Commentary

Keselowski wins thriller at Talladega

Updated: April 26, 2009, 9:16 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

TALLADEGA, Ala.

All times Eastern

5:47 p.m.

Brad Keselowski wins it after bumping leader Carl Edwards and causing Edwards to go airborne in a spectacular crash into the catch fence.

The crash was stunningly similar to the one by Bobby Allison that caused the advent of restrictor plates.

Shades of Ricky Bobby, Edwards climbs out of the car and runs across the finish line to wild cheers by the crowd.

Wow. What a race.

5:32 p.m.

Big Wreck 2 comes with nine to go. Robby Gordon slams the inside wall head-on at the backstretch, but luckily hit the SAFER Barrier.

Other drivers involved include Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Jeremy Mayfield, Sam Hornish Jr., Michael Waltrip, David Stremme and Bobby Labonte. The wreck started when Hamlin and Montoya got together and spun.

"Man, it sucks racing here," Johnson said.

Ryan Newman restarts in front and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is second with four laps to go.

5:27 p.m.

Kyle Busch spins while leading with 16 laps to go. Jeff Burton tapped him from behind to cause Busch to lose control of the car.

Martin Truex Jr. spins about 10 cars behind the leaders. But neither Busch nor Truex hit anyone.

Busch can't start the car. Busch goes a lap down and will restart in the back. The race restarts single file inside 20 laps to go.

5:13 p.m.

The yellow flag flies for debris with 42 laps remaining and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in front.

A piece of the shading above a caution light fell on the track.

The leaders will pit because they can get to the end from here, assuming it goes green the rest of the way.

But lots of different strategies. Some took fuel only, some took two tires and some took four.

The restart comes with 38 laps left and Kurt Busch in front. Earnhardt took four tires, so he restarted 16th.

4:58 p.m.

Kurt Busch leads with 50 laps remaining. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is second and David Reutimann is third. More than half the drivers have led the race. The race has produced 49 lead changes among 23 drivers.

Casey Mears leads with 46 laps left. This is his last race with the No. 07 Chevy crew. He's swapping crews with teammates Kevin Harvick for next wekeend's race at Richmond.

Believe it or not, Burton just took the lead with 45 laps to go after falling three laps down. This is one crazy race.

4:47 p.m.

Jeff Burton has made up three laps. The caution comes out for debris on the backstretch.

Burton was on the tail end of the lead lap, so he gets to go around and restart at the back of the pack. Paul Menard got the lucky dog free pass to the lead lap.

Kyle Busch leads the restart on Lap 128. Jimmie Johnson is second, Martin Truex Jr. is third and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is fourth. Look for things to start getting dicey in about 30 laps.

4:32 p.m.

Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne are back on the track, battling for 37th place, 56 laps down.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. got a lead of 15 car lengths on Lap 111 with a push from Jeff Burton, who is one lap down. Two cars went off and left the pack, something that was impossible in the old car.

Burton fell three laps down after pitting several times for alternator problems, but he has a chance to get back on the lead lap now.

Reed Sorenson has a flat right rear tire and barely avoids hitting the wall, but he has to pit under green.

The pack catches back up to Earnhardt and Burton. Martin Truex Jr. moves to the front and Earnhardt falls back to 13th on Lap 115.

It's impossible to say who will win this race. At least 15 drivers have a real shot at it.

4:12 p.m.

So all you fans want lead changes? We got your lead changes.

Paul Menard is the 19th different leader on the restart at Lap 89. Still not halfway and the event has produced 34 lead changes, easily the most of the season.

Who would have picked this top 5 at the halfway point:
1) Denny Hamlin
2) David Reutimann
3) David Stremme
4) Brian Vickers
5) Reed Sorenson

I'm not kidding. That's the order after 94 laps.

4:02 p.m.

Carl Edwards is hanging at the back on purpose, running 29th on Lap 75 and trying to avoid the next accident.

