Originally written on Start 'N' Park Blog  |  Last updated 11/13/14

HAMPTON, GA - SEPTEMBER 05: Matt Kenseth driver of the #17 R&L Carriers Ford, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on September 5, 2009 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Matt Kenseth pulled off the victory in the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 from the Talladega Superspeedway. A timely push from Kevin Harvick put Kenseth on the outside of Tony Stewart. Stewart drifted down to try and block Michael Waltrip, who was getting a push from Casey Mears, when contact was made sending Stewart up across the track and into Harvick. From there, Kenseth was the only car going towards the checkered flag while everyone else wrecked. Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch navigated through the wreck to get second and third. The battered vehicles of David Ragan and Regan Smith rounded out the top five finishers.

Kenseth had this to say from Victory Lane about his last lap: “Clint and I got together a little bit on the backstretch.  I don’t know if that was my bad and we weren’t exactly all the way clear or what happened there, but that really slowed the group and we got a big lead, which typically isn’t good here.  I just looked in my mirror and saw them coming at me three-wide.  I kind of let Tony have his spot there.  It didn’t look like he had a big push behind him and lined up with Kevin and we pretty much stayed locked together there until we got to turn three and I thought it was gonna be a drag race to the finish.  I didn’t know what was gonna happen and I’m still not sure what happened.  Somehow I think Tony got turned and caused a big wreck.”

After being released from the infield care center Tony Stewart took full blame for the accident, saying he was blocking Waltrip trying to maintain his position on the track. Mears, who was behind Waltrip, was unsure what happened. “I was pushing the 55 so hard that we couldn’t slow down. I felt him try to hit the brakes, I tried hitting them, but going too fast,” he remarked after the race.

More post-race reaction included:

  • Kyle Busch, who got third, said he “cranked it left, went onto the apron and hoped we missed it, which we did.”
  • Clint Bowyer who was at the front on the last lap came home 23rd; he remarked “we were in a position to win, just didn’t win.”
  • Kasey Kahne was mid-pack when the accident happened; behind him was teammate Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. Kahne commented “just about made it by, got hooked in the right rear and got brought right back into it. Very close to making it through and finishing second out there.”
  • Earlier in the week Brad Keselowski played the new NASCAR video game on the big screen at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. On Sunday, the video game view belonged to him, as he said after the race “it was literally like a video game with cars upside down, going everywhere, not sure how I got slowed down and through that. My view was unbelievable out there.”

The race was caution free until lap 18, when contact between Mears and Cole Whitt sent Whitt across the track into Carl Edwards. Points leader Brad Keselowski narrowly avoided being taken out, as he was following Edwards on the low line. Edwards limped out the rest of the day in the 36th place. Joey Logano was also damaged in the accident. Logano was a play in that he was at the front of the field trying for the lucky dog and helping other drivers get to the lead. He never got that lap back and finished 32nd when it was all said and done.

The race was relatively calm, with very few incidences,  until lap 100 when Kurt Busch suddenly slowed and was punted into the inside wall by Jamie McMurray. Busch had believed he ran out of fuel out there, which is something Kasey Kahne did at the same time. After Busch’s car came to a hault, a bizarre scene followed. Busch removed is helmet and got out of his car to survey the damage. Thinking it wasn’t too terrible Busch got back into his car and drove away. However, safety personnel were already on scene with their supplies on the back of his car. As he sped off, workers had to quickly get out of the way and supplies went flying. NASCAR demanded Busch stop, but with his helmet off he could not hear them. NASCAR then parked Busch for the remainder of the race. Once Busch got back to the garage he pleaded his case: “I got out of the car and surveyed the damage, saw that it could still roll so I jumped back in. I remembered with these engines they will run at 20 percent of fuel pressure to get it back to the garage.  So I tried like heck. That is the competitor in me, which is the desire that I have and that is what gets misconstrued all the time.  This is the way my life works.  Today is a perfect example.”

Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was able to get back on the lead lap after a late debris caution at lap 140. This set up an interesting scenario for the end of the race as most teams could not make it the rest of the scheduled distance. As the laps clicked down, the intensity picked up as everyone tried to guess who would run out of fuel and cause “the big one” in the closing laps.

Contact sent Jamie McMurray spinning on lap 184. McMurray’s strong day ended and the ensuing caution allowed drivers to stop for fuel.  By the time cleanup was done, it was time for a green/white/checkered finish to the race, which set up the hornets’ nest that caused the 25 car pileup on the last lap.

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Prilosec OTC Wildberry Key Moments:

The first key moment was Brad Keselowski avoiding the spinning #33 of Cole Whitt who took out the car (Edwards) in front of him. Keselowski kept his nose clean until the final lap accident, but was able to manage a 7th place finish out of it.

Kyle Busch, Trevor Bayne, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. were each dealt speeding penalties between laps 59 and 61. This worked into the favor of Busch and Earnhardt as they worked together as drafting partners to stay up near the front. Both got back on the lead lap and were in positions to contend before the big wreck.

This was Matt Kenseth’s second win of the season and second win at a restrictor plate track, as he won the season opening Daytona 500. It was a great moment in victory lane with Kenseth and his crew celebrating. At year’s end Kenseth will leave the only team he’s driven for over the last 13 years. It was nice to see him getting them into victory lane one more time.

Jamie McMurray had a great race leading a race high 38 laps even after his sponsor announced they were leaving for another team in 2013. His car was hooked up so that he could run high, low, or in the middle. The finish of 34th will not reflect how his race was for this team.

In the same vein as McMurray, Casey Mears needs an “attaboy” for his run out there. He put his GEICO Ford in the lead for 10 laps, which doesn’t sound like much, but this car has been MIA all year long. He showed power and skill getting through the field. Had Stewart not blocked Waltrip, he could have pushed him to the victory.

The Chase:

Chase drivers seemed to have different strategies on how to race Talladega on Sunday. Drivers like Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and Kasey Kahne went for it, as in leading as much as they could. Those drivers led 65 of the 188 laps.

Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick would work their way up to the front, then when the racing became too much for them, would drop back away from the mess.

Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin just stayed at the rear of the field hoping to miss “the big one” once it happened. Both Johnson and Hamlin were involved in the last lap wreck, although Hamlin was able to drive his car back to the finish line. Hamlin said after the race “[this strategy] gave us the chance for a win riding in the back but you gotta miss the wreck and that’s what I did. Slow down, let them wreck, and make it to the finish line. Not a top 10 but better than our average here.” Johnson on the flip side got to ride back to pit road hanging out of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s car after the wreck.

Brad Keselowski kept the point lead and extended it to 14 points over Jimmie Johnson. The big movers were Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, and Greg Biffle. Kahne and Biffle moved up two positions in the points, and Gordon moved up four spots. Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick each dropped one spot, Tony Stewart dropped two spots, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was the big loser of the day. Despite being in contention for the win all race long, Earnhardt dropped four positions to 11th in the standings. He remarked after the race he “doesn’t want to go to Daytona or Talladega anymore, but have to because they’re on the schedule.” Matt Kenseth won the race but did not move anywhere in the standings staying in the 12 position.The full standings are below:

  1. Brad Keselowski 2179
  2. Jimmie Johnson -14
  3. Denny Hamlin -23
  4. Kasey Kahne -36
  5. Clint Bowyer -40
  6. Jeff Gordon -42
  7. Tony Stewart -46
  8. Martin Truex, Jr. -48
  9. Greg Biffle -49
  10. Kevin Harvick -49
  11. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -51
  12. Matt Kenseth -62

Historical Perspective:

There have been a lot of crazy finishes at Talladega, but this one is right near the top. Never have I seen almost three complete laps of three and four wide racing and it actually work. There were 30 cars that could have come out with the win on the last lap, depending on how the accident happened. Look at Michael Waltrip, for example, coming out of nowhere to make a run for the win.

