Brad Keselowski prevails in wild finish at Talladega

It was survival of the fittest for Brad Keselowski, who collected his fifth victory at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday.

Brad Keselowski prevails in wild finish at Talladega
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet lead the field
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Ryan Newman, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

The driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford made it a clean sweep by Ford Performance at restrictor plate races for the first time in the history of the manufacturer. 

Keselowski beat Ryan Newman to the line by .210-seconds for his 24th-career Cup win.

“That takes some stress off of me for next week,” Keselowski said on his cool down lap. “I survived. What a special day. We were able to come here and get it done.”

Trevor Bayne finished third followed by Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Gray Gaulding and David Ragan rounded out the top 10. 

Keselowski, who led three times for seven laps, also won the first stage in what became a slugfest with just 13 cars remaining on lead lap at the finish of the Alabama 500. With the win, Keselowski advances to the Round of 8.

Brendan Gaughan pitted early and cycled out to the lead for the start of the third stage on Lap 116. With a two-tire pit stop, Austin Dillon lined up second followed by Hamlin, Blaney, Keselowski, Suarez, Harvick, Larson, Kyle Busch, Elliott, Johnson, Truex, Kahne, Kurt Busch, Patrick, Earnhardt, McDowell, Gray Gaulding, Bayne, Ty Dillon, Stenhouse, Ragan and Kenseth. The No. 2 Penske crew developed radio issues and had trouble communicating with Keselowski.

Hamlin took the lead on Lap 117 followed by Blaney. Blaney returned to the point between Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 118 followed by Elliott, Hamlin, Keselowski and Truex. Larson moved up to sixth, Gaughan dropped to seventh followed by Kurt Busch, Johnson, McDowell and Earnhardt who worked the high lane to advance from 16th at the restart. 

Elliott cruised to the outside of Blaney in Turn 2 for the lead with a push from Truex on Lap 125. Truex, Blaney, Kurt Busch, Larson and Earnhardt completed the top six. Earnhardt moved to the outside and grabbed second from Blaney on Lap 128. Truex ran third followed by Blaney, Kurt Busch, Johnson, Larson,Bayne, Keselowski and Logano with 60 laps remaining. 

Elliott led an eight-car breakaway on Lap 133 followed by Blaney, Earnhardt, Kurt Busch, Johnson, Logano, Kenseth and Truex. Thirty-five cars remained on the lead lap with 55 laps to go. 

Crew chief Alan Gustafson tells spotter Eddie D’Hondt not to let anyone get to the outside of Elliott with 52 laps to go. With 50 laps remaining, Elliott led twice for 18 laps followed by Blaney, Earnhardt, Kurt Busch, Johnson, Logano, Kenseth and Truex. Hamlin closed in with the second line — Bayne, Stenhouse, Menard, Larson, Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Harvick. 

Green flag pit stop started on Lap 144 with the Fords of Keselowski, Blaney, Stenhouse, Logano, Kurt Busch, Bayne, Harvick and Bowyer. Larson, Suarez, Menard and Austin Dillon also came in for service. On the following lap, Elliott pitted from the lead with his teammates Earnhardt, Johnson and Kahne. Truex, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Patrick, Newman, Gaughan and DiBenedetto also came in for service. 

Kyle Busch cycled out to the lead on Lap 145 and led four circuits before Logano took the point. 

Logano led three laps before Bayne and Kurt Busch made contact in Turn 3 to trigger the sixth caution on Lap 151. Suarez checked up and Earnhardt pounded the rear of the No. 19 car. Harvick, Bowyer, Kenseth, Patrick, Kurt Busch, Bayne, Allmendinger, Austin Dillon and Almirola came in for service. 

Logano retained the lead followed by Blaney, Elliott, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Stenhouse, Hamlin, Larson, Truex, Kahne, Johnson, Suarez, Earnhardt, Menard, Newman, DiBenedetto, Ragan, Cassill, Kenseth and Chris Buescher for the Lap 156 restart. Before the leaders cleared Turn 2, a wreck involving Almirola, Bowyer, Allmendinger and Gaulding broke out after Cole Whitt and McDowell got together in Turn 1. 