Jimmie Johnson moved to the lead on Lap 81, getting a push from Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Two laps later, Brad Keselowski almost takes out his boss. Earnhardt is behind Keselowski when Keselowski comes down and taps Earnhardt. Both cars go below the yellow line and lose positions.

Maybe Sam Hornish Jr. should get the flu more often. He leads the race on Lap 84.

We've had 29 lead changes among 17 drivers and the race isn't to the halfway point.

Caution 5 comes out for debris on the backstretch at Lap 85.

3:45 p.m.

There's nothing wrong with this car at the plate tracks. On Lap 53 of the 188-lap event, there have been 23 lead changes among 14 drivers.

Jimmie Johnson thinks he may have a loose wheel. He catches a break when Kurt Busch spins and brings out the fourth caution.

Busch's slide down the inside of the frontstetch looks almost identical to the one Michael Waltrip had a few laps earlier.

Martin Truex Jr. restarts on top at Lap 64. Elliott Sadler is second and Earnhardt is third. The race still has 33 cars on the lead lap.

3:42 p.m.

So far, so good for Sam Hornish Jr., who's fighting the flu. He's toughing it out and stands 12th at the restart at Lap 47. Kyle Busch leads, Brad Keselowski is second and Jimmie Johnson is third.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes the lead for the second time on Lap 48 and gets the crowd on its feet. Earnhardt is getting a big push from Martin Truex Jr., his former teammate.

3:17 p.m.

Speed, as in Scott Speed, is having quite a day at the moment. He's running third on Lap 40 after going a lap down at the start of the race.

Michael Waltrip spins down the frontstretch past the tri-oval but somehow manages to avoid hitting the wall.

The spin brings out the third caution at Lap 44. Waltrip gets four fresh tires and stays on the lead lap.

3:15 p.m.

Jeff Burton comes to the pits under green with an electrical problem, but the caution comes out seconds later. Burton heads back out and doesn't lose a lap.

Nine cars are in the garage with crews frantically trying to make the bashed equipment race-worthy to get back on the track.

The safety crew is making repairs to the SAFER barrier, replacing padding where Mark Martin hit the wall in the big wreck.

The restart comes on Lap 35. Kyle Busch leads, but two drivers whose cars suffered minor damage in the wreck are in the top five. Elliott Sadler is second and Matt Kenseth is fourth.

CrashMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe first "big one" collected 13 cars, including Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon.

2:51 p.m.

Race officials say 13 cars were involved in the accident. Also part of the wreck were Elliott Sadler, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch.

It started when Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon got together in the middle of a four-wide sandwich entering Turn 3.

"We were having a good time and actually working well with Matt," said Gordon, who started the race as the points leader. "I'm not sure what happened. I was cruising on up the middle. There just wasn't enough room. Matt came up, and I was already there."

Bowyer's 81-race streak without a DNF could be over. He tied teammate Kevin Harvick's record last week at Phoenix and was hoping to pass him today.

"I don't know what happened," Bowyer said. "Just racing way too hard too early."

Mark Martin knows he won't win back-to-back races now.

"We had a great weekend last week, so I'll stop short of complaining," Martin said. "I'll just look forward to the good stuff."

One thing is certain. We will see a big shake-up in the standings today.

2:32 p.m.

Well, that didn't take long. The big wreck happened on Lap 8.

At least a dozen cars involved. It appears Jeff Gordon got loose in a four-wide situation to start the chain reaction.

Mark Martin also got involved. Some of the others in the wreck are Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, David Gilliland, Jamie McMurray, A.J. Allmendinger and Scott Riggs.

2:25 p.m.

The race is under way, and pole winner Juan Pablo Montoya leads the first lap.

Scott Speed was held in the pits for one lap at the start of the race because the No. 82 Toyota team made changes to the car after qualifying. That isn't allowed at an impound race.

Terrible break for Speed, who would have started eighth.

