NASCAR Race Weekend Central
(Photo: John Harrleson / NKP)

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Brad Keselowski Drops Malachi Crunch on the Talladega Demo Derby for Second Win of the Season

Who’s in the headlineBrad Keselowski won his first Cup race at Talladega in 2009. While he isn’t mentioned in the same breaths with Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt or Tony Stewart when plate racing prowess is discussed, the bottom line is he won his fourth plate race at Talladega on Sunday. Even though the race broadcast was more focused on the Joe Gibbs Racing team and Hendrick Motorsports cars, the fact was Keselowski had the strongest car on the track and he easily handled what racing did take place on Sunday.

What happened – You’ve heard the old joke about going to a baseball game and a hockey game broke out when there is a donnybrook during a game. Well Sunday fans went to a restrictor plate race and a demo derby broke out. 17 drivers exchanged the lead 37 times. Only three drivers led double digit laps in a single stint (Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Keselowski).

Keselowski was the only one to do it in the last 100 laps of the race and it was the final 17 laps of the race. 10 caution flags flew for 41 laps after four ‘Big Ones’ and four other incidents. 35 out of the 40 cars to start the race were involved in yellow flag incidents. Kyle Busch chased Keselowski to the line and finished ahead of Austin Dillon.

Why you should care – The restrictor plate package has not changed since 2013. After Daytona, it seemed like it should be changed. This is an even greater reason for it to be altered. While Daytona in July will see a new radiator package, it seems that it is time for an aerodynamic adjustment.

The cars are simply too equal because the teams have figured out all of the major tricks that can be applied. Improvements now are in thousandths of a second. That doesn’t separate the cars and it keeps the pack tightly together. When cars are stacked that close at 200 mph, the slightest slip can have devastating consequences and we saw it four times on Sunday. Charter system or not, destroying $3.5 million worth of cars is not what this sport is about.

What your friends are talking aboutTony Stewart was fined $35,000 by NASCAR for making disparaging remarks about NASCAR concerning their lug nut enforcement. The Driver’s Council cobbled together enough money to pay the fine but Stewart refused to let them pay it for him. Instead they donated the money to Arnie Kempner’s Autism Delware charity. Stewart did not initially understand why he was fined, but later in the week, he had the pleasure of speaking with Brian France and the logic behind the fine was clarified.

After the Stewart fine controversy, NASCAR chose to reinstate the five lug nut rule that had been rescinded for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Most teams on pit lane resorted to only gluing four lug nuts onto tires, and late in the race, only tightening three. The number of loose wheels reported in 2016  increased significantly over previous years.

At the same time, several teams, primarily the JGR teams, were consistently beating the other teams in the series off of pit road. Stewart and some other drivers began beating the drum that the loose wheels were a danger and they could lead to wheels flying off of cars. While a tire had not come off of a car in the Cup Series since 2004, the fact that race teams used safety as a reason to try and hinder teams that have mastered an advantage with the rules is pathetic.

Dover International Speedway is reducing the number of pit stalls from 43 to 40 on pit road. The resulting space on pit lane will mean an extra two feet in each of the 40 stalls on what is one of the more crowded pit roads in the sport.

Most fans remember the tire debacle at Indianapolis in 2008. The primary reason for that fiasco was the introduction of the Car of Tomorrow into full-time use in the series and a lack of tire testing at the famous speedway. The new low aerodynamic package this year is going to put new and different stresses on the tires than previous years. In an effort to avoid another fiasco, Goodyear held a two-day tire test at the most famous race track in the world. Hopefully, the tire that the Goodyear engineers select will be durable enough to withstand the loads that NASCAR stock cars apply to them over full fuel runs at IMS. The test was also Stewart’s last test with Goodyear in his career.