Keselowski was running in the top five when he came to pit road to have his radio fixed. Logano controlled the Lap 159 restart followed by Blaney, Elliott, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Stenhouse, Larson, Truex, Johnson, Kahne, Suarez, Earnhardt, Menard, Newman, DiBenedetto, Ragan, Cassill, Kenseth, Buescher and Harvick. Keselowski dropped to 30th with 29 laps remaining in the race. 

Logano hugged the bottom line with Blaney, Hamlin, Larson and Johnson behind while the field shuffled into three lanes. With 24 laps remaining, Joey Gase hit the wall coming out of Turn 2 after contact with DJ Kennington to ignite the eighth caution. Logano led followed by Blaney, Hamlin, Larson, Johnson, Suarez, Menard, Bayne, Elliott, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Stenhouse, Cassill, Ragan and Earnhardt. Twenty-nine cars remained on the lead lap.

The race returned to green on Lap 171 with 18 laps remaining. Logano held the point until Suarez passed the No. 22 Ford at the line. Before completing the next lap, a 16-car wrecked erupted on the backstretch after contact between Truex and Ragan. Kurt Busch was collected along with Stenhouse, Harvick, Johnson, Earnhardt, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Cassill, Gaughan, McDowell, Patrick and Ty Dillon.

 

“We were doing everything right, everything right, sorry guys,” Kurt Busch tole his crew. “Someone clipped up in the right rear. It’s just Talladega, it’s just how it works out.”

NASCAR posted the red flag at the three-hour, 21-minute-mark with 16 laps remaining. 

“I’m fine, I just didn’t know where the 48 car came from,” Kyle Busch said after being released from the infield care center. “Just never saw him coming. It was unfortunate to get caught up in that mess.”

NASCAR lifted the red flag after 12-minutes, 31-seconds. Earnhardt, Keselowski, Hamlin, Ty Dillon, Patrick, Kenseth, Menard, Harvick and Buescher pitted. Johnson and DiBenedetto pitted then elected to park. Only 19 cars remained on the lead lap with 12 laps to go.

Suarez retained the lead followed Logano, Bayne, Elliott, Larson, Blaney, Almirola, Gaulding, Hamlin, Keselowski, Earnhardt, Menard, Ty Dillon, Newman, Patrick, Buescher, Kahne, Patrick, Gaughan and Ragan. Harvick was scored one lap down. Kenseth was two circuits off the lead lap. 

Elliott came from fourth and slingshot around the Suarez and Logano for the lead followed by Larson on the first lap. As the field came down the backstretch into Turn 3, Logano slid into Bayne and bounced into Blaney and collected Harvick and Gaughan for the 11th caution. 

NASCAR displayed the red flag at three-hours, 33-minutes. Suarez regained the lead. Logano and Bayne came down pit road. Buescher and Kenseth pitted on Lap 178. 

Suarez led the remaining 16 cars to the green with eight laps to go. Elliott, Earnhardt, Larson, Hamlin, Keselowski, Kahne, Newman, Ty Dillon and Almirola completed the top 10. Larson moved to second on the inside but Suarez hung on for the lead. As the pack came through Turns 4, Elliott dropped to the middle and turned Suarez who clipped Larson. Keselowski escaped with the lead followed by Newman, Earnhardt Hamlin, Ty Dillon, Kahne, Almirola, Bayne, Gaulding, Ragan, Logano and Menard. 

NASCAR displayed the red flag for the third time at the three-hour, 40-minute-mark with 13 cars left to battle. After 17-minutes and 14-seconds, the yellow flag waved and the remaining cars lined up for a three-lap shoot out.

Hamlin pushed Newman out to the lead but took the low lane after the first lap with Keselowski in second. Almirola climbed behind Keselowski with one lap to go. With a push from Logano, Keselowski extended his lead over Newman at the line. 

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