TALLADEGA - Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway ended up being ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and that turned out to be Ford’s Brad Keselowski, who outlasted a 40-car field that ended up with only 14 cars running at the finish.
Keselowski took the final restart with three laps remaining with the lead, but lost it to Ryan Newman with two to go. Despite falling back, he had help in the form of Ford teammates Aric Almirola, Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne. Logano proved to be the biggest asset as he was able to help push his Team Penske teammate back to the front on the final lap. Keselowski held on and automatically advances to the Round of 8.
The win was Ford’s seventh straight restrictor plate triumph and fifth in a row at Talladega. Ford has now won 16 of the last 28 such events at Daytona and Talladega combined.
Ford’s teamwork was on display from the drop of the green flag as all of the organizations pitted as a group on lap 15, setting up a scenario where they could all run to the end of the first stage without pitting. That proved to be a solid move as Keselowski captured the stage and seven Fords ended up in the top 10.
Ryan Blaney took center stage in Stage 2 as he came away with the victory, but the race turned over the final 78-lap segment as three multi-car accidents resulted in three red flags. The wrecks decimated the field and ended the days for Ford Playoff contenders Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Blaney and Stenhouse had Fusions capable of winning. Blaney led two times for 27 laps while Stenhouse led once for six. Blaney’s stage win helped him in the standings as he went from the outside-looking in to seventh-place after the race. He has a nine-point advantage over ninth-place Kyle Busch. Stenhouse, however, goes to Kansas in 11th place and is 22 points behind the final transfer spot.
In the end, Ford has four of the top-five finishers as Keselowski was followed by Roush Fenway’s Trevor Bayne in third, Logano in fourth and Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola in fifth. David Ragan made if five Blue Ovals in the top 10 with a 10th-place run.
Next Up: The Round of 12 concludes with an elimination race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday afternoon with the top eight drivers in the Playoff standings advancing. The race is scheduled to air at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time on NBCSN.
MONSTER ENERGY CUP RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st -- Brad Keselowski
2nd -- Ryan Newman
3rd -- Trevor Bayne
4th -- Joey Logano
5th -- Aric Almirola
6th -- Denny Hamlin
7th -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8th -- Kasey Kahne
9th -- Gray Gaulding
10th -- David Ragan
REMAINING FORD FINISHING RESULTS
18th -- Ryan Blaney
20th -- Kevin Harvick
21st -- Danica Patrick
25th -- Kurt Busch
26th -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
28th -- Landon Cassill
31st -- Matt DiBenedetto
35th -- Clint Bowyer
BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion) -- Finished 1st -- VICTORY LANE --
“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.”
HOW CRAZY WAS IT OUT THERE FROM THE DRIVER'S SEAT? “I feel like only eight cars finished the race. It was one of those crazy days. i think we have seen that at the plate tracks this year. A lot of attrition.”
WHAT WAS THE DECIDING FACTOR IN YOUR OPINION ON THE LAST LAP? “Probably the bump I got from behind from Joey Logano, my teammate, that was really big and I am very thankful for that.”
DOUG YATES, CEO, ROUSH YATES ENGINES -- “I remember being on pit road with my dad when we won with DJ in 2005 here. It was a day just like today. It is really special. It is special to be able to compete in NASCAR. It is such a family sport and to be able to spend all that time with my dad and now have my family involved and be able to compete at a high level and win races like this with Team Penske and Brad Keselowski is something special. I want to thank the France family and everyone for allowing us to compete. And all the fans here today. What an incredible race track.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. (No. 17 Sunny D Ford Fusion) -- Finished 26th
“I really haven’t seen the replay, I was just running up the bottom there and the 38 ended up right in front of us. It was a bummer. We were working on getting our track position back. We felt good in the first run and got hung out there at the end of the second stage and were just working on our track position. I felt like we had a really fast Sunny D Ford to contend for a win and put on a show for all these fans that came out. Bummer we don’t get to do it but we will go on to Kansas next week and have some fun.”
HOW DO YOU APPROACH KANSAS NEXT WEEKEND? “We’re going to go out and have some fun. We got points in the first stage (today) like we wanted. We were in position at the end of the second stage to get points as well and it just didn’t work out. Then I felt like we were in a position we could work our way to the front right there and pass a few cars and be in contention for a win. It just wasn’t our day.”.
HOW DID THAT UNFOLD? “We were running up the bottom and all of a sudden the 38 came down. I saw some stuff going on at the top and kind of right in front of me, but the 38 ended up parked right in front of us. I felt like we had a really good run coming up the bottom with the 48, trying to get some of our track position back that we had lost at the end of the second stage. Our Sunny D Ford was fast again. It felt like we had a car that was capable of getting up there and contending for the win, led some laps and it was a bummer we didn’t get into Victory Lane, but we’ll go onto Kansas next week and have some fun. Hopefully, one of the Fords left can get into Victory Lane for Doug and everybody at Roush Yates Engines after Robert passed this past week. Hopefully, one of them will get it done for us and we’ll go on to Kansas and have some fun
KURT BUSCH (No. 41 Monster Energy Ford Fusion) -- Finished 25th
“We got hooked in the right rear and I was pretty close to the front of the pack. I am just happy everything turned out the way it did to just not get clobbered by all the cars coming by. My guess is the outside lane was all jumbled up getting aggressive and pushing and somebody spun out and clipped us in the right rear. I thought we were looking good with the Monster Ford. We were coming from behind and the inside lane was open and we were making hay but now here we are coming out of the infield care center. That is just Talladega. That is how it works out. We need to figure out how to make the cars better so everybody can bump draft a little harder.”
KEVIN HARVICK (No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion) -- Finished 20th
TWO INCIDENTS FOR YOU. “I’m fine. The last one we slowed down and I got in the back of the 75. I checked up and then the 21 popped up on the race track and I couldn’t get slowed down. It was just a bad weekend. The Busch Light Ford wasn’t as good as we needed. We had to start in the back and went to the back a couple other times and just couldn’t make anything happen. We were on defense the whole time and wound up wrecked twice, so not a good weekend.”
RYAN BLANEY (No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion) -- Finished 18th
“We were up by the wall and somebody probably got turned and I got in it. I didn’t think there were enough cars to wreck that much anymore, but we happened to find it and a good day kind of down the drain.”
HOW BIG WAS THE STAGE 2 WIN? “It’s obviously valuable, but it’s ruined now.”
WHAT HAPPENED? “I don’t know. I went to the outside there and suddenly we all came together, which stinks. It’s unfortunate. We had a really good day going. We were racing hard and have nothing to show for it.”
HOW DISAPPOINTING? “Obviously, it’s disappointing. Everyone had a good chance for the win. I thought we were one of the faster cars all day, which was nice to show, but you can be the fastest car and not finish the race and you’ve got nothing to show for it.”
SOME STAGE POINTS COULD HELP. “Yeah, you’ve got to hope because we’re gonna finish 25th now. They really don’t mean anything. We had a shot to win the race, but you finish 25thand you get 18 stage points it doesn’t matter.”