(MRN) Brad Keselowski charged past race leader Ryan Newman on the final lap and drove to victory Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, storming into the semifinal round of the 2017 playoffs that will begin in two weeks at Martinsville Speedway. Keselowski started sixth in the forty-car field and led just seven laps. But he had his Number-2 Team Penske Ford in front when it counted most, taking the checkered flag first to snap Toyota’s four-race post-season winning streak. Keselowski’s margin of victory over runner-up Newman (Chevrolet) was two-tenths of a second. Three more Fords followed in the top five driven by Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano (Keselowski’s teammate) and Aric Almirola. The race was red-flagged three times in the final fifteen laps for cleanup after accidents that contributed to a record-tying eleven cautions on the sprawling Alabama oval. The last of those was triggered when Chase Elliott stuck the nose of his car between Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson coming out of the next-to-last restart. He clipped Suarez’s rear bumper which lit the fuse on a six-car wreck in Turn-3. Elliott, who started on the front row, did not complete the five hundred miles and finished sixteenth.
The eleven cautions matched the track record that was set in 2004. There were just fourteen cars running at the finish.
Pole sitter Dale Earnhardt Junior, a six-time Talladega race winner, led once for seven laps before finishing seventh in his final start there. He’s retiring at the end of the season.
Ricky Stenhouse Junior placed twenty-sixth in his bid for a season sweep after winning in May.
NASCAR CUP SERIES
Top 10 Finishers in the Alabama 500
DRIVER STARTING POSITION LAPS LED
1. Brad Keselowski (6) 7
2. Ryan Newman (27) 3
3. Trevor Bayne (10) —
4. Joey Logano (3) 59
5. Aric Almirola (26) —
6. Denny Hamlin (15) 4
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Pole) 7
8. Kasey Kahne (11) 5
9. Gray Gaulding (R) (39) —
10. David Ragan (33) —
RACE NOTES …
Team Penske’s Joey Logano led a race-high fifty-nine laps in his bid to become the first driver with three straight wins in Talladega Superspeedway’s fall race but fell three spots short as teammate Brad Keselowski claimed victory on Sunday afternoon. NASCAR has been competing on the two-point-six-six-mile Alabama oval since 1969 … Keselowski’s win extends Ford’s recent mastery at Talladega. The manufacturer has now won five straight races and six of the last seven there dating back to the 2014 season – with team owner Roger Penske grabbing five of those victories.
2017 PLAYOFFS Unofficial Standings Round 2
1. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row) 3,120 Points
2. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) 3,101 (-19)
3. Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing) 3,096 (-24)
4. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas) 3,089 (-31)
5. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing) 3,088 (-32)
6. Chase Elliott (Hendrick M’sports) 3,087 (-33)
7. Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers) 3,076 (-44)
8. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick) 3,074 (-46)
9. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) 3,067 (-53)
10. Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing) 3,066 (-54)
11. R. Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway) 3,052 (-68)
12. Jamie McMurray (Ganassi) 3,045 (-75)
Inside the Playoffs
The twelve-driver post-season field will be trimmed to eight following next weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway in advance of the semifinal round, which begins October 29th at Martinsville Speedway. Of the four drivers currently at the bottom of the playoff standings, Kyle Busch is the highest seed (Number-3). Of that quartet, Matt Kenseth had the best finish in Sunday’s race: fourteenth place. Ricky Stenhouse Junior finished twenty-sixth, Busch twenty-seventh and Jamie McMurray ran thirty-seventh … With wins in the first two weeks of the second round, top-seeded Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski.