Special to The Trussville Tribune
TALLADEGA – In a GEICO 500 that was one for the books, Brad Keselowski held off the field in dramatic fashion in the final laps Sunday to claim his fourth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Talladega Superspeedway as a part of Aspen Dental Weekend.
NASCAR’s biggest and baddest track gave the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford driver his first NSCS career triumph (2009), and after Sunday’s dominating performance, he gained his 19th. Keselowski, who is locked into the season-ending Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has two wins thus far in 2016.
“What can you say? Talladega has been good to me,” said Keselowski, who fended off a late, nailbiting challenge by Kyle Busch. “It’s great to be back on this podium as a race winner. You never know when you’re going to get here. Talladega has always been that way. It’s always been very good to me. I’m thankful for that.”
The event was wild, to say the least. In a race that featured a little bit of everything – continuous three- and four-wide racing, a wide range of team strategies and a few “Big One” incidents, Keselowski led more laps than anyone, 46.
Austin Dillon, who was trying to give Richard Childress Racing its first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Talladega since Dale Earnhardt in 2000, was up just short in third, followed by two-time Talladega winner Jamie McMurray and the polesitter, rookie Chase Elliott. Sixth through 10th were Ty Dillon, who was a relief driver for Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, rookie Ryan Blaney and Trevor Bayne.
Dillon battled back to the top three spot after being caught up in two early crashes and managed to post his first top-10 finish in six races at Talladega.
“We started 17th with three laps to go and finished third,” Dillon said. “So from 17th to third, that was pretty cool. (This morning) One guy came up to me during a suite (visit with sponsors) and said (he thought) Dale’s (Earnhardt, Sr.) last win here (in 2000 for RCR), he came from 15th to first. Maybe if we started 15th, we could have got there.”
But, the day belonged to Keselowski.
“I like the races here,” Keselowski said with a victorious grin. “Talladega has always been a track for us that’s been a great catalyst for success. I don’t know why that is. It’s a track where if you’re capable of winning here, I think you show a certain level of attitude and swagger that carries your way through the rest of the year.”
Average speed was 140.046 mph in the race that featured 37 lead changes among 17 drivers. There were 10 cautions for 41 laps. Defending GEICO 500 champion Dale Earnahrdt, Jr., was involved in two accidents, the second of which that took him out midway through the event. He wound up 40th.