In a day that was filled with hard racing, big crashes and barrel rolls, Brad Keselowski came out victorious in Talladega.
Arguably, Keselowski had the strongest racecar on Sunday leading a race-high 46 laps. After a mid-race pit stop that forced his hand and go toward the rear of the top 10 the last 20 laps, the No. 2 car established itself as the one to beat.
“This Fusion was hauling,” Keselowski said. “That’s one of the tickets of staying out of the wrecks at Talladega is if you can stay up front, you have a great shot of not getting in a wreck. Daytona didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. We just didn’t have the speed, but the guys went to work and brought me a really strong car here for Talladega.”
This is Keselowski’s fourth-career win at NASCAR’s biggest track, the most he has at any one track.
After leading 12 laps early on, Kyle Busch came home second. He was getting a huge shove coming to the white flag, but Keselowski blocked, settling the No. 18 car for the runner-up position.
Austin Dillon posted a career best third-place finish after making 15 pit stops throughout the day. Just passed halfway, David Gilliland got into the rear of the No. 3 machine turning him into the outside causing the first big crash of the day that saw rookie Chris Buescher flip multiple times.
“What we’ve really been focused on going forward is trying not to panic,” Dillon said of his day. “They fixed the car and what a run to the finish. Our car probably wasn’t good enough to really win the race, but it was good enough for the No. 1 to push me all the way through [Turns] 3 and 4.”
Jamie McMurray notched his best finish of 2016 with a fourth-place result. The former winner at Talladega never led, but pushed several cars to the lead throughout the 500 miles.
Pole-sitter Chase Elliott led 27 laps and notched his third top-five finish of the young season. After leading much of the opening stint of the event, the No. 24 car fell back throughout the day, but came on strong in the final three laps.
“You can’t have a good day unless you finish,” Elliott said. “I think it was just focusing in on that and obviously it got really wild and for us we tried to keep that in mind to try and make it to the end.”
Tony Stewart was credited with a sixth-place finish, though Ty Dillon drove the No. 14 Chevrolet to the checkered flag. After the first caution on Lap 50, the XFINITY Series regular replaced the three-time Cup Series champion behind the wheel.
The Cup veteran admitted that “it sucked” having to get out of the racecar, but it was part of the deal to get him back in the car last weekend in Richmond.
Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Michael Waltrip, Cole Whitt, Bobby Labonte and the aforementioned Gilliland all posted season best finishes on Sunday.
The biggest incident of the afternoon came with 28 laps to go when Kurt Busch got into the rear of Jimmie Johnson spinning him into the wall, causing a 17 car crash. Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin was one of the drivers involved in the accident.
With eight laps to go Michael McDowell, spun Danica Patrick, clipping the side of Matt Kenseth’s machine and causing him to flip into the inside fence. The No. 20 car was one of the strongest racecars throughout the day leading 39 laps, finishing a disappointing 23rd.
Coming to the checkered flag was the last crash that saw 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick get airborne, hitting the outside retaining wall. Eight cars came across the checkered flag with damage due to this incident.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne all finished toward the rear with each driver had multiple problems at the 2.66-mile track.
In all, 33 out of the 40 cars received some kind of damage throughout the wildest race of the season to date.
The Cup Series will head to the Midwest for some night racing next Saturday in Kansas, with Johnson the defending winner. It was the controversy in the fall that led to the Kenseth and Joey Logano drama that saw its latest chapter on Sunday when the No. 22 car forced the No. 20 Toyota below the yellow line.
After the event had concluded Kenseth pointed his finger out of displeasure at Logano, where the 25-year-old shrugged his shoulders and chuckled.
In the same car that he raced, and crashed in the Daytona 500, Chase Elliott posted a lap of 192.661 mph and will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday at Talladega.
This is Elliott’s second career pole in the Cup Series, the other one coming in the season-opening race in Daytona. It also marks the first time that the No. 24 car will start from the lead spot at Talladega other than Jeff Gordon, and going back to last season the team has sat on five restrictor-plate poles in the last six plate events.
“This is a team effort,” Elliott said post-qualifying. “Like I said in Daytona this has nothing to do with me, it’s the car that we had. It’s the same car that we had in Daytona and brought another fast one here.”
30 years ago to the day Elliott’s father, Bill Elliott won the pole at Talladega, one of his better tracks, including the one where he laid down the fastest lap in NASCAR at over 212.000 mph.
