Keselowski Avoids Wrecks and Radio Problems to Win the Alabama 500

Credit: Glenn Andrews/USATODAY Sports

TALLADEGA, AL – RIS – Dodging trouble all day, Brad Keselowski punched his ticket for the field of eight in the next round of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race at Talladega Super Speedway on Sunday.  The win in the Alabama 500 came on a day when all the attention was on Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt, who was driving in his final race at Talladega and will retire after the 2017 season, survived the numerous wrecks on the track and finished in seventh place.

After the race, Earnhardt said he thought his team had a chance to win the race, especially after making it through so many wrecks.

"We got lucky, we missed a lot of wrecks," Earnhardt said. "It's hard to get up there and keep that track position. These plate races get harder and harder to win."

"I thought we were gonna be okay, and there just wasn't anything we could do at the end," he said.

Keselowski finished in first place, followed in the top five by Ryan Newman, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola.

Keselowski’s day was not as trouble-free as a bit win indicates.  At about the halfway mark, he lost communication with his spotter, a real problem at restrictor plate races.  Twice on pit stops, his crew attempted to get his radio communications fixed.  On the second try, communication was restored and probably helped him dodge wreck after wreck.

Keselowski got by Ryan Newman on the final lap of the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to claim his third win of the season and secure his spot in the third round, or round of 8, of the 2017 playoffs, joining last weekend’s Charlotte Motor Speedway race winner, Martin Truex Jr., with spots locked in for the next round.

“This is still sinking in. It is a special place to get to race and a special place when you win here. It was really a collaborative effort with the team and getting a real fast car and making the right moves as a driver and a lot of help from up above with staying out of those wrecks. It really takes all three and we had them all today.”

The win was Keselowski’s fifth at Talladega and completed a Ford sweep of the year’s four restrictor-plate races.

Newman finished second. He took the lead from Keselowski on the final restart with three laps remaining but was unable to hold him off on the final lap.

“Proud of the guys on this Caterpillar Chevrolet with RCR and ECR to do what we did,” Newman said. “We tried to play it smart, and in the end, we were close but not close enough. I got double-teamed with the No. 2 (Keselowski) and the No. 22 (Joey Logano). That was the difference.”

Trevor Bayne finished third, and Joey Logano was fourth after leading a race-high 59 laps. Aric Almirola rounded out the top-five.

The final 20 laps of the race was wreck-filled with three yellow flags that all led to red flags for clean-up of multi-car wrecks, included a 12-car wreck with 16 laps remaining. Jimmie Johnson was parked by NASCAR for the remainder of the race, because his team began repair damage to his car during a red flag.

Really hard to tell what started it,” Johnson said. “I just saw the No. 38 (David Ragan) turning down across the group and hooked me and sent me up into the wall. What we are trying to get to the bottom of is our spotter was informed to let us start working on the car, and I guess there was some miscommunication there from NASCAR to our spotter, and we may have lost some valuable points on pit road as a result. So, we’ve got to get to the bottom of that and find out what happened there.”

Most of the remaining 12 playoff drivers were at least somewhat involved in one of the late-race wrecks. Cars sustaining at least some damage in at least one of the three wrecks included those of Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson.

In addition to winning the race, Keselowski also was a stage winner, taking the lead from Logano on the final lap of the opening 55-lap stage. Logano led 37 laps of the first stage after taking the lead from pole-sitter Earnhardt on the first lap.

Blaney won stage two.

Another playoff driver, Jamie McMurray, retired from the race early because of a wreck on lap 26.

Other top-10 race finishers included Denny Hamlin in sixth, Kasey Kahne eighth, Gray Gaulding ninth and David Ragan in 10th.

Next on the schedule is next weekend at Kansas Speedway.