While most can chalk this racing up as “not racing” I, like most fans, absolutely love it. It is nerve racking, which is part of the draw because I don’t feel myself falling asleep with long green flag runs. Anything can happen at any time; people who are leading are suddenly 30th on the next lap, cars can go spinning and take out the field, or it is a 200 mph parade lap. The unpredictability of every lap and every calculation just keeps everyone glued to the TV.

This could be the race we point at that gets Jeff Gordon back into contention for the championship, as his second place vaulted him up to sixth for the Chase. On the flip side, drivers like Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. might look at this race as the beginning of the end of their hopes.

Race Results & Statistics:

Fin Str Car Driver Laps Pts Bns Rating Winnings Status Tms Laps
1 15 17 Matt Kenseth FordEcoBoost/Natl.BreastCancerFoundation Ford 189 47 4 122.1 $302,036 Running 8 33
2 6 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 189 43 1 106.8 $206,171 Running 1 7
3 13 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Toyota 189 42 1 91.6 $186,168 Running 2 6
4 25 34 David Ragan MHP-8 hour Alert Ford 189 41 1 69.5 $142,743 Running 1 1
5 28 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row / Farm American Chevrolet 189 39 88.6 $136,243 Running
6 5 16 Greg Biffle 3M / National Breast Cancer Foundation Ford 189 39 1 111.0 $124,260 Running 6 16
7 22 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge 189 37 81.5 $130,330 Running
8 36 93 Travis Kvapil Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota 189 37 1 82.6 $119,518 Running 2 3
9 2 39 Ryan Newman US Army Chevrolet 189 35 68.1 $130,993 Running
10 26 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar / DriveCat.com Chevrolet 189 35 1 101.5 $128,610 Running 2 3
11 21 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet 189 34 1 111.7 $132,621 Running 4 12
12 1 5 Kasey Kahne Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet 189 33 1 83.6 $101,610 Running 2 9
13 9 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota 189 31 74.3 $112,399 Running
14 23 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight Toyota 189 30 56.8 $124,801 Running
15 32 38 David Gilliland PeanutPatchBoiledPeanuts/MargaretHolmes Ford 189 29 56.8 $96,118 Running
16 31 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford 189 28 60.2 $90,435 Running
17 17 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s Chevrolet 189 28 1 71.3 $125,121 Running 2 11
18 40 47 Bobby Labonte Scott / Kingsford / Bush Beans Toyota 189 26 62.5 $99,332 Running
19 18 43 Aric Almirola Gwaltney Ford 189 25 85.6 $118,346 Running
20 12 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. DietMountainDewPaintthe88/NationalGuard Chev 189 25 1 83.3 $89,485 Running 3 18
21 8 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft / Quick Lane / Warriors in Pink Ford 189 0 74.9 $81,235 Running 2 5
22 4 14 Tony Stewart Mobil 1 / Office Depot Chevrolet 188 23 1 68.3 $130,085 Accident 1 1
23 3 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hrEnergyBenefittingAvonFdnforWomen Toyota 188 22 1 72.3 $107,549 Accident 3 8
24 10 22 Sam Hornish Jr.(i) SKF Dodge 188 0 74.5 $120,835 Accident
25 11 55 Michael Waltrip Charlie Loudermilk Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota 188 19 59.7 $79,785 Accident
26 19 13 Casey Mears GEICO Ford 188 19 1 93.7 $79,010 Accident 4 10
27 20 9 Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford 188 18 1 86.3 $106,618 Accident 1 2
28 16 27 Paul Menard Certain Teed Insulation / Menards Chevrolet 188 16 81.7 $86,460 Accident
29 39 36 Dave Blaney Golden Corral Chevrolet 188 15 53.9 $78,310 Accident
30 38 83 Landon Cassill Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota 188 14 45.1 $105,480 Running
31 34 98 Michael McDowell K-LOVE / Curb Records Ford 188 13 46.6 $74,985 Running
32 14 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota 187 12 39.4 $82,785 Running
33 30 30 David Stremme SwanEnergyInc.com Toyota 187 11 54.9 $74,635 Running
34 24 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops / Allstate Chevrolet 184 12 2 109.7 $110,868 Accident 9 38
35 43 23 Robert Richardson Jr.(i) North Texas Pipe Toyota 180 0 34.5 $74,260 Accident
36 7 99 Carl Edwards Subway Ford 179 8 36.5 $120,351 Running
37 41 10 David Reutimann CVP@Tmone.com Chevrolet 162 7 53.2 $73,980 Engine
38 27 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target / Gillette Chevrolet 156 6 60.6 $103,819 Engine
39 29 51 Kurt Busch Phoenix Construction Chevrolet 98 6 1 74.9 $79,000 Parked 2 6
40 42 33 Cole Whitt(i) LittleJoesAutos.com Chevrolet 16 0 31.0 $78,860 Accident
41 37 87 Joe Nemechek(i) AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota 12 0 27.3 $70,710 Vibration
42 35 97 Timmy Hill(i) AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves / SWM Toyota 8 0 26.4 $70,580 Electrical
43 33 26 Josh Wise # MDS Transport Ford 5 1 25.4 $72,464 Overheating

