Brad Keselowski holds on to win wreck-filled Geico 500 at Talladega

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In a day of numerous multi-car wrecks and other strange happenings, Brad Keselowski stayed out of trouble to win Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Keselowski won on the final lap under caution, as yet another wreck occurred behind him just before he reached the start-finish line, bringing out the yellow flag.

It was Keselowski’s fourth career Sprint Cup victory at the 2.66-mile tri-oval. He led 46 of the 188 laps, including the final 17, taking over the lead for good from teammate Joey Logano on Lap 172.

“I never thought I’d ever win here four times,” Keselowski told Fox Sports. “I’m super-pumped. This is awesome.”

It was also Keselowski’s 19th career Sprint Cup victory and his second of the season, having won previously this year at Las Vegas. The win ties Keselowski with the career-win total of the late Davey Allison, who like Keselowski, earned his first Sprint Cup win at Talladega in 1987.

“This Fusion was hauling and one of the tickets to staying out of wrecks at Talladega is if you can stay up front, you have a great shot at not getting wrecked,” Keselowski told Fox Sports. “To be back in Victory Lane and have two wins this year, we’re looking for more and are really growing as a team. This feels really good, really good.”

Kyle Busch was second, followed by Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, pole-sitter Chase Elliott, Tony Stewart (Ty Dillon became relief driver for the final two-thirds of the race), Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney and Trevor Bayne.

There were 10 cautions for 41 laps, and a massive 37 lead changes among 17 drivers.

MORE: Results and stats for the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

MORE: Kevin Harvick regains points lead despite last-lap crash at Talladega

HOW KESELOWSKI WON: It was a matter of survival of the fittest, as the No. 2 stayed out of trouble almost the entire race, stayed in or near the top-10 and grabbed the lead for good with 17 laps remaining (Lap 172).

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Kyle Busch ran a strong race, but was unhappy at some of the carnage throughout the event. “Second’s not bad. I think the quota of three cars on their lids is a little high, but that’s racing,” Busch told Fox Sports … Third-place finisher Austin Dillon: “To come home with a finish like this and so much work put into this car, it was a wrecked but we finished third, I’m so proud of these guys.” … Chase Elliott started as pole-sitter and finished fifth. “We tried there at the end but just didn’t have enough momentum to get to those guys.” … Fourth-place finisher Jamie McMurray: “When you get to the end of these things, it’s every man for himself.”

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s hope for a seventh win at Talladega went away after wrecking on Lap 50. He got his repaired car back on track on Lap 99, only to be involved in another wreck on Lap 110 when something broke in Carl Edwards‘ car, sending him into Earnhardt and the wall. Earnhardt had nowhere to go and finished last in the 40-car field … Chris Buescher (37th) went for the wildest ride of his rookie Sprint Cup career when he was in a wreck on Lap 96, flipping three times before coming to a rest on his wheels … After his best season finish last week at Richmond, Kasey Kahne was involved in two wrecks Sunday and finished 39th … Yet another multi-car wreck occurred on Lap 160 when Danica Patrick (finished 25th) appeared to be pushed from behind, hit the inside retaining wall head-on, while Matt Kenseth (23rd) flipped over before landing on his wheels.

NOTABLE: Tony Stewart started the race and remained behind the wheel until Lap 53, when he exited his No. 14 Chevrolet and was replaced by Ty Dillon. The move had been planned going into the race … Michael Waltrip made his 60th career start at Talladega and, including today, has now led at least one lap for 34 of those races … Denny Hamlin had a costly pit stop on Lap 53. First, he overshot his pit, backed up, then after receiving service was leaving his pit stall and Greg Biffle was coming into his stall in front of Hamlin’s when both cars made contact. Hamlin’s car appeared okay, while Biffle had minor damage to his left rear. Hamlin then received a pit road penalty for having too many crew members over the wall. Hamlin again had issues on Lap 129, when he spun out coming into his stall and made contact with Landon Cassill.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 1: “It come off, I didn’t have it on there. We were under caution so I just grabbed the shaft and steered the car that way. I ripped the skin off my hand but I wasn’t going to let it hit the wall. It was just a freak deal.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose steering wheel came off before he was able to reattach it shortly before his wreck with Carl Edwards.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 2: “It didn’t end up as well as we liked to. Two days in a row, a couple big hits. I can’t wait to get out of this place.” — Joey Logano, who had hard hits at the end of Saturday’s Xfinity race and Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 3: “I’ve hit the inside wall of a superspeedway like four times now, and that was the worst. … I know I got drilled from behind, turned sideways and it was, ‘Hello, wall.'” — Danica Patrick.