Unofficial Race Results for the 49Th Annual Alabama 500 - Sunday, October 15, 2017 - Talladega Superspeedway
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, Stage 1 Pos, Stage 2 Pos, Pts, Status, Tms, Laps, Playoff Pts
1) 6, Brad Keselowski (P), No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, 188, 1, 2, 59, Running, 3, 7, 6
2) 27, Ryan Newman, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, 188, , , 35, Running, 2, 3, 
3) 10, Trevor Bayne, No. 6 Liberty National Ford, 188, 9, , 36, Running, , , 
4) 3, Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 188, 2, , 42, Running, 3, 59, 
5) 26, Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford, 188, , , 32, Running, , , 
6) 15, Denny Hamlin (P), No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, 188, , 10, 32, Running, 2, 4, 
7) 1, Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet, 188, , , 30, Running, 1, 7, 
8) 11, Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, 188, 10, , 30, Running, 2, 5, 
9) 39, * Gray Gaulding #, No. 83 Dustless Blasting Toyota, 188, , , 28, Running, , , 
10) 33, David Ragan, No. 38 Juice Batteries Ford, 188, , , 27, Running, , , 
11) 25, Ty Dillon #, No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet, 188, , , 26, Running, , , 
12) 20, Paul Menard, No. 27 Knauf/Menards Chevrolet, 188, , , 25, Running, , , 
13) 12, Kyle Larson (P), No. 42 First Data Chevrolet, 188, , , 24, Running, , , 
14) 19, Matt Kenseth (P), No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT Toyota, 187, , , 23, Running, 3, 7, 
15) 14, Daniel Suarez #, No. 19 Camping World Toyota, 184, , , 22, Accident, 2, 11, 
16) 2, Chase Elliott (P), No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet, 182, , 4, 28, Accident, 3, 26, 
17) 28, Chris Buescher, No. 37 Bush's Chili Beans Chevrolet, 182, , , 20, Accident, , , 
18) 9, Ryan Blaney (P), No. 21 Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, 177, 3, 1, 37, Accident, 2, 27, 1
19) 35, * Brendan Gaughan(i), No. 75 Beard Oil Distributing Chevrolet, 177, , , 0, Accident, 2, 6, 
20) 22, Kevin Harvick (P), No. 4 Busch Light Outdoors Ford, 176, , 8, 20, Accident, , , 
21) 13, Danica Patrick, No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford, 175, , , 16, Accident, , , 
22) 24, AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet, 172, , , 15, Accident, 1, 1, 
23) 21, Martin Truex Jr. (P), No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota, 171, , , 14, Accident, , , 
24) 8, Jimmie Johnson (P), No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, 171, 5, 7, 23, Parked, , , 
25) 4, Kurt Busch, No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford, 171, 8, 5, 21, Accident, 1, 3, 
26) 5, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (P), No. 17 SunnyD Ford, 171, 4, , 18, Accident, 1, 6, 
27) 16, Kyle Busch (P), No. 18 M&M's Caramel Toyota, 171, , 9, 12, Accident, 1, 4, 
28) 30, Landon Cassill, No. 34 Love's Travel Stops/CSX Play It Safe Ford, 171, , , 9, Accident, , , 
29) 18, Austin Dillon, No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet, 171, , 6, 13, Accident, , , 
30) 29, Michael McDowell, No. 95 K-Love Radio Chevrolet, 171, 7, , 11, Accident, , , 
31) 32, Matt DiBenedetto, No. 32 Can-Am/Kappa Ford, 171, , , 6, Parked, 1, 12, 
32) 37, Joey Gase(i), No. 23 Dr Pepper Toyota, 164, , , 0, Accident, , , 
33) 40, * DJ Kennington, No. 55 Dirt and Rock Toyota, 164, , , 4, Accident, , , 
34) 38, Cole Whitt, No. 72 RTIC Chevrolet, 155, , , 3, Accident, , , 
35) 7, Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Haas Automation Ford, 155, 6, 3, 15, Accident, , , 
36) 23, Erik Jones #, No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota, 26, , , 1, Accident, , , 
37) 17, Jamie McMurray (P), No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet, 25, , , 1, Accident, , , 
38) 34, Jeffrey Earnhardt, No. 33 Hulu Chevrolet, 25, , , 1, Accident, , , 
39) 36, Mark Thompson(i), No. 15 Phoenix Air Chevrolet, 25, , , 0, Accident, , , 
40) 31, * Justin Marks(i), No. 7 Golden Corral/Katerra Chevrolet, 16, , , 0, Accident, , , 
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie, (*) non-charter team, (P) Playoff qualified