After having the quickest first round lap, Austin Dillon came up just short and will start alongside Elliott on the front row at 192.424 mph.
“We sat around for a while, Chase was later he may have had some more heat in the car,” Dillon said on why he slowed down from round one. “I’m just proud of these guys. We barely got into the top 12 at Daytona and last year we were 24th.”
Six-time Talladega winner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. recorded the third fastest time at 192.293 mph. Much like his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, the No. 88 team had to repair Amelia, his favorite racecar on a plate track after crashing in Daytona.
Matt Kenseth posted the fourth fastest lap at 192.181 mph after sitting on the front row of the first plate race this season. Jimmie Johnson was fifth at 192.116 mph, marking the third Hendrick Motorsports car in the top-five starting positions.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. just missed out on the top five and will begin from sixth, his best career starting position at Talladega. Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin was eighth quick and the guy he edged out for that victory, Martin Truex, Jr. was 12th on the speed chart
Ty Dillon qualified Tony Stewart’s racecar 14th for Sunday’s 500-mile event. The three-time Cup champion will begin the race and compete until the first caution, where the XFINITY Series regular will take over.
Two of the other Stewart-Haas Racing cars had disappointing qualifying runs, with 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick in 29th and Danica Patrick 37th. The No. 10 machine was fourth in each of Friday’s practice sessions.
Fall winner at Talladega, Joey Logano will begin from 22nd. He was quickest in final practice with Jamie McMurray fastest in the opening practice. The No. 1 car will start 30th.
Josh Wise is the only competitor that failed to make the event.
After having an eventful morning in northern Tennessee, Denny Hamlin conquered final practice in preparation for the Food City 500 on Sunday.
Early in the session, the No. 11 Toyota posted a lap at 126.129 mph which is equivalent to just over 15 seconds on the stop watch. Hamlin was fastest in practice on Friday and will roll off the grid from the fourth position.
In the first session on Saturday morning Hamlin and Danica Patrick were involved in an incident heading into Turn One. The No. 11 car darted underneath the No. 10 machine and mistimed it, causing for both drivers to be confused.
“Man, I love Denny, but he makes a lot of mistakes behind me,” Patrick said. “I don’t know if he misjudged it or I was going slower than he thought, but I put my finger out the window and pointed him by. I had no intention to race him. I was not fast enough. I don’t know, but the guys are going to try and fix it.”
The only non-Toyota in the top five in final practice was Chase Elliott in second at 125.823 mph. The No. 24 Chevrolet posted his fastest time of the session as time expired, giving him confidence heading into his first event at the world’s fastest half-mile.
Just seconds before Elliott clocked off a hot lap, Martin Truex, Jr. had posted the second fastest time. He ended the session in third at 125.749 mph.
A duo of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates rounded out the top five. Pole-sitter, Carl Edwards was fourth quickest at 125.691 mph. Kyle Busch was fifth at 125.395 mph, after pacing the opening practice earlier on in the morning.
The fourth JGR Toyota and defending winner of this race, Matt Kenseth was 10th in the session, yet he was just over a tenth of a second off the fast lap.
The highest Richard Childress Racing car was Austin Dillon in 20th. His RCR teammate, Ryan Newman ran just over 100 laps, but only fast enough for 27th.
Sprint Cup Rookie Chris Buescher ran 104 laps, the most of the 40-car field. His hot lap was quick enough for 21st on the speed chart.
The Food City 500 is slated to begin shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, a race that has been rain delayed in each of the past two years.
Austin Dillon wins the TreatMyClot.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway after spoiling the Joe Gibbs Racing party in an exciting fuel mileage race. Dillon edges out Kyle Busch, who ran out of fuel and had a tire go down, to win in a wild finish that only Hollywood could have scripted. Darrell Wallace Jr. finished third, followed by Daniel Suarez, and Elliott Sadler. This is Dillon’s seventh career win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The final lap had a lot of twists and turns for some drivers. Kyle Busch blew a tire as Daniel Suarez took over the lead on the backstretch. Busch would later retake the lead once again after Suarez ran out of fuel. However, Austin Dillon caught Busch coming off of turn four to win the race.
Kyle Busch declined talking to the media after the race. However, Kyle expressed his displeasure for NASCAR on the last lap on his radio.
