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APR 25, 2021 | Ford Performance Staff

Mustang Takes Keselowski to Sixth Talladega Win

Brad Keselowski celebrating with trophy at victory lane

TALLADEGA, Ala. - Brad Keselowski emerged from a frantic overtime finish Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, to earn his first win of the season and 6th of his career at the track in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Ford led 81 laps on the day as Keselowski led only the last, but most important, of the 191 laps in his Mustang, bypassing Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell on the white-flag lap. His triumph in the GEICO 500 marked his sixth win at the 2.66-mile track and the 35th of his Cup Series career.

In all, Ford posted a dominating day, taking four of the top-five and 10 of the top-15 finishing positions, led by Keselowski. McDowell came home third, Kevin Harvick fourth and Matt DiBenedetto fifth. Only William Byron’s Chevy in P2 spoiled an all-Ford top-five party.

Ryan Blaney (9th) and Cole Custer (10th) rounded out the top-10 Fords.

DiBenedetto looked poised for his first career win late in the race. The winner of  Stage 1 (the first stage wins of his career), DiBenedetto led 28 laps and lined up first for the overtime restart, but faded to fifth by the end after sliding up to block a push coming on the upper groove.

It was at that point that Keselowski was able to make his move with the Fords of McDowell and Harvick right behind, pushing the No. 2 past Byron, and eventually making the move that outdueled McDowell at the finish line.

Three-time Talladega winner Joey Logano led 10 laps early, but his No. 22 Team Penske Ford lifted off in a multi-car stack-up on the final lap of Stage 1. Logano emerged unhurt but wound up 39th in the 40-car field. 

The NASCAR Cup Series’ next event is scheduled for Sunday, May 2 (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Kansas Speedway.

NCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st - Brad Keselowski
2nd - William Byron
3rd - Michael McDowell
4th - Kevin Harvick
5th - Matt DiBenedetto

6th - Kaz Grala
7th - Tyler Reddick
8th - Austin Dillon
9th - Ryan Blaney
10th - Cole Custer

REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
11th - Chase Briscoe
12th - Anthony Alfredo
13th - Ryan Newman
15th - Aric Almirola
21st - Chris Buescher
25th - BJ McLeod
29th - Timmy Hill
34th - Joey Gase
36th - Josh Bilicki
39th - Joey Logano

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 MoneyLion Ford Mustang -- VICTORY LANE INTERVIEWS
YOU ONLY LED ONE LAP, BUT WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN THE BOTTOM LANE OPENED UP?
 
“Merry Christmas.  What an awesome day today to bring the MoneyLion Ford Mustang into Victory Lane.  The whole race I had a couple opportunities to take the lead, but I just kept thinking, ‘Man, keep your car in one piece.’  We’ve been so close here and it just didn’t seem to want to come together here the last few years and I’ve been on kind of a four-year drought here, but it’s nice to get number six.  I would have never dreamed I’d tie Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. here.  That’s something.  Those guys are really legends.  I’m just really proud of my team.  We had an accident there early and they recovered and got it fixed up to where I could keep running.  My crew chief, Jeremy Bullins, had a lot of confidence.  I told him, ‘I want to come in and put four tires on this thing,’ and he said, ‘Yep, go ahead.’  And that really helped a bunch at the end.  Other than that, I’m just so excited.  My daughters and my wife are here.  They’re in the motorhome lot.  I don’t know if they’ll get to come to Victory Lane, but if not, they got to see daddy win, so that’s pretty cool.”

WERE YOU AWARE HOW BIG OF A RUN THEY HAD AT THE END? 
“Oh yeah.  I saw it coming and I was like, ‘Oh God, please.’  If I can just get to this line.  Couldn’t they just put it on the other side like Daytona?  But that’s their job.  Everybody is just racing hard, pushing hard and that’s Talladega.”

WHAT’S IT LIKE WHEN THINGS WORK IN YOUR FAVOR IN A GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER? 
“If you’re gonna lead 187 and not lead the last one, that’s not so good.  I think I’ll take the last one and that’s exactly how it worked out, leading the last one.  It opened up, the lane did.  Matt went to block the 12 and I just barely got inside of him with a huge run.  I got a great push from Michael McDowell, which was really helpful and appreciated, so just a big day.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS MANUFACTURER TEAMWORK? 
“It is.  You feel like you’ve got the wind at your back with that, so it all came together very nicely and the Fords are real strong.”

YOUR SIXTH WIN HERE AT TALLADEGA, TYING SOME LEGENDS. 
“That’s very cool.  I want to keep going, but I’m really proud to be there with Dale Jr. and Jeff Gordon -- a long, long ways to ever catch Dale Earnhardt.  I don’t even know if that’s possible, but to be on the same list is pretty cool.”

