Sunday, October 7, 2012

Matt Kenseth survives to win at Talladega

Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Matt Kenseth brought home his second plate-race win of the year at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. After nearly wrecking earlier in the race, the No. 17 FordEcoBoost/National Breast Cancer Foundation Ford survived "The Big One" for his second win of the season. Perhaps it's appropriate that Good Sam Roadside Assistance sponsored the 500 mile race because plenty of cars ended up being towed off the track.

"That was Talladega on steroids!" saud Jeff Gordon.
Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
Tension built through the final 20 laps. The field was three-, four-, and even five-wide at times, jockeying for position, trying to get to the front. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief on Lap 181 when Jamie McMurray spun with no one else wrecking. It allowed some teams to come in for a splash of Sunoco fuel, but it also set up a green-white-checkers finish. Tony Stewart charged to the lead, then came down to block Michael Waltrip, who got hit by Casey Mears, pushing him up the track and setting off a chain reaction that involved 25 cars.

"That was a three-million dollar lap." said the No. 88 crew chief Steve Letarte.

"All I saw was TEXT 50555," said third-place finisher Kyle Busch when asked if he saw what happened. Second place Jeff Gordon said, "You're wondering if you're going to make it back to the white flag. You know you're not going to make it back to the checkers without a wreck."

Fortunately no one was seriously injured in the fray, for which Tony Stewart took full responsibility. "I just crashed everybody on Turn Three," he said.

Rounding out the top five were David Ragan and Regan Smith.

There were 54 lead changes among 18 leaders, with plenty of great saves on the Speedway. Jamie McMurray lead the most, making the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy so wide that Jeff Gordon said on his radio, "He's not a driver, he's a chicane."

In addition to the last-lap crash, four other cautions flew, one of them for Kurt Busch who apparently ran out of gas while leading the field on Lap 98, got bumped and hit wall. He wound up at the bottom of the track and after checking the damage on the car, got back in and drove off not wearing his helmet and before the safety crew finished with him. NASCAR told Busch he was done for the day - perhaps not the way the former champion would have wanted to finish his last race with James Finch. Next week Busch will get a start on his 2013 ride, moving to Furniture Row Racing and the No. 78 car.

Also of note, Travis Kvapil received the USG Improving the Finish award for moving up 28 places from his 36th-place start to his 8th-place finish. Others in the top ten included Greg Biffle in sixth, points-leader Brad Keselowski in seventh, Ryan Newman in 9th, and Jeff Burton in 10th.

For the full finishing order, click here.

The Sprint Cup Championship points standings: (1) B. Keselowski 2,179;(2) J. Johnson 2,165;(3) D. Hamlin 2,156;(4) K. Kahne 2,143;(5) C. Bowyer 2,139;(6) J. Gordon 2,137;(7) T. Stewart 2,133;(8) M. Truex Jr. 2,131;(9) G. Biffle 2,130;(10) K. Harvick 2,130;(11) D. Earnhardt Jr. 2,128;(12) M. Kenseth 2,117.  For full rankings, click here.

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