Matt DiBenedetto had a career best run at Bristol two weekend’s ago. The finish has generated quite a bit of buzz around the young driver’s career. As a result, several people are trying to start a movement to have DiBenedetto voted into the All-Star race. We’ve seen this in the past with Josh Wise, Danica Patrick, Kenny Wallace, and Ken Schrader. Should the momentum build and DiBenedetto be the next fan favorite it will be an amazing story of a driver who has done quite a bit with very little in his Cup career.

While it didn’t play out, the potential for a Chase controversy to end all controversies could have played out Sunday. With Stewart taking the green flag Sunday, he was destined to get the points that the No. 14 earned. If by chance Ty Dillon had been the first car to the checkered flag, Stewart would have been credited with the win. Provided 17 drivers didn’t win races before Richmond and Stewart could make it into the top 30 in points, he would have made the Chase.

For the people who lost their minds about Kyle Busch making the Chase and winning the title last year by winning four races and earning his way in, they’d have had full-on aneurysms about Stewart getting in because someone else won a race in his car. Luckily, Dillon only managed a sixth place so it didn’t quite play out.

Who is mad Dale Earnhardt, Jr. liked to brag about his favorite plate car Amelia. He ran her at Daytona and wadded her up. His team fixed her and felt like she was better than ever heading into Talladega. For the second plate race in a row, his car was too loose and he wrecked on his own. His team patched up the car and he came back out to drive around and try and gain two or three points. Unfortunately Carl Edwards did the same thing and had a failure. When Edwards car shot up the track, he totaled Earnhardt’s car and Amelia is most likely headed to the car graveyard in his backyard.

Kenseth continues to have a season to forget. Looking like one of the two or three cars that could contend with Keselowski for the win on Sunday, Kenseth led the second most laps in the race. Unfortunately, he got into a pissing match with Joey Logano as the laps were winding down and ended up back in the pack. With six laps to go, he made contact with Danica Patrick on the back straightaway, and ended up on his lid, sliding down the backstretch wall. The end result was his second DNF of the season and his fifth finish of 19th or worse. Once again, he was a strong contender but the racing gods are just not smiling on Kenseth this season.

Casey Mears has shown in the past that he is a solid plate racer. He has more top 10 finishes at Talladega and Daytona than any other tracks on the schedule. He appeared to be capable of contending for a top 10 or even top 5 on Sunday before Michael Waltrip went for an unintended cruise through the infield and back up onto the track on Lap 59. The damage to his car ruined his day and resulted in an extended stay behind the wall to reattach his rear deck lid. In the end, he finished 22 laps down in the 33rd position.

Who is happy – Dillon was caught up in four incidents on Sunday. His team made 17 pit stops and ran out of tires before the end of the race. When the checkered flag flew he was in third position and was making a run toward the front when the final flag of the race went in the air. Dillon’s third top 5 of the season in 10 races this year is more than he had in his previous 85 starts.

Trevor Bayne is believed to be a one trick pony by many race fans since he’s won a single Cup race. Fortunately for him it was the Daytona 500 during the tandem racing days. Sunday was the second top 10 of the season, which matches his best total of his career for a year and the season is only 10 races old. Bayne’s two top 10s in the last three races is most certainly a momentum shift in the right direction for himself and Roush Fenway Racing.

Stewart was a frequent member of the ‘Who is Mad’ section last year. This year hasn’t started off much better considering he hasn’t been behind the wheel for eight of the first 10 races. In addition he had to climb out of his ride this weekend as part of an agreement he made with his doctors, in order to get back last weekend for Richmond. When Stewart climbed out Dillon climbed in and proceeded to bring the iconic No. 14 home in sixth place. Dillon made several poor decisions on restarts, leaving himself hung out in the top lane and further back than he needed to be. Fortunately he made some good moves to get through some bad incidents, kept his nose clean and ended up as one of the five cars who was not officially part of an caution flag.

When the checkered flag flew:

Brad Keselowski scored his fourth win at Talladega Superspeedway, which is two more than he has at any other track on the schedule.

