Talladega, Ala – The end of Sunday’s Alabama 500 looked like the ending to a demolition derby. Just 14 cars took the final green flag of the day on Lap 186, just three of them without damage.
In the end, it was fitting that the one that didn’t have a dent on it would come out with the victory.
Brad Keselowski passed Ryan Newman on the last lap and would win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday afternoon. It was Keselowski’s fifth victory at the 2.66-mile track, as just Dale Earnhardt Sr, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Jeff Gordon have more.
Keselowski, paid tribute to Earnhardt Jr. for this weekend’s race, having a plain white Miller Lite paint scheme on his No. 2 Ford, the same he used when he drove for Earnhardt with JR Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Fittingly enough, in his 300th career Cup start and Earnhardt’s final one at Talladega, Keselowski took that tribute car to victory lane.
He’d lead just seven laps in total on Sunday, but they were reallyy important ones, as he won the first stage and the race on two of those seven laps led. The win also automatically advances him to the Round of 8.
Keselowski, beat Newman to the finish line by just 0.210-seconds for his 24th career victory and ends a 24 race winless drought.
His Ford power was the key as the Michigan native gave Ford a clean sweep of the restrictor plate wins in 2017. What’s fitting is that they accomplished that feat with three different organizations too.
Kurt Busch with Stewart-Haas Racing won the season opening Daytona 500. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with Roush/Fenway Racing won the spring race at Talladega and the July Daytona race. Keselowski won on Sunday with Penske.
It was also Penske’s fourth win in the last five Talladega starts and Ford’s seventh straight plate win in total.
For Newman, it was his best finish since a win at Phoenix back in March. If you take out a bad opening round of races, Newman has had some good success over the second half of the season. He finished fifth at Daytona in July, followed up by a third later in the month at Indy, a fourth at Michigan, sixth at Bristol, seventh at Darlington and third at Richmond.
That was six top seven finishes in a span of 10 races. But, once the playoffs started, his No. 31 Chevrolet faded and was eliminated from playoff contention.
Trevor Bayne would finish third in his No. 6 Ford. His pink car was crashed twice but there he was salvaging just his second top five finish of the season.
Two more Fords in Joey Logano and Aric Almirola would round out the top five. Both were wrecked cars too.
Logano, won the last two Fall Talladega races and led a race-high 59 of the 188 laps in his No. 22 Ford.
The race was huge for the playoff drivers. Just four of the 12 even finished.
Jamie McMurray was the first one collected in an incident when he checked up to pit on Lap 25. Unfortunately for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, he was hit from behind by Erik Jones and sent back onto the track where Jeffrey Earnhardt slammed into his No. 1 Chevrolet. He enters Kansas 29 points out of the final playoff spot.
The next 125 laps would stay pretty calm among cautions. While the race was intense with 3 even 4 wide action, the only cautions we had from Lap 25 until Lap 152 were for Paul Menard getting into the Turn 3 wall in a single car crash, a debris caution and the end of both stages.
But, there were five cautions of the final 35 laps, three of which resulted in red flags.
Bayne, had contact on the backstretch with Kurt Busch on Lap 153, which caused his tire to go down. He’d crash in Turn 3 as a result. He would be able to continue on and finish with a top five.
On the Lap 157 restart, we’d see a six car crash in Turn 1 between Clint Bowyer, Cole Whitt, Almirola, Michael McDowell, Gray Gaulding and AJ Allmendinger).
Then, on Lap 166, another three car crash would occur between Joey Gase, DJ Kennington and Gaulding again. That was the last “tame” crash.
We’d go back green on Lap 171, but two laps later, a melee in Turn 3 occurred.
A 16 car crash took out several playoff contenders, including Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth among other drivers. Over half of the cars running at that point were involved.
There’s be a 12-minute, 31-second red flag for clean up.
Just a few laps after we’d go back to green, another “big one” happened. Harvick, Bayne, Ryan Blaney, Logano and Brendan Gaughan were involved in Turn 3 once again.
There was a 5-minute, 45-second red flag for that cleanup.
Then, on Lap 184, Chase Elliott tried to make a move on the lead by Daniel Suarez and collected both of them in Turn 4. Kasey Kahne, Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson and Earnhardt Jr. had a hand in that too.
We’d see a three lap shootout for the end in which we went without a crash.
The series heads to Kansas next weekend for the final race of the Round of 12.
Alabama 500 Results
- 2 Keselowski
- 31 Newman
- 6 Bayne
- 22 Logano
- 43 Almirola
- 11 Hamlin
- 88 Earnhardt Jr.
- 5 Kahne
- 83 Gaulding R
- 38 Ragan
- 13 Dillon R
- 27 Menard
- 42 Larson
- 20 Kenseth -1
- 19 Suarez R OUT
- 24 Elliott OUT
- 37 Buescher OUT
- 21 Blaney OUT
- 75 Gaughan OUT
- 4 Harvick OUT
- 10 Patrick OUT
- 47 Allmendinger OUT
- 78 Truex Jr. OUT
- 48 Johnson OUT
- 41 KuBusch OUT
- 17 Stenhouse Jr. OUT
- 18 KyBusch OUT
- 34 Cassill OUT
- 3 A. Dillon OUT
- 95 McDowell OUT
- 32 DiBenedetto OUT
- 23 Gase OUT
- 55 Kennington OUT
- 72 Whitt OUT
- 14 Bowyer OUT
- 77 Jones R OUT
- 1 McMurray OUT
- 33 Earnhardt OUT
- 15 Thompson OUT
- 7 Marks OUT