NASCAR: Talladega Lives up to its Chaotic Reputation

Lucy Atkinson

There were 11 cautions, three red flags, “the big one” and only 14 drivers completing the race yesterday at Talladega Superspeedway for the Alabama 500.

Last weekend’s race certainly lived up to Talladega’s reputation of being big, bold and berserk. NASCAR’s longest track on the schedule brought three and four-wide racing, many lead changes and plenty of wrecks. It was the most crazy and chaotic race this season, and has shuffled the playoff standings considerably.

Some drivers, like Dale Earnhardt Jr – who somehow managed to avoid a couple of wrecks – believed they had the likes of Dale Earnhardt Sr looking over them. Some drivers simply pinned it down to being in the right place at the right time. No matter what it was that enabled those drivers to finish, Brad Keselowski was the first one to do so and it happened after a jaw-dropping final lap pass.

The first red flag came after a huge wreck, aka “The Big One,” happened on lap 172. It had been triggered by playoff point leader, Martin Truex Jr. 16 cars were obliterated and that included playoff contenders like Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr and Ricky Stenhouse.

Six laps later, the second red flag came out after another wreck which saw Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick’s day end. Finally, after a feisty restart on lap 183, the final red flag came out after the Chevrolet’s of Chase Elliott, and Kyle Larson fell victim to Talladega’s wrath after a wreck that was triggered by Suarez. It collected another six cars and had annihilated ten of twelve cars who are involved in the playoffs.

With fans cheering and going wild in the stands, Dale Jr was one of the lucky 14 drivers to have narrowly avoided being caught up in wrecks that ended the day for many drivers. He had scored his first pole at Talladega, but his luck had seemingly run out as he finished third; unfortunately, there was no final win for the fan-favorite.

The last few laps were a shootout, and it looked like Ryan Newman might have clinched the win. True to Talladega though, Brad Keselowski added to the statistics with a mind-blowing last lap pass – 25% of Talladega races have been won after last lap passes.

Not only that, but Keselowski’s day was full of challenges after he had no radio and no communication with his team. After a long pit-stop that rectified the problem, the number 2 car driver for Team Penske fought back and scored his 24th career win on his 300th career start.

Clearly pensive after the race, Keselowski commented:

“It was one of those crazy days. I think we’ve seen that at the plate tracks this year — a lot of attrition.

This is still sinking in. It’s a special place to get to race and a special place when you win here.

It was really a collaborative effort with the team and getting a real fast car and making the right moves as a driver and a lot of help from up above with staying out of those wrecks.

It really takes all three and we had them all today.” – Brad Keselowski

Yesterday’s race has certainly mounted the pressure for the likes of Kyle Busch, Stenhouse Jr and McMurray who now sit below the cut-off line ahead of next week’s elimination race at Kansas.

However, fans everywhere were left emotionally and physically drained after a race that was chock-a-block with action, adrenaline, elation, disappointment and downright mayhem. It was very Talladega-like, and that’s why we all love NASCAR.

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