Keselowski earns full-time ride in wreck-filled race
Published 10:32 pm Friday, May 1, 2009
Wow. What a race at Talladega last week. The 2.66-mile track, the longest on the NASCAR circuit, is noted for fast speeds and huge wrecks, but not so much for thrilling finishes. Well, you can’t get much more thrilling than the last half-lap of the race last Sunday.
The “Big One,” the inevitable wreck that happens at this track that involves a high number of cars, came earlier, on lap seven, than is typical. That wreck ended the day for Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer and dashed any hopes for a strong finish for Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne. All told, 16 cars were involved in the pile up.
But that wreck was tame in comparison to the wild ride that Carl Edwards took just yards from the finish line on the last lap. Edwards looked to be headed for a victory coming out of turn four on the last lap, but left just enough room on the bottom of the track for Brad Keselowski, running in second in the No. 09 James Finch-owned Chevrolet, to stick his nose below Edwards’ quarter panel.
The rookie, Keselowski, held firm with the dreaded “Below the Yellow Line” rule in mind as Edwards moved back down the track. Edwards’ wild, airborne ride ended about halfway up the catch fence, reminiscent of Bobby Allison’s wreck at Talladega in the late 1980s. And Keselowski went on to win the race. Eight fans were injured as debris from Edwards’ car flew into the crowd, but none of the injuries were life threatening.
I have never been a huge fan of Edwards, but, as Jerry Punch would say, I had to give a call to him for his post race comments. He didn’t blame Keselowski, saying he was just doing his job, and gave the standard “it’s just racing” response to the wreck.
After the dust had settled, Keselowski had won his first Cup race, and Kurt Busch left as the leader in the points standings. Both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson dropped two spots. Outside the top 12, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both improved their position by four spots, sitting in 13th and 15th place, respectively.
With this win, Keselowski has all but assured himself of a full-time Cup ride next season. Where he ends up will be a big story throughout the summer. Rick Hendrick has first shot at signing him, but depending on the decision made by Mark Martin on whether to return full time in 2010, Hendrick might not have the room under the four-team limit.
A possibility could be Keselowski’s current Nationwide team, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., moving to the Cup ranks as a Hendrick satellite team.
Now we move to Saturday night short track racing in Richmond. Dale Jr., Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have each won three times at the three quarter-mile track. And those three will all be a threat to pick up another win Saturday night. But my pick to win this race is Denny Hamlin.
Condolences to the family of David Poole on David’s passing this week. Poole was a long-time NASCAR reporter for the Charlotte Observer. To me, his was a third of the “Big Three” in terms of NASCAR writers, along with Tom Higgins and Ed Hinton. David was a much too young 50 years old.