MATT DIBENEDETTO, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang
WOULD YOU DO THAT LAST LAP ALL OVER AGAIN? 
“Oh, man.  You say that after every one of these races.  It’s tough, but it’s just all so circumstantial.  We talked about it a lot before the race and it’s tough.  Our day will come.  I’m just lucky to drive this thing and have the support from everybody.  The fans, they are so awesome.  Driving for the Wood Brothers is really a dream come true.  Gosh, it’s hard to come so close to so many of these things.  The Fords are so fast.  They believe in me, the whole Ford camp.  They do an excellent job.  The Mustangs are great.  Motorcraft, Quick Lane, Menards and all of our vendor partners, I tell you that because all those people believed in me and I love what I do.  Our day will come.  We’ll get there.  I just appreciate the support from everybody.”

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang
HOW CLOSE DID YOU FEEL LIKE THIS ONE WAS FOR YOU?
“I felt like it was pretty close. I am just so thankful to everybody at this Front Row Motorsports team. We have fast superspeedway cars. This Ford Mustang was fast. It has been a great season for us. I really felt like I was in a good spot again working with Brad (Keselowski) and drug back off of him coming off of Turn 4. I thought I would have the run but just didn’t suck him down enough. It was a great run and I am glad there is another Ford Mustang in victory lane. I am thankful to all our partners. It has been a great year. To get a top-five and to be running in the top-10 and have a win says a lot for this team and Bob Jenkins for giving me the opportunity.”

KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Busch Dog Brew Ford Mustang
THIS RACE HAD A  LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING DIDN’T IT?

“It did. We definitely didn’t like to see the 22 flying around in the air right in front of us but our Dog Brew Ford Mustang was good all day. We raced all day. I kind of slid the left front there and got a speeding penalty at one point but we were able to stay on the lead lap. Everybody did a great job. The car is rolling two speedway races in a row and I think that is a first for us. We just need a little momentum. The cars have run good on the speedways. Hopefully next week we have everything together at Kansas and we can go have a good day.”

JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 AutoTrader Ford Mustang (Involved in Accident on Lap 60)
HUGE HIT THERE JOEY, WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU SEE THE REPLAY THERE?

“I guess I don't know exactly what to think. It is a product of this racing. On one hand I am so proud to drive a Cup car that is safe, and that I can go through a crash like that and get out and speak about it. On one hand I am made about being in the crash and on the other I am happy to be alive. On another hand I am wondering when we are going to stop because this is dangerous doing what we are doing. I got a roll bar in my head. That is not okay. I am one hit away from the same situation Ryan Newman just went through. I just don't feel like that is acceptable. A lot of it is the big spoiler and the big runs and all the pushing. It is nobody’s fault. Denny (Hamlin) is trying to go and the 47 is trying to go. It is a product of this racing. We have to fix it though. Someone already got hurt and we are still doing it, so that’s not real smart. At the same time, I am appreciative of driving a car that is this safe and what Team Penske has done for the safety of these cars so that I can live to talk about it and go again. I got lucky that I didn’t get hit while I was in the air. It is unfortunate for our Autotrader Mustang but we will go on but it won’t be a good starting spot next week.”

POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE

MATT DIBENEDETTO, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang 
“Obviously, a disappointing end there.  I shouldn’t say disappointing, it was a solid day, take a top five and had a stage win, so that’s great.  The car was really fast.  All the Fords were super good.  That was awesome.  Our car led great.  Ryan really pushed.  Our Penske teammates did an excellent job helping us get that stage win, so that was huge.  Big credit to them and big for our points situation, so just tough ending.  I jumped up in front of Ryan and he kind of got spit out and hung out and some people were grabbing his quarter panel and such.”

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang
“Overall, not a bad day.  Decent stage points.  I really would have liked to not see a caution at the end of that thing with Matt, me and Brad all lined up there and a bunch of Fords.  It would have been nice to see where we all wound up, but the top on green-white-checkers I never think is any good because the bottom always wins out on that because the bottom lane they can’t go anywhere.  They can’t move up, and then guys that are in the second lane they just bail to the top because guys in the back are trying to get all the spots you can, so that just kind of makes the top fall apart.  It just kind of fell apart on us and then couldn’t get any help from behind, but, overall, nice to still be rolling at the end of that thing and not a bad finish, not a bad day.”

MATT DIBENEDETTO CONTINUED --
LOGANO SAID THE RUNS ARE TOO BIG AND SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS KIND OF RACING.  CAN ANYTHING BE DONE TO MAKE THIS SAFER?
 
“I wouldn’t want to get into anything too controversial, but I actually had a random thought when I was in the car and you think about how big the runs are because the big spoilers has changed the racing a lot and it makes it pretty hairy with the runs being that big.  With the Next Gen car, I think it’s a great opportunity to look at it and evaluate it would be my answer because the runs are very big and it does get pretty treacherous and a little aggressive, but, overall, glad the safety of the cars is so excellent because of all the work they’ve done over the years.  NASCAR has done a really good job on the safety of the car, so that would be my neutral answer.”

RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED --
LOGANO SAID THE RUNS ARE TOO BIG AND SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS KIND OF RACING.  CAN ANYTHING BE DONE TO MAKE THIS SAFER? 

