Wreckers work overtime to clear up Dega carnage

Updated: May 4, 2009, 1:28 PM ET

(AP Photo/Dale Davis)

The first "big one" struck just seven laps into Sunday's Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Ho-hum. Another Talladega race, another group of angry, frightened, frustrated, wrecked-out drivers just thankful to get out alive.

"I guess we'll do this until somebody gets killed and then we'll change it," Carl Edwards -- whose car flew into the catch fence at the checkered flag, injuring seven spectators -- told reporters at the track.

"Man, it sucks racing here," Jimmie Johnson said, expressing the sentiments of the majority of drivers over the past two decades, after wrecking out in the second "big one" -- or inevitable multicar crash -- of Sunday's Aaron's 499.

"That is Talladega," Jeff Gordon said after his car was knocked out in the first big one, only seven laps into the race.

Winner Brad Keselowski called it "NASCAR racing at its finest. This was a great show." Easy to say for the winner. But Keselowski did add, "I'm sorry I caused a wreck and sorry for those that are hurt. But that's just the situation with the rules and the way it is …"

The first big one damaged 14 cars, the second big one nine, and the wrecking continued right to the checkered flag.

As Keselowski and Edwards came toward the line with Edwards leading, Keselowski looked high and Edwards moved up to block. Then Keselowski darted low so quickly that Edwards' attempt to block again was late.

Keselowski held his line, knowing the win would be taken away from him if he went below the yellow line. So the two cars touched, launching Edwards' Ford into the air, and he was knocked higher by the onrushing car of Ryan Newman.

But even Edwards grimly acknowledged that "That's what Brad is supposed to do. … I mean, he did everything right. NASCAR puts us in a box. If he drives below the line, he loses the race, so what's a guy supposed to do?"

Last fall at Talladega, in a similar finishing situation, rookie Regan Smith went below the yellow line for what appeared to be the winning pass on Tony Stewart. But Stewart was declared the winner after NASCAR enforced the yellow-line rule.

"The rule is, you can't go below the yellow line [to advance position]," Keselowski said. "He [Edwards] blocked, and I wasn't going below it. … He knows the rules as well as anyone, and he put himself in that spot. I don't want to wreck a guy, but he put himself there."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who shot safely past the wrecking Edwards to the line, wound up second. Newman, whose car hit Edwards' in flight and knocked it higher, and into the grandstand fence, was close enough to the line that his wrecked car came in third.

Newman wasn't surprised at any of the last-lap melee.

"As crazy as it is, I thought about that [kind of] stuff two, three restarts before," Newman said.

But, "NASCAR has got to do their job to get the cars on the ground, and their job to make cars safer," Newman said. "I noticed my windshield bed pulled away, and Carl Edwards' windshield bed pulled away."

Flying windshields can be bad news, especially if they fly into packed grandstands.

"Whatever we can do to make the cars safer," Newman said, "because I'm pretty sure that we are coming back to Talladega, and I'm pretty sure that we are coming back with restrictor plates, and I'm pretty sure that we are coming back to three- and four-wide for most of the races.

"What we can do to make everybody safer is what we need to do to come out of here today."

Nationwide Series: Logano learns valuable lesson at Talladega

Joey Logano came out looking like a hero. But he also knew he'd been a culprit.

Logano pushed David Ragan to victory in Saturday's Aaron's 312 at Talladega Superspeedway, and collected a solid third-place finish for himself.

But that was after Logano caused the crash that stirred Clint Bowyer to kick a man who was down and out -- and innocent -- Michael Waltrip.

Waltrip, 46, has been blamed for many a wreck in his career, including the one at Bristol, Tenn., last season that led Bowyer to growl on his radio that "Michael Waltrip is the worst driver in NASCAR, period."

And Waltrip by his own admission has "messed up" enough this season that media reports have been reminding him of his preseason promise to retire if he didn't get more competitive.

But Saturday, Waltrip was clearly an innocent victim.

Logano, bump-drafting where drivers are always told not to -- in a corner -- hit Waltrip from behind and turned him sideways, right across the nose of Bowyer's car.

Logano breezed on, but Waltrip and Bowyer spun out, and Bowyer immediately went into the 2009 edition of his radio rampage against Waltrip: "Imagine that!" Bowyer howled. "Still got his hand out the window -- 'What? What happened?'

"Every damn time, same guy," Bowyer went on.

This, although Bowyer's spotter was trying to tell him, "The 20 [Logano] spun the 99 [Waltrip] right across our nose."

"I want to apologize to Michael Waltrip," Logano told ESPN's Shannon Spake after the race. "We were trying to bump-draft, and in the Cup cars it works in the corners a little bit better …"

Wait a minute. Yes, the Cup car bumpers match up better than the ones on the Nationwide cars. But bump-drafting in the corners just isn't a good idea with either car.

"I learned my lesson on that one," Logano said.

Paying closer attention at drivers' meetings at Talladega might have shortened the 18-year-old driver's learning curve.

Waltrip's resolve to stick around awhile longer just might have been tightened by word of Bowyer's tirade.

"Well, if he would watch the video, he would see that there was a man who drove over the top of me and spun me out," Waltrip told ESPN. "So Clint made a butt of himself at Bristol with stupid remarks, and if he wants to continue to be an idiot, then we can play that game. I don't mind."

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn3.com.

Camping World Truck Series: Skinner prevails in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Mike Skinner waited through two days and two weather delays to win the rain-shortened O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 Trucks race at Kansas Speedway.

Skinner was in the lead when the race was postponed after 52 laps on Saturday, lost the lead in the pits to defending champion Roy Hornaday Jr., then went back up front just before the second rain delay hit Monday.

Skinner was in the pits when the race was called after 132 laps -- 35 short of the finish -- for his 26th career victory in the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series.

Johnny Benson finished second and Brian Scott was third. Hornaday ended up fourth and Trucks rookie Brian Ickler finished fifth driving in place of series points leader Kyle Busch, who was at the NASCAR race in Talladega.

-- The Associated Press


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Mark Garrow recaps Talladega as Brad Keselowski gets his first Sprint Cup win after Carl Edwards' big crash.
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Racing Resources Says …

Sprint Cup Series

Brad Keselowski

Keselowski

  • Brad Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
  • Keselowski, who started ninth, led only the final lap -- the first lap he has led in his Cup career. It is the first time in series history that a race winner's first lap led was to win the race.
  • It was Keselowski's fifth career Cup start. He is the 27th driver to win within five starts, and fourth in the modern era, joining Mark Donahue, Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray.
  • Keselowski became the 38th different race winner in 80 Cup races at Talladega. He became the 10th driver to score his first Cup win at Talladega. The last first-time Cup winner was Clint Bowyer at New Hampshire in September 2007.
  • Keselowski's victory is the first Cup win by Phoenix Racing in 117 races. This was Keselowski's first start in the No. 09 of Phoenix Racing. He did not qualify at Daytona earlier this year. This was the fifth race for the 09 this season. The team DNQ'd in the other four.
  • Chevrolet has dominated at Talladega with 34 victories, followed by Ford with 17, Dodge with three and Toyota with two.
  • A Chevrolet has won 18 of the past 21 races at Talladega.
  • The 57 lead changes were the 10th most at Talladega. The all-time record of 75 came here in May 1984.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second, posting his third top-10 finish in 2009. It marked his best finish of the season.
  • This is the fourth victory for Chevrolet in 2009, all in the past four races.
  • Kurt Busch (sixth) took over as the leader of the Cup standings by five points over second-place Jeff Gordon. This is the first time Busch has led the points since he led after Las Vegas in March 2005, 149 races ago.
  • Ryan Newman (third) posted his first top-5 finish in 2009.
  • Marcos Ambrose (fourth) scored his second career top-5 in 20 career races. It is his best finish in 2009.
  • Scott Speed (fifth) was the highest-finishing rookie. This was the first time a rookie of the year contender has finished in the top 10 since David Ragan finished 10th at Homestead in November 2007. Joey Logano finished 10th. The last time there were two rookies to finish in the top 10 was when there were three at Homestead in November 2006.
  • Jeff Burton (10th) has scored seven straight top-15 finishes.
  • Elliott Sadler (19th) posted his best finish since finishing fifth at Daytona. Sadler has finished 20th or worse in the seven non-restrictor-plate races.
  • Denny Hamlin (22nd) ended a streak of five straight top-15 finishes.
  • Tony Stewart (23rd) ended a streak of three straight top-5 finishes.
  • Jeff Gordon (37th) posted his worst finish of the season. He has finished 13th or better in seven of the nine races this season.
  • Mark Martin (43rd) ended a streak of four straight top-10 finishes that dated to Bristol.
  • Clint Bowyer (39th) extended an 82-race streak of running at the finish that began at Homestead in November 2006. Bowyer's last DNF came at Phoenix on Nov. 12, 2006, when he finished 33rd due to oil pump failure. He passed Kevin Harvick (at 81) for the most consecutive races of running at the finish in NASCAR history. Herman Beam had a streak of 84 races in which he competed, without a DNF, but those races were not consecutive.
  • The top 10 consisted of four Chevrolets, four Toyotas, one Dodge and one Ford.

