By Phillip Prichard, MSA / photos by MSA Staff:
Ten drivers went into Talladega with their championship hopes on the line. In the Friday practice, Kyle Busch had the fastest time of 195.205. In the best practice consecutive times, Henrick drivers: Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earndhart Jr had the best times.
Brad Keselowske demonstrated his talent, skill and luck to win the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Keselowski in a do or die effort to make the next round of the Sprint Cup Chase, won the race on the second green-white-checkered attempt, with very little drafting help. In an aggressive fashion, he was able to block the front runners to capture the checkered flag.
On lap 60, the #2 car suffered some damage when Jamie McMurray spun into Joey Logano when he had a tire go down, clipping Keselowski. The “Dega” win was Keselowski’s 6th win of the season, his 3rd win at Talladega and his 16th career win. The win clinched Keselowski’s spot in the Eliminator Round of the Sprint Cup Chase.
The 188 lap, 500 mile race kept fans on the edge of their seats with the 3 and 4 wide racing throughout the race. After Keselowski, the remainder of the top ten finishers were: Matt Kenseth, 2nd; Clint Bowyer, 3rd; Landon Casil, 4th; Ryan Newman, 5th; Travis Kapvil, 6th; Kurt Busch, 7th; Marcus Ambrose, 8th; Kevin Harvick, 9th; and Casey Mears, 10th.
There were 38 lead changes among 19 drivers. There were 6 cautions for a total of 25 yellow flag laps. Two “Big Crashes” took out a number of drivers. The first big crash was on Lay 103 just past half way of the race, with Kyle Busch receiving major damage. Also involved were Tony Stewart, J.J. Yeley, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman and Austin Dillon. With 37 laps to go to the finish, Kyle Busch came back on track, but the wreck caused him to miss the next round in the Chase.
The other “Big Crash” came on the first green-white-checkered attempt involving Dale Jr, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Michael Annett and David Gilliland.
Three of the Hendrick Motorsport drivers-Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earhardt Jr and Kasey Kahne were eliminated from the Chase. Kyle Busch was also eliminated. The eight drivers advancing to the Eliminator Round are: Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski.
On Saturday, NASCAR used a different qualifying format, breaking the first session into two groups and shortening the session to 5 minutes. Several teams did not leave pit road on time during the first session to get a lap at full speed. Therefore, drivers having to take provisionals were: Stewart, Hamlin, Harvick, Logano, Busch, Larson and Gordon.
Six of the Chase drivers did not advance to the second session of qualifying and they started in the following positions: Earnhardt Jr, 28th; Hamlin, 38th; Harvick, 39th; Logano, 40th; Ky Busch, 41st and Gordon, 43rd.
Brian Vickers won the Coors Light Pole for the GEICO 500 Sprint Cup Series race with a speed of 196.129 mph for his first pole of 2014, 1st Talladega and 12th of his career. Stenhouse Jr, Allgaier and Nemechek missed qualifying for the race.
Terry Labonte ran his final Sprint Cup race at Talladega, ending a Sprint Cup career that began in 1978. Of his 22 wins, he might be remembered best for the race he didn’t win. It was the 1999 Bristol night race when Dale Earnhardt meant to “rattle his cage” but instead spun Labonte out of the lead on the final lap. Labonte qualified 9th and finished 33rd.
“Deganation” was treated to an action packed weekend of racing with history being made with the elimination of the four drivers from the round of the Chase. The next NASCAR Talladega event will be the Winn Dixie 300 on May 2, 2015 and The Talladega 500 on May 3, 2015.
Visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com for additional details.