WHAT’S NEXT: GoBowling 400, Saturday, May 7, 7:30 p.m. ET, at Kansas Speedway.

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Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

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Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.

 

 

Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race

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Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

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A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).

Talladega’s tale of two drivers: One celebrates, one laments

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — It’s dangerous to forecast what is going to happen next in these playoffs in a Cup season unlike any other. 

So keep that in mind, but Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega moves him one step closer to returning to the championship race for a third consecutive season.

It’s easy to overlook that beyond earning a spot in the Round of 8 with his win Sunday, Elliott scored six playoff points. That gives him 46 playoff points. He has the opportunity to score seven more playoff points this weekend at the Charlotte Roval — an event he has won twice — before the next round begins.

Once the current round ends, the points will be reset to 4,000 for each of the remaining playoff drivers and they’ll have their playoff points added. 

At this point, Elliott would have a 21-point lead on his nearest competitor and a 31-point lead the first driver outside a transfer spot to the championship race.

The next round opens at Las Vegas, goes to Homestead and ends with Martinsville. 

A key for Elliott, though, is to avoid how he has started each of the first two rounds. A crash led to a 36th-place finish in the playoff opener at Darlington. He placed 32nd after a crash at Texas to begin this round.

The up-and-down nature of the playoffs, though, hasn’t taken a toll on the 2020 Cup champion.

“I feel like I’ve been doing this long enough now to understand the roller coaster that is racing,” said Elliott, who is advancing to the Round of 8 for the sixth consecutive season. “It’s going to roll on, right? You either learn to ride it during the good days, during the bad days, too, or you don’t. That’s just part of the deal.

“So, yeah, just try to ride the wave. Had a bad week last week, had a good week this week. Obviously great to move on into the next round, get six more bonus points. All those things are fantastic, we’re super proud of that.

“This deal can humble you. We can go to the Round of 8 and crash again like we did the first two rounds, or you can go in there and maybe have a really good first race. I don’t know. You show up prepared, do the best you can, figure it out from there.”

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Joey Logano has always been one who wants to race at the front in a superspeedway event instead of riding at the back.

When asked last month about the idea of Texas Motor Speedway being reconfigured to provide superspeedway-type racing — as Atlanta Motor Speedway was before this season — Logano questioned the value of that type of racing.

“Is that the type of racing fans want to see?” Logano said. “Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. 

“They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano sought to race at the front as much as possible Sunday at Talladega, even after his car was damaged in an early incident, but he took a different tack on the final restart. He restarted 24th and dropped back, finishing 27th.

“We just wreck all the time, so we thought, ‘Boy, we’ve got a big points lead, let’s just be smart and don’t wreck and we’ll be able to get out of here with a top 10, assuming they would wreck because they always do,’” Logano said after the race. 

“That was the only time I’ve ever stayed in the back, ever, was today and they didn’t wreck. We gave up a bunch of our points lead. We’re still plus-18, which is a decent spot to be, but, the goal was to race for stage points and then drop to the back and wait for the crash. I hate racing that way. I’ve gotten beat many times from people that do that, then I tried it and it didn’t work.”

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Michael McDowell’s third-place finish continues his strong season. 

McDowell’s finish extended his career-high of top-10 finishes to 12. He has five finishes of 11th or better in the last seven races. 

“I’m proud of the season we’ve had and the run that we put together,” McDowell said. “Everyone did a great job on pit road executing and getting us track position when we needed it. It’s good to be there at the end and have a shot at it, just disappointed.”

Front Row Motorsports teammate Todd Gilliland finished seventh. 

“Race car drivers are greedy,” Gilliland said. “I wish I could have gotten a couple more there, but it was still a really good day. We ran up front most of the day and my car handled really well, so, overall, there are definitely a ton of positives to take out of this.”

Sunday marked the second time this season both Front Row Motorsports cars finished in the top 10. They also did it at the Indianapolis road course. 

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NASCAR confirms that the Hendrick Motorsports appeal of William Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas will take place Thursday.

Should Hendrick lose that appeal, the team could then have a hearing before the Final Appeals Officer. That session would need to take place before Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Twenty-five points in the playoffs is a ton,” car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday of Byron’s penalty. “I mean, in the regular season if you got a bunch of races, you can make it back up.

“I’ve seen other cars under caution hit each other. In that situation, (Byron) wasn’t trying to spin him, but they got a tower full of people, they could have put him in the back, could have done something right then rather than wait till Monday or Tuesday, then make a decision.”

Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega.