Keselowski looking like contender after strong victory at Talladega
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Five things we learned from the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Only Keselowski didn't let it happen.
As they headed into Turn 3, Keselowski went high and pulled down away from Busch, breaking up the tandem. Busch couldn't make up the ground as Keselowski pulled across the finish line 0.304 seconds ahead of the No. 18. It was his second win at Talladega and the sixth of his career.
"I had this whole plan if I ever got into that situation where I was leading," he said. "I thought about it and thought about it and dreamed about it, what to do. Sure enough going into [Turn] 3 it was just me and Kyle.
"I knew the move I wanted to pull. ... Now everybody has seen it and they know it, but I'm glad I was able to get away with it."
Combined with his victory at Bristol, Keselowski joins Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart as two-race winners. It makes him a virtual lock to earn at least a wild-card Chase berth, and continues the upward trajectory his breakthrough season of 2011 promised.
In the last 26 races dating back to last July at Indianapolis, the 28-year-old Keselowski has produced four victories and a total of 15 top-10 finishes. Those wins are more than likes of Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick or Jimmie Johnson -- all perennial title contenders -- have had over that stretch.
He was a great story in rallying to make this Chase in '11, but faded over the last month. But this time around, Keselowski is looking more and more like a legit threat for his first title.
"We've shown that we're better here at this point in the year than we were last year at this point in the year, and we were better last year at this point in the year when we were the year before," Keselowski said. "I'm very thankful for where we're at. I'm hungry to win that championship."
Kenseth led a race-high 73 laps in finishing third, while Biffle, who paced the field for 15 laps, was fifth. This comes on the heels of the pair finishing first (Kenseth) and third (Biffle) in the Daytona 500, another restrictor-plate track.
"I think we had the winning car, really we just didn't have the winning driver," Kenseth said. "On the last restart, Greg and I got hooked up together like Daytona. Of all the cars I raced around today, Greg was really pushing me fast."
While they didn't reach Victory Lane, the Fords do leave Talladega having made a statement of their own. Kenseth climbed up to second in the standings, just seven points behind the leader Biffle.
But none of them could bring Rick Hendrick his 200th win, a milestone that has eluded the team since it last won in October at Kansas. The organization has now gone 16 races without a victory, its longest stretch since a string of 17 straight that ran the end of the '01 season into '02.
There were positives as Kahne led 11 laps and Junior 10 as they finished fourth and ninth, respectively. But Gordon was part of the first multicar crash on Lap 141 and came in 33rd and Johnson's day was cut short at 61 laps due to oil pressure issues, as he was 35th.
"This is just one of the most bizarre years [our team] has ever gone through," said Gordon, who stumbling to 23rd in the standings. "It's just comical at this point. ... That's just the way our season has gone."
But Truex leaves Alabama sitting sixth in the points as he followed up last weekend's 26th-place finish at Richmond -- which ended a string of five consecutive top-10 finishes -- with a 33rd as he was hit by Gordon.
"We were kind of spinning down the track and got hit by, I think it was the 24 [Gordon] and cleaned the front off the car," Truex said. "Not his fault obviously. I thought we were going to be OK until that happened. It's just a same. We had a fast car and really didn't get a chance to show it."
Next week's trip to Darlington may be exactly what Truex needs to break out of his rut. His average finish (12.3) is his second best of any track and he's finished in the top 10 there in two of the last three years.
Busch's Chevrolet was
But the ode to Bobby didn't end there. Members of the No. 51 team filled the roles of the Nights characters on their in-car radio discussions, with Busch being called "Ricky" and the driver referring to crew chief Nick Harrison as Michael Clarke Duncan's "Lucius Washington." Said Busch/Bobby after a mid-race pass: "If you ain't first, you're last."
As SB Nation's
Busch's day in the "ME" car