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Talladega Wreckfest Claimed By Brad Keselowski

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Brad Keselowski won Sunday’s Alabama 500, the fifth of 10 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, but the big news was the unbridled on-track carnage that resulted in three red flags in the final 20 laps of the race.

Keselowski prevailed in a four-lap, end-of-race shootout to put his Team Penske Ford into Victory Lane over Ryan Newman, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola, with Ford winning their seventh consecutive restrictor-plate race.

It was Keselowski’s third victory of the season and 24th of his career. And it was the first victory for Ford since Daytona in July.

“I survived,” said Keselowski, who won for the fifth time at Talladega. “It was a special day. … We needed to come to Talladega and get it done. This is a great track for us.

In his final Talladega race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh.

But the real story was the late-race calamity: There was a huge 17-car crash with 16 laps to go that took out a number of championship contenders. Martin Truex Jr. tried to go four-wide on the backstretch and got hit by David Ragan. Chaos ensued, with Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch all among the drivers who got collected. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had minor contact and wound up in the infield.

Johnson got hit and spun in front of Kyle Busch, who said he never saw the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet until it was too late. “I didn’t know where the heck the 48 car (Johnson) came from,” said Busch. “… I never saw him coming. I wish I would have, obviously. I would have tried to dodge left and try to go to the apron.”

“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,” said Stenhouse Jr., the spring Talladega winner. “Bummer we don’t get to do it but we will go on to Kansas next week and have some fun, hopefully.”

The most insightful comment may have come from Kurt Busch, the 2004 Cup champion. “Everybody left the inside lane open and we were making hay and here we are coming out of the infield care center,” Busch said after his mandatory post-accident checkup. “That’s just Talladega. It’s just how it works out.”

Truex apologized for triggering the crash. “We had nothing to lose today but at the same time, you don’t want to be the person who causes others problems,” said Truex. “Even though I feel like I’ve never been that guy here before, it looks like today I was. I hate it for those guys and their teams.”

Little bit anyone know it would be the first of three red flags.

A second red flag came out with 10 laps to go after Joey Logano hit Trevor Bayne, triggering another crash that took out playoff contenders Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick.  “A really good day and now it’s down the drain,” said Blaney.

“The Busch Light Ford wasn’t as good as we needed,” said Harvick.  “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.”

Then, with six laps to go, Chase Elliott tried to dive under Daniel Suarez, causing another wreck and a third red flag. Also taken out in this wreck was Kyle Larson, who was racing for the lead with Elliott and Suarez when the crash happened.

All in all, it was an ugly final stage to race that had been pretty clean up until those closing laps.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with FOXSports.com, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.