Dillon was excited for this win. “Sometimes things just go your way, today it definitely did. Fun race. I hope the fans liked that last lap. That was exciting.”
Richard Childress was happy to be back in Victory Lane. “This is a perfect example of what you would call luck. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. These guys were prepared today, and the opportunity was there. They capitalized, and that is what it takes to win.”
Daniel Suarez maintained his ten-point lead over Elliott Sadler in the Driver’s Standings.
The car of Darrell Wallace Jr. failed post-race inspection with post-race heights. The cars of Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, and Ryan Blaney will be taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center for further evaluation.
The TreatMyClot.com 300 was plagued with four cautions for a total of 16 laps. The race had 12 lead changes among eight different drivers. Kyle Busch led the most laps with a total of 133 laps led. The average speed was 143.008 mph. The time of the race was 2 hours, 5 minutes, and 52 seconds. The margin of victory was .741 seconds.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will take a two-week hiatus before returning to the Texas Motor Speedway on April 8 for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
In the two practice sessions on Saturday in preparation for the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, Joe Gibbs Racing looked to be the team to beat. In each of the two one-hour sessions, it was a JGR Toyota who set down a fast lap in the opening minutes that would not be beat.
Over the span of the two hours there were three separate incidents that would send two teams to backup cars.
Carl Edwards paced the opening hour of practice at 187.906 mph. After qualifying fifth on Friday, the driver of the No. 19 car is looking to return to Victory Lane in Southern California for the first time since 2008.
He was just ahead of another Toyota, Martin Truex, Jr. with Furniture Row Racing. The No. 78 team welcomed back crew chief, Cole Pearn, following his one-race suspension last week in Phoenix. He put down a lap at 187.632 mph.
Third quick was Ryan Newman at 186.640 mph, more than two-tenths of a second off the fast time. Kyle Busch was fourth and pole-sitter Austin Dillon rounded out the top five at 186.587 mph.
Just outside of the top five was Paul Menard in sixth, making all three Richard Childress Racing cars inside of the top six. The top rookie was Brian Scott in seventh. Two winners so far this season were mired down below 20th, Denny Hamlin 23rd and defending winner Brad Keselowski was just 24th fastest in the morning session.
The first incident of the day came when Aric Almirola slid into the wall off Turn 2, causing significant cosmetic damage. The team would repair the car and return to the track in the second session. The No. 43 car was 19th fastest.
The latter incident came when Kurt Busch pounded the wall right where Almirola did 20 minutes prior. The No. 41 car was not as lucky as the Stewart-Haas Racing team pulled out the backup car, something that Busch appreciated because he was not happy with his primary car on Saturday morning.
In the first two minutes of Happy Hour, Matt Kenseth recorded a lap at 185.419 mph. This practice was in race condition as the Sprint Cup race on Sunday will start at the time that this practice ended.
After being quickest in the first practice, Edwards was second fast, .015 seconds behind his JGR teammate. The No. 19 car was also one of the best on the long runs as were all of the Toyota teams. Toyota is looking for its third win in the last four races at the Auto Club Speedway, which is the backyard of TRD's headquarters.
A trio of Fords filled the next three speeds, led by rookie Ryan Blaney at 185.161 mph. Joey Logano was fourth quickest and Almirola rounded out the top five after getting his car back on track following the incident in the opening session.
Dillon finished the session the lowest he's been all week in sixth, just under a tenth of a second behind Kenseth. Keselowski made improvements to his car and finish Happy Hour 12th.
While the one-lap speed didn't show it, Kevin Harvick had the fastest car on the long run. He was only 27th on the speed chart, but had very little fall off in his tires compared to other teams. The California native is a two-time winner at his home track, the last win coming in 2011 with RCR.
The biggest incident of the day came 32 minutes into final practice when Kyle Larson got loose getting into Turn 4, by the time he could correct it Greg Biffle drilled him in the rear and the tandem spun to the infield. The No. 16 car was on fresh tires, going approximately 20 mph faster than the No. 42 car at the time.
Larson would go to a backup car with a ton of cosmetic damage to the right rear of the car, while it looks like Biffle will remain in his primary car on Sunday. Before the incident the No. 42 team had the 26th fastest time, while the No. 16 team had the 15th fastest lap.
The green flag will drop at 3:30 p.m. Sunday to start the Auto Club 400 where another driver will look to clinch their birth into the Chase.