Keselowski survives mayhem at Talladega
By Rick Minter
The grandstands were packed at Talladega Superspeedway for Sunday’s Alabama 500, as fans came to witness Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last race on a very special track for him and his family. Those fans left happy, having witnessed a strong run by Earnhardt, a trio of points-scrambling multi-car crashes, miscues by some of the sport’s most talented drivers and a strong comeback to victory by one of Earnhardt’s protegees, Brad Keselowski.
Earnhardt, who has struggled to be competitive for most of his final season, started from the pole and contended for the win all the way until the final lap before finishing seventh.
Martin Truex Jr., who has dominated the Cup Series this season, was never really a contender for victory and made a rare driving mistake, triggering a 16-car pileup that saw him and six other playoff drivers receive considerable damage.
Keselowski, who got his big career break when Earnhardt hired him to race in the Xfinity Series — and who carried a “#Cheers2DaleJr.” message on his car on Sunday — came away with the victory after seeming to be out of contention following a pit stop to repair the radio in his No. 2 Ford that left him in 30th place with a little more than 30 laps to run.
Truex, who is assured of advancing to the Round of Eight due to his win the week before at Charlotte, came to Talladega with no pressure and hoped to add another win to his total for the season.
But he was just a mid-pack driver before the 16-car crash that ended his day.
“We definitively had nothing to lose today, but at the same time, you don’t want to be the person who causes others problems,” he said. “I wish I didn’t make that mistake.”
Keselowski, who now has five victories at Talladega, said the key to success on restrictor-plate tracks is taking advantage of the breaks one gets.
“You’d love to be able to pat yourself on the back and say it’s all skill, but there is some luck that’s involved in this,” he said, adding that drivers often have more bad luck than good in plate races.
“You know when you come here that probably three out of every four races you’re going to get caught up in a wreck or something like that happens. But the races where you have the good fortune, where you don’t get caught up in a wreck or you don’t have something break or any of those things, you have to take those races, run up front and win them. And I think that’s what we’ve been able to do.”
By avoiding crashes, Keselowski was able to overcome the setback due to his radio change and was leading when the 14 drivers still running took the green flag for the final time.
Ryan Newman passed Keselowski and led until the final lap, when Keselowski surged ahead to take the win by a margin of a few feet.
Newman, who finished second over Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola, said his No. 31 Chevrolet wasn’t much of a match for the Team Penske duo of Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford and Logano’s No. 22
“I kept my foot in it and did what I thought was right,” Newman said. “I basically got double-teamed and the 2 and the 22 got a good run past me. …
“Not the end result that we wanted, but a good performance