2:01 p.m.

The crowd is trying to set the record for the largest number of people doing the chicken dance for five minutes.

And I'm only moments away from poking my eyes out with an ice pick.

This little dance of NASCAR fans is going in the Guinness Book of World Records. The old record was 72,000 at a soccer match in Europe.

This crowd easily will surpass that mark, but it's also the smallest crowd at Talladega in many years, probably less than 120,000.

1:25 p.m.

Sam Hornish Jr. is battling the flu. He will start the race, but Penske Racing has Travis Kvapil standing by in case Hornish can't complete the race.

It's a hot day in Alabama with temperatures expected to reach the upper 80s during the race. Hornish was in the infield care center this morning getting IV fluids.

Hornish will start fourth in the No. 77 Dodge. His ninth-place showing last weekend at Phoenix was his best finish of the season.

1:05 p.m.

Starting near the back doesn't keep a driver from winning at Talladega. Two of the past three winners (Jeff Gordon in the fall race of 2007 and Tony Stewart in the fall event last year) started 34th.

But most of the recent winners at the Alabama oval have started near the front. Six of the past nine winners at Dega started in the top 10, and three of those started on the front row -- Gordon in the fall event of 2005 and the spring race in 2007, and Dale Jarrett in the spring race of 2005.

No matter where a driver starts, he probably won't stay there long. Drivers get shuffled around in the draft, sometimes moving 20 or more positions in one lap.

***

Speedways are having a tough time these days keeping title sponsors for races, but Talladega Superspeedway is bucking the trend.

Aaron Rents announced Sunday it has extended its title sponsorship for the spring NASCAR events at Talladega through the 2013 season. The Nationwide race will continue as the Aaron's 312, and the Sprint Cup event remains the Aaron's 499.

12:30 p.m.

A Sprint Cup victory always is special, but a win today would have sentimental appeal for any of the four drivers at Richard Childress Racing.

Childress is beginning the 40-year anniversary of RCR at the place where he competed in his first race at the Cup level.

A boycott by the top drivers gave Childress an opportunity to race in the first Talladega Superspeedway Cup event in 1969. Many of the drivers were concerned about tires blowing on the high-banked 2.66-mile oval, a track bigger and faster than any other ever built.

Childress raced the Saturday feeder series, then called the Grand American Series, in his Camaro.

But the boycott meant NASCAR chairman Bill France Sr. needed drivers and cars for the Sunday race, so Childress and some of the others in the feeder league competed in the inaugural Talladega Cup event, then known as the Grand National Series.

Childress finished 23rd of 36 starters that day. Richard Brickhouse claimed his only Cup victory.

"I made about $10,000 for the weekend," Childress said. "I remember thinking, 'I'll never have to work again.'"

Not quite, but Childress used the money to form RCR and buy the land where he built his first race shop.

Forty years later, Childress is one of the most successful team owners in NASCAR history. Dale Earnhardt won six of his seven championships with RCR.

All the RCR drivers (Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Casey Mears) will display special decals on their cars for the 40-year celebration, which officially starts today and will end with the fall Talladega event Nov. 1.

Fans can vote on the RCR Web site (www.rcrracing.com) on the greatest RCR moment and the top 40 RCR moments.

***

Some good news on Friday for Chrysler and, indirectly, the Dodge teams in NASCAR.

Chrysler reached an agreement with Canadian Auto Workers, which was one of the stumbling blocks to working out a merger with Fiat. The agreement with the CAW could save Chrysler more than $240 million a year.

Whether this is enough to complete a merger with Fiat by Thursday's government-imposed deadline is unknown, but any merger was considered impossible without a CAW agreement.

If the merger with Fiat fails, Chrysler would face bankruptcy and Dodge's future would be in doubt. No one knows what the two Dodge teams (seven cars) in Sprint Cup -- Richard Petty Motorsports and Penske Racing -- will do if Dodge doesn't survive.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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