“We’ve seen since we changed the package with this big old spoiler on there and things like that, the runs are just massive and locking bumpers.  Things aren’t very stable to drive when you’re getting pushed and people throwing blocks that you might have been able to throw a few years ago, but you can’t throw them now.  And then going back to Joey’s flip, I didn’t see it, but I’m guessing he was pushing me to Matt and that means the 11 was pushing him and I get to Matt and hit him in the bumper and can’t go no where.  Then it all just accordions and people get turned I guess.  I think that comes up a lot, just because the run is so big.  They’re coming way faster behind the leader and it just all stacks up, so a handful of years ago, even three years ago, there was a different kind of plate racing.  The runs weren’t as big with that package, but I thought it was a still pretty decent, so, I don’t know, you kind of just see where the new car leads to and see how it drives, but I will agree that the runs are massive and they’re really hard to stay stable, especially when you’ve got somebody on your bumper.  Luckily, he was all right and he didn’t get hit at a bad angle, but I’m not sure how you fix it other than going back to what a few years ago was.”

MATT DIBENEDETTO CONTINUED --
HOW TOUGH IS IT GETTING TO BE IN THE SENSE OF MORAL VICTORIES?
“I think as I get older my perspective on a lot of things gets better, so the way I look at it is, yeah, it’s disappointing to come close so many times, not just today because this is Talladega and a lot of things happen that’s crazy, but to come close -- a lot of my career has consisted of a lot of that and some heartbreaks and it’s tough.  The way that I look at it is I focus on what’s in my control and focus on the positives.  I’m driving fast cars.  We’re in position to win and I know that if we keep doing that, like I said, our day will definitely come and pertaining to this race specifically, I’ll drive myself crazy if I just look back at it, replay exactly what happened and will never let myself live it down.  We did the best job we can.  Circumstances are crazy, especially with how big the runs are and all that, so it’s nothing to beat ourselves up over.  We had a stage win and a good day, and I know that although my career has consisted of a lot of heartbreaks our day will come, so I don’t look at it in a negative way.”

YOU WERE IN A POSITION TO WIN THIS RACE LAST FALL.  WHAT DID YOU TAKE FROM THAT EXPERIENCE TO HELP OR THAT MIGHT HAVE HELPED YOU IN THIS CASE?  
“I think overall we continue to get better.  Me and my spotter, Doug Campbell, he deserves a lot of credit because he sees a lot more than I do.  He’s calling a lot of the moves and what to make and where to go and working with our teammates, which, obviously, everyone saw we did a good job of that.  I think overall, to answer your question, we’ve actually gotten better at our race craft and I think also it’s a big credit to not only my spotter and us working hard on that stuff and watching film and studying, but it’s a big credit to my Penske teammates.  I’m not just saying that.  It really is because they’re so good -- Brad, Joey and Ryan are so good at these plate races at their race craft.  It’s like I look at it as a chess match and then it makes you really have to step up your game and you can watch them and lean on them or have them to race with, work with, pick their brains, study, so I think we’ve just gotten better at our race craft, which puts us all in position to have a shot at winning these things when it counts.”

DID YOU FEEL GOOD IN YOUR POSITION GOING INTO THE LAST LAP? 
“I don’t know.  I was kind of 50/50 on that.  Being the leader is tough and I never feel good at Talladega until we cross the line winning it because so much can happen.  Last year we were leading coming off of four and that’s still not close enough.  Like Ryan said, I felt best before that caution came out when it was the three of us in control of the race up front.  I felt pretty good about that and didn’t really want to see the caution, but it is what it is.”

WERE YOU TRYING TO BLOCK RYAN OR BREAK UP THEIR DRAFT LATE IN THE RACE? 
“I’ve got to go back and replay it and watch it myself.  It all seems like a little bit of a blur because it all happened so quick, but my focus and intention behind the wheel was picking up Ryan because he was a great pusher, a great help.  Obviously, Brad was really good too on the bottom, but Ryan had a run and a good push and I was actually just trying to pick him up and hoping we could get some steam and go to the front and take control of the race, get up there, so that was my intention and my spotter, Doug, I put a lot of trust in him and he called me to go to the top and I can only see so much, but I saw Ryan with a run, so I went up there to pick that up, but, really, ultimately, Ryan got spit out a little bit and drug back some and that’s what he was talking about as far as when you’re on the outside you are kind of at that mercy.  The guys on the bottom lane are forced to stick together and keep pushing, so there are things obviously you’d always do over if you didn’t win this thing that you would change, but that’s pretty much for everybody, except for the winner.”

RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED -- DID THE TOPICS YOU DISCUSSED IN THE TEAM PENSKE SIT DOWN COME INTO YOUR MIND AT ALL IN THE FINAL LAPS? 
“We never even got to that point.  I mean, yeah, it worked out great to where we were all three lined up together, and then we were just kind of waiting and biding our time to see what it looked like getting the white flag or if another group made a move before that we would have all tried to protect it, so we were just all three together, which was nice.  Myself, I was probably gonna wait until off four or something if we do make a move.  You never know how it was gonna play out, but I was content staying in line until the end and then trying to make sure that one of us won the race.”

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