Sunday, May 6, 2012

Keselowski Takes Dodge to First Talladega Win in 36 Years

Keselowski wins at Talladega for the second time in his career (Getty)
NASCAR Wire Services

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Brad Keselowski got a push from Kyle Busch to take the lead and proceeded to run away from his dancing partner to win Aaron's 499 on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

The victory was Keselowski's second of the season, second at the 2.66-mile track and the sixth of his Sprint Cup Series career. It was the first win for Dodge at Talladega since Dave Marcis took the checkered flag 36 years ago.

Busch finished second, followed by Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and series leader Greg Biffle. Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Trevor Bayne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton completed the top 10.

Keselowski's victory ended a wild final quarter of the race, which extended six laps past a scheduled 188 because of a flurry of late cautions.

As the field began a round of green-flag pit stops with 45 laps left, a massive chain-reaction wreck in Turn 3 eliminated a handful of contending cars, including pole-sitter Jeff Gordon.

Contact between Aric Almirola and Dave Blaney triggered the crash, which also collected Martin Truex, Carl Edwards and Juan Montoya, among others.

"It was like a wreck at a stoplight," Edwards said. "Everybody started checking up and hitting each other."

With the herd thinned considerably, Paul Menard led the field to a restart on Lap 151. Hamlin, who had regained a lost lap as the highest-scored lapped car when NASCAR called the caution on Lap 143, surged to the front, where he swapped the top spot with Brad Keselowski.

Kenseth restarted at the back of the field under a penalty for pitting too soon under the Lap 143 caution, but he quickly worked his way forward, wresting the lead from Denny Hamlin on Lap 167, with Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger lined up behind him.

Five laps later, Hamlin found an opening between Kenseth and Keselowski and took second, but a Lap 175 wreck that started when Casey Mears cut a tire, scrambled the field for a restart with nine laps left in regulation.

As the field crossed the finish line on Lap 181, contact from sent Kurt Busch spinning into the inside wall at the entry to Turn 1. Kenseth led the field to a restart on Lap 185.

The green flag lasted only moments. As soon as the cars crossed the start/finish line, Hamlin ducked to the inside, and Allmendinger tried to block the middle lane. The nose of Hamlin's car, however, was already inside Allmendinger's bumper, and contact between the two cars started a wreck that ruined the chances of Hamlin, Menard, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Michael Waltrip.

Aaron's 499 Results

Talladega Post Race Notes
• Brad Keselowski won his sixth Sprint Cup Series race in his 99th start.
• Keselowski last won in March at Bristol, with five starts between the victories.
• Keselowski joins Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart as the only repeat winners of the season; each has two wins.
• It was Keselowski's second Talladega win in his seventh start and his second restrictor-plate win in his 13th start.
• He led twice for 10 laps, including the final two.
• Keselowski got his fifth Cup win in his past 34 starts.
• It was the 73rd Cup victory for Penske Racing and first at Talladega.
• Dodge got its fourth Talladega win and first since Dave Marcis in fall 1976.
• Kyle Busch (second) got his second top-five finish in 15 starts at Talladega and his third top-five of the season.
• Matt Kenseth (third) got his first top-10 finish in the past 11 races at Talladega; he led 73 laps, the most of all drivers.
• Kasey Kahne (fourth) had his fourth consecutive top-10 finish after starting the season with six straight finishes of 14th or worse.
• Greg Biffle (fifth) earned his second top-five finish in his 19th start at Talladega; his sixth top-five finish of 2012 leaves him as the points leader.
• David Ragan (seventh) hadn't finished in the top 10 since Sept. 2011 at New Hampshire, where he was seventh.
• Trevor Bayne (eighth) got his third career top-10 finish in his 22nd start.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (ninth) had his sixth consecutive top-10 finish, matching his career longest streak.
• It was the seventh race at Talladega to end with a green-white-checkered finish, second most among all tracks behind Daytona (nine).
• Nineteen cars failed to finish, the most of the season (11 at Daytona).

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