Talladega has always had the danger, the excitement, and the reputation for the “Big One” with the potential for disaster. 43 cars entered the arena ready to do battle with the high temperatures Mother Nature provided and the other gladiators vying for a win. Everyone chose their dancing partners but for the first 3/4 of the race, chose to battle their own cars instead of those around them. Doing their best to keep the engines cool and their equipment ready for the final push at the end of the race. Those who tried and failed are amongst NASCAR elite. Jimmie Johnson lost his oil pump as did Ryan Newman. Jeff Gordon succumbed to over heating issues late in the race, only to be caught up in the first of 3 wrecks in the final stages of the race.
But in the end it was Brad Kesolowski who made a move that no one expected. He kept his engine cool, he stayed out of the carnage, and he made it look easy pulling away from Kyle Busch, the car that was pushing him to the lead, with a move that broke the momentum of the push and allowed the lead car to win the race instead of the slingshot pass we’ve become so accustomed to. Riding up the track to the outside of turn 3 and diving down towards the infield, Kesolowski broke the 2 car draft leaving Kyle Busch with a wall of air to slow him down, as the #2 Miller Lite Blue Deuce pulled away by what looked to be at least 3 car lengths. With the 5 previous races having been won by the car in second position after passing the car they were pushing, everyone was expecting a different outcome, but Brad had a plan.
”I had this whole plan if I ever got in that situation where I was leading; I thought about it and thought about it, dreamed about what to do, and sure enough, going into (Turn) 3, it was just me and Kyle,” Keselowski said. ”I knew the move I wanted to pull. It worked because the guy running second should have the advantage, but I had this move all worked up in my mind.”
”That allowed me to drive untouched to the checkered flag,” Keselowski said. ”It wasn’t easy to convince myself to do that, but it was the right move.”
”Two wins, with the wild card and all, that almost makes you immune to missing the Chase,” Keselowski said. ”This team is going to be strong come Chase time. The best is yet to come.”
The move caught Kyle Busch completely off guard, even thinking he had screwed something up himself when Brad broke loose and ran away from him.
”I must have screwed something up, because we got to Turn 3 and came unhooked,” said Busch. ”Just gave the win away over there. Not sure exactly what happened. We definitely need to go back and figure out what it was.”
“I’m not sure he did anything,” Busch said. “If he did, he’s pretty smart. But I think our stuff just came unplugged.”
”If you’re leading, being pushed, plan on finishing second. That’s all there is to it. He’s no dummy, that’s for sure,” said Busch in post race interviews.
Matt Kenseth was still trying to figure out how his car, which had been the fastest all day and had led the most laps, was unable to close at the end. On the final restart his teammate Greg Biffle was pushing him from the line, but his car was too fast for Biffle to get up behind and push. The gap between the 2 Fords allowed Kesolowski and Busch to fly by and race themselves to the finish.
”I think we had the winning car, really just didn’t have the winning driver,” Kenseth said. ”I looked forward for a second, when I looked back, Greg and I were separated, those guys were already outside of him. With me not paying attention, keeping us hooked up, just cost us a shot at the win, cost Greg a shot at the win.”
”I wasn’t too fast. I was just too stupid I guess at the end to keep a win.”
“It’s hard to whine about leading most of the day and finishing third,” Kenseth said. “It’s just disappointing on the last restart when I had control over keeping Greg with me and I did a poor job of managing that. We got separated and got beat.”
“It probably didn’t help that we had a piece of the body break off on the B-post and had the fender tracked in a little bit,” Kenseth said. “That was my fault because I ran into [Mears] with the right front. It didn’t help us, but we had a fast car.”
“It was my fault,” Kenseth said. “I needed to drag the brake more and get off the gas more to make sure he stays attached. But honestly at Daytona, we came unattached and they couldn’t get a run back on me. When we did come apart, there really was no bottom lane. He lost all his speed.”
No for all the fans who have been complaining about boring long green flag runs, Talladega had a few of those, but the excitement of the last 40 laps made all the boredom fade. The fact that no one was injured as a quarter of the field was taken out of the race and all but 19 cars fell off the lead lap is a testament to the safety developments that NASCAR has been implementing over the past 10 years. Cars completely torn up and drivers walk away uninjured. It may be expensive for the owners, but the fans like to see the action, as long as no one is injured. The “Big One” is always a game changer as no one knows when it will happen, or who it will take out.
Take Jeff Gordon for example. He is having one of the most bizarre seasons of his career. Having won the Pole for the race, he faded back early. He showed signs of being able to get back to the front when he wanted to, but you can’t get to the front it you drive it into the wall.
“This is just one of the most bizarre years that this Dupont Chevrolet and Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet has ever gone through,” Gordon said. “I mean, it’s almost comical at this point.
“That was not fun. I didn’t like hitting the wall, but gosh, I thought I was clear. I was just kind of cruising by on the inside. It looked to me like somebody came down and got Martin [Truex Jr.], and that turned him into me. That’s just the way our season’s been going.”
In typical Tony Stewart fashion his sarcasm was in excellent form as he talked to reporters after the race. For those of you that missed it, earlier in the week Stewart lashed out at a reporter for asking if the lack of wrecks was costing NASCAR their fan base. After yesterdays race he had this to say.
“Sorry we couldn’t crash more cars today,” Stewart said. “We didn’t fill the quota for the day for Talladega.
“Honestly, I think if we haven’t crashed 50 percent of the field by the end of the race, we need to extend the race until we at least crash 50 percent of the cars. ‘Cause it’s not fair to these fans for them to not see any more wrecks than that. We still had over half the cars running. It shouldn’t be that way.”
“I’m upset that we didn’t crash more cars,” he said. “I feel like that’s what we’re here for. I feel bad if I don’t spend at least $150,000 in tore-up race cars going back to the shop so we definitely got to do a better job with that. …
“I had a blast. It would have been a lot more fun if I could have got caught up in one more wreck. If I could have done that, it would have been perfect.”