one driver that held position in the Chase. Truex said at the end of the race there was “stuff flying everywhere.”

“Everybody waits until the end, you get a run, it’s time to go, you can’t lift, everybody just runs into everybody and you’re kind of bouncing around out there like ping pong balls,” said Truex. “We almost made it through.”

“The very last car — I got all the way through and the very last car came up off the apron spinning and just hit me in the door and spun me and I had to get spun around and keep going,” Truex added. “Just gave up a couple of spots getting spun out, having to stop, spin around and get going again.”

Greg Biffle (-49)
Biffle gained two spots in the Chase with a fifth place finish, and said what he saw of the last lap wreck was “unbelievable.”

“I was probably 20th and five-wide up against the wall and then cars started wrecking,” said Biffle. “A car flew over the top of my car as I turned to the bottom and missed guys by three inches. It was like “Days of Thunder” coming through the smoke and the grass and just kept it going straight.”

“That’s all I did and once I was clear of all the stuff I kept going to the start-finish line,” Biffle added. “It was the craziest thing I’ve ever been involved in—in my life.”

Kevin Harvick (-49)
Harvick dropped one spot.

“We ran out (of fuel) on the backstretch,” said Harvick. “We were going to throw these cars away anyhow. I’ve seen a lot of crazy things here. This was one.”

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-51)
The most vocal of drivers following the race at Talladega was Earnhardt, who dropped four spots after being in the middle of the melee and “took a lot of hard shots,” but was fine. Earnhardt was not complementary of the four-and-five wide racing and said the crash on the final lap was disappointing.

“That cost a lot of money right there,” said Earnhardt. “If this is how we are going to race and that is how we are going to continue to race and nothing is going to change I think NASCAR should build the cars.”

“It would save us a lot of money,” added Earnhardt, who said wrecking in that fashion was not safe. “Wrecking like that is ridiculous. It’s blood-thirsty if that is what people want.”

Earnhardt said the changes NASCAR has been making to plate racing have not been going in the right direction.

“There are plenty of smart people out there that can figure something out where when one guy gets in trouble we don’t have 30 cars tore up at the expense of it,” Earnhardt said. “I mean it’s awesome in a word and everybody can get on the chip about it and get excited about all that which just happened, but for the longevity of the sport that ain’t healthy.”

“I don’t care what anybody says for the good of the sport I mean it’s good for the here and now and it will get people talking today, but for the long run that is not going to help the sport the way that race ended and the way the racing is,” added Earnhardt. “It’s not going to be productive for years to come. I don’t even want to go to Daytona or Talladega next year, but I ain’t got much choice.”

Matt Kenseth (-62)
A win by Kenseth doesn’t move him out of the Chase basement, but does put Kenseth at the top of the list for plate racers. Kenseth has two wins, and two third-place finishes on plate tracks this season. Kenseth said there really was no strategy coming in to Talladega.

Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag under the yellow during Sunday’s Good Sam 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Behind Kenseth was a melee that gathered 25 cars. (Getty Images)

“The first couple years we always tried to make a strategy, it was ‘let’s all hang back. Let’s pull forward and if it looks scary, let’s go to the back.’ Honestly, I stopped doing that,” said Kenseth. “I think Jimmy (Fenning, crew chief) and I talked about it last July before Daytona and we just decided the fans pay a lot of money to watch us race and these guys pay me to drive the race car fast, so we just go out and race hard every lap.”

“As you saw today, and we’ve seen a lot of times, there isn’t a safe place,” Kenseth added. “The last lap is the last lap and everybody is trying to get to the front, so I’d rather already be there if we can be.”