Nationwide Series

David Ragan

Ragan

  • David Ragan won the Aaron's 312 at Talladega Superspeedway. It was his first Nationwide victory in his 85th start. There has been a first-time race winner every year since the series began in 1982. The last first-time race winner was Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen in August 2008.
  • Ragan is the youngest race winner at Talladega at 23 years, 4 months and 1 day.
  • Ragan became the 15th different race winner in 18 Nationwide races at Talladega. He is the second first-time winner at Talladega, joining Greg Sacks, 1996.
  • Ragan posted his fourth straight top-10 finish, extending a streak that began at Texas.
  • Roush Fenway Racing posted its 101st series victory, the most of all teams. It was RFR's second Nationwide win at Talladega.
  • Ford posted its fourth win at Talladega. Chevrolet has 12, Pontiac and Toyota each have one. Ford posted its third win in eight races in 2009 (two by Greg Biffle and one by Ragan).
  • Ragan led only the final lap. His last-lap pass was the fourth in 18 Nationwide races at Talladega.
  • Kyle Busch, the points leader entering by 47 over Carl Edwards, finished 10th. He now leads the standings by 62 over Edwards, who finished 13th.
  • Busch has scored top-10 finishes in the past five series races, extending a streak that began at Bristol.
  • Ryan Newman posted a second-place finish in his first Nationwide restrictor-plate race.
  • Brad Keselowski (ninth) posted his fourth consecutive top-10 finish, extending a streak that began at Texas.
  • Mike Bliss (41st) ended a three-race streak of top-10 finishes that began at Texas. Bliss dropped from ninth to 13th.
  • Jason Leffler (sixth) has scored seven straight top-15 finishes, extending a streak that began at California.
  • Rookie contender Brendan Gaughan (38th) dropped from seventh to 11th in points.
  • Scott Lagasse Jr. was the highest-finishing rookie of the year contender of the six participating in this race. He led four laps in the race, the first laps he has led in his 22-race Nationwide career.
  • The first caution flew on Lap 55 for Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip, who were involved in a Turn 2 accident. The 54 green-flag laps marked the longest green-flag run to start a race at Talladega.
  • Thirteen drivers made their first series start at Talladega.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed his pit during the first round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 41. He was running first on Lap 39 and dropped to 33rd on Lap 42. The first caution on Lap 55 saved him from going a lap down. He recovered to finish fifth, the best finish for JR Motorsports in five races at Talladega.
  • There has been a caution within the last five laps in the past seven Nationwide races at Talladega.
  • This was the third green-white-checkered finish at Talladega.
  • The top 10 consisted of four Chevrolets, two Fords and four Toyotas. The highest-finishing Dodge was the No. 26 driven by Brian Keselowski.

-- Racing Resources