Time of Race: 03 Hrs, 47 Mins, 52 Secs.
Average Speed: 131.677 MPH
Margin of Victory: 0.210 Seconds
Race Comments: Brad Keselowski (P) won the 49th Annual Alabama 500, his 24th victory in 300 Monster EnergyNASCAR Cup Series races. Prior to the start of the race, the following cars dropped to the rear of the field for the reason indicated: No. 4, 41, 15 and 55 (unapproved adjustments).
Caution Flags: 11 for 47 laps: Laps: 27-36 (1, 15, 18, 33 and 77 Incident on Frontstretch [None]); 52-54 (27 Incident in Turn 3 [None]); 57-61 (Stage 1 Conclusion [None]); 82-87 (Debris on the Backstretch [83]); 112-115 (Stage 2 Conclusion [55]); 153-155 (6, 19, 41 and 88 Incident in Turn 3 [None]); 157-159 (14, 43, 47, 72, 83 and 95 Incident in Turn 1 [None]); 166-170 (23, 55 and 83 Incident in Turn 2 [83]); 173-176 (3, 4, 10, 13, 17, 18, 20, 32, 34, 38, 41, 48, 75, 78, 88 and 95 Incident in Turn 3 [Red Flag: Lap 173, 12:31] [5]); 179-180 (4, 6, 21, 22 and 75 Incident in Turn 3 [Red Flag: Lap 179, 5:45] [None]); 184-185 (5, 19, 24, 37, 42 and 88 Incident in Turn 3. [Red Flag: Lap 184, 17:14] [20]).
 Lead Changes: 30 among 16 drivers: D. Earnhardt Jr. 0; J. Logano 1-13; D. Earnhardt Jr. 14-20; C. Elliott (P) 21-25; M. Kenseth (P) 26-29; A. Allmendinger 30; J. Logano 31-54; B. Keselowski (P) 55-57; K. Kahne 58-61; M. Kenseth (P) 62-63; D. Hamlin (P) 64-66; M. Kenseth (P) 67; K. Kahne 68; B. Gaughan(i) 69-70; M. DiBenedetto 71-82; R. Stenhouse Jr. (P) 83-88; K. Busch 89-91; R. Blaney (P) 92-111; R. Newman 112; B. Gaughan(i) 113-116; D. Hamlin (P) 117; R. Blaney (P) 118-124; C. Elliott (P) 125-144; K. Busch (P) 145-148; J. Logano 149-170; D. Suarez # 171-176; C. Elliott (P) 177; D. Suarez # 178-182; B. Keselowski (P) 183-185; R. Newman 186-187; B. Keselowski (P) 188; 
American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award:  Gray Gaulding, No. 83 
Coors Light Pole Award:  Dale Earnhardt Jr, No. 88 190.544 mph
Ingersoll Rand Power Move:  Ryan Newman, No. 31 26 positions
Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Race:  Roush-Yates Engines, No. 22 
Mobil 1 Driver of the Race:  Aric Almirola, No. 43 
Moog Go the Extra Mile:  Kasey Kahne, No. 5 crew chief Darian Grubb, 0.110 seconds
Sherwin-Williams Fastest Lap:  Cole Whitt, No. 72 
Sunoco Rookie of the Race:  Gray Gaulding, No. 83

Ron Fleshman with John Davison

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2017, Issue 10, Posted 10:48 PM, 10.15.2017