Attendance: Estimated crowd of 88,000
Dropped to the rear of the field for the reason indicated: #36 (unapproved adjustments during impound).
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 56 Mins, 12 Secs
Average Speed: 171.194 MPH
Margin of Victory: Under Caution
Cautions: 5 for 17 laps: Laps: 18-21 (#13, 20, 33, 99 Accident Turn 3 [None]); 100-103 (#1, 51 Accident Turn 2 [21]); 140-143 (Debris Backstretch [18]); 184-187 (#1 Spin Frontstretch [36]); 189-189 (#88, 29, 11, 47, 32, 48, 5, 43, 36, 78, 55, 13, 2, 15, 34, 27, 9, 56, 38, 18, 22, 31, 16, 93 Accident Turn 4 [None]).
Lead Changes: 54 among 18 drivers: K. Kahne 1-7; C. Bowyer 8; K. Kahne 9-10; T. Bayne(i) 11; C. Bowyer 12; D. Earnhardt Jr. 13-14; Kyle Busch 15-17; K. Harvick 18; T.Kvapil 19; Kyle Busch 20-22; M. Kenseth 23-32; D. Earnhardt Jr. 33-40; M. Kenseth 41; D. Earnhardt Jr. 42-49; C. Mears 50; J. Burton 51-52; T. Bayne(i) 53-56; C. Mears 57-61; J. Johnson 62-71; J. Gordon 72-78; J. McMurray 79-89; Kurt Busch 90-93; M. Kenseth 94-96; Kurt Busch 97-98; J. Burton 99; J.Johnson 100; D. Ragan 101; M. Ambrose 102-103; M. Kenseth 104-108; K. Harvick 109-116; J. McMurray 117-118; M. Kenseth 119-126; G. Biffle 127; M.Kenseth 128-131; J. McMurray 132-139; T. Kvapil 140-141; C. Mears 142-143; G. Biffle 144-145; K. Harvick 146-147; G. Biffle 148-151; J. McMurray 152;G. Biffle 153-155; J. McMurray 156-160; G. Biffle 161; J. McMurray 162; G. Biffle 163-167; J. McMurray 168; K. Harvick 169; J. McMurray 170; M. Kenseth171; C. Mears 172-173; J. McMurray 174-181; C. Bowyer 182-187; T. Stewart 188; M. Kenseth 189;
Next Race: Oct. 13, 2012 – Charlotte Motor Speedway

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