Winning a race at Talladega is all about survival. Not only missing the big wrecks, but managing your engine throughout the day just so you can have chance of winning at the end.
Sunday’s running of the Aaron’s 499 proved just to be the case of classic Talladega survival.
Throughout the day, drivers were forced to keep an eye on engine temperature while racing closer together than what you find in mall parking lot on “Black Friday”.
As attrition began to take it’s toll on the 43 car field, the time to take charge at the end was quickly approaching.
With 8 laps to go, Kurt Busch and his “Talladega Nights” car went sliding past the start finish line, bringing out a caution flag that would restart the field with 5 laps to go.
On that restart, Denny Hamlin and A.J. Allmendinger made contact heading into turn one. Paul Menard, Greg Biffle, Michael Waltrip, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart and others were all collected in the junkyard sitting on the Talladega front-stretch.
That caution resulted in a green-white-checkered finish which saw Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth leading the field to the green.
With an assist from his teammate Biffle, Kenseth shot out to a big lead—too big—heading down the back-stretch as they headed into turn three coming to the white flag.
In the third turn, Keselowksi, with help from Kyle Busch, was able to take the lead as the field took the white flag.
Heading back into turn three for the final time, Keselowski drove his No.2 Dodge up high, breaking the tandem of him and Kyle Busch.
With the checkered flag in sight, Busch’s No.18 wasn’t able to catch Keselowski as he took his second Talladega win.
“I had this whole plan if I ever got in that situation,” said Keselowski to the Fox reporters in victory lane about his strategy on the final restart. “I thought about it and dreamed about what to do. Sure enough, going into three it was just me and Kyle[Busch]. I knew the move I wanted to pull, and sure enough it worked. ”
After two-plus decades in the sport, Keselowski was able to deliver Penske Racing their first Talladega win in the Sprint Cup Series in team history.
“Brad got his very first win with us here back in the Nationwide Series in 2010,” said team owner, Roger Penske. “It was our first win here then, and now he’s got us our first Cup win here. Just a great win.”
Keselowski’s win also marks the first win for Dodge at Talladega since Dave Marcis went to victory lane in August, 1976.
While Penske Racing is switching back to Ford for the 2013 season, Keselowski has grown up racing, and living, in Dodge racing family. From his father, Bob, to his brother, Brian.
“We want Dodge to stay in this sport,” said Keselowski. “I’ve loved the experience I’ve had with Dodge. This sport needs them to stay. Hopefully this gives them the exposure they need to justify staying in NASCAR racing. It’s a key moment for Dodge.”
With his second victory of the 2012 season, Keselowski now sits 12th in the series standings heading into Darlington Raceway.
“We’re trying really hard to get that first Cup championship[for Penske Racing],” said Keselowski. “I think we’re doing all the right things to get that done.
“We got room to go to become a champion. The second you think you have what it takes to be the champion, others have already caught on. I know these guys on my left and right[Roger Penske and crew chief, Paul Wolfe] are committed to making that happen.”
Heading into Saturday night’s race at Darlington, Biffle remains on top of the point standings. He know leads Roush-Fenway Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth, by seven points.
Results of the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega
- Brad Keselowski
- Kyle Busch
- Matt Kenseth
- Kasey Kahne
- Greg Biffle
- Clint Bowyer
- David Ragan
- Trevor Bayne
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Jeff Burton
- Jame McMurray
- Aric Almirola
- David Gilliland
- Marcos Ambrose
- A.J. Allmendinger
- Travis Kvapil
- Paul Menard
- Casey Mears
- Michael Waltrip
- Kurt Busch
- Bobby Labonte
- David Reutimann
- Denny Hamlin
- Tony Stewart
- Kevin Harvick
- Joey Logano
- Robert Richardson Jr.
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Terry Labonte
- Dave Blaney
- Carl Edwards
- Juan Pablo Montoya
- Jeff Gordon
- Landon Cassill
- Jimmie Johnson
- Ryan Newman
- Bill Elliott
- Tony Raines
- David Stremme
- Regan Smith
- Joe Nemechek
- Josh Wise
- Michael McDowell