The race is Keselowski’s second win of the season and has locked him into the Chase, assuming he attempts all of the remaining races before Richmond.

The victory is Keselowski’s 19th of his career and came in his 243rd start. That ranks him 40th on the all-time wins list. He’s ties with Davey Allison, Buddy Baker, Greg Biffle, and Fonty Flock.

Kyle Busch crossed the line in second. That is his third career top 2 at Talladega.

The finish is Busch’s fourth top 2 of the season and second in a row.

Busch has 33 second place finishes in his career which is 21st on the all-time list. That is also fourth among active drivers behind Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart.

Austin Dillon crossed the line in third for his best career finish.

Dillon has three top 5 finishes this season which is more than he had in his entire career before this year.

Dillon’s 5 top 10 finishes this year is equal to his career best which was last season.

Chase Elliott came home in fifth to be named Rookie of the Race.

Busch, Johnson, Carl Edwards and Keselowski have all won two races this season and are locked into the Chase provided they attempt the remaining 16 races before Richmond. Denny Hamlin and Harvick have each won a race and have the inside track to making the Chase assuming the total number of winners before Richmond doesn’t exceed 16.

The drivers who are Chase eligible based on their current point position are:

  1. Joey Logano
  2. Kurt Busch
  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  2. Martin Truex Jr.
  3. Austin Dillon
  4. Chase Elliott
  1. Jamie McMurray
  2. AJ Allmendinger
  3. Matt Kenseth
  4. Trevor Bayne

What is in the cooler – Admit it or not, most fans like to see carnage during races and plate races are the place where it occurs more than any other type of race. Having 7/8 of the field involved in wrecks that certainly fit the bill in the wreck column. As plate races go, it was an underwhelming race but it still had 37 lead changes and 10 different leaders. There was a wreck coming to the line and three cars were airborne at some point during the event. Just another day at a plate race earns it three cold Old Reliable Ales from Cheaha Brewing Company.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The traveling show heads to the heartland of America for the first of two visits to Kansas Speedway. For those fans who can tear themselves away from the amazing casino that is next to the track they can see the race on FS1 at 7:30 PM Saturday May 7th. The race is also broadcast on local MRN affiliates and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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About Mike Neff

Mike Neff
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

33 comments

  1. Avatar

    ….”Are you not entertained”?

  2. Avatar

    The other happiest person yesterday-Jeff Gordon. If he ever had even the most minute second thought about his decision to retire, I’m sure yesterday’s race put the kibosh to it.

  3. Avatar

    What a waste.

  4. Avatar

    I thought I was going to watch a race but instead I saw a show (well only half a show as I listened to the 1st half on MRN in the car). Actually it was more than a show … it was a movie sequel to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Brian France and NASCAR presenting “Survival at Talladega Thunderdome.” 39 men and one woman enter … and only one comes out still running (the winner Brad K). Oops I embellish the results as 22 were still running … barely. The sad fact besides destroying a boatload of equipment … some people believe there was a Cup race yesterday. Ah yes Brian recruiting the fan of tomorrow … let’s see how many crashes we can have. That’s real racing, wrecking … NOT !!!

  5. Avatar

    logano needs to be parked. he has no remorse for any of his actions. hopefully matt will contain his anger and deal with logano somewhere else besides a race track. when i see his smirk on his face i want to slap it off.

    that was not a race. it was a 4 hour block of commercials interrupted by some racing. saw more coverage of jr in commercials.

    yes weather was possibly coming and would factor into the race. no they didn’t need to run the entire race like it was the last 10 laps. seems the storms missed the track and then headed east an hour and dumped on where i lived. we had 3 during the race.

    all the torn up cars and equipment. even though he was grousing about it, bet stewart was happy he was out of the car at the end of the race.

    guess the teams and drivers can take a collective breath for 2 months and then face the plate again in daytona in july.

    as earhardt sr use to day, this ain’t no racing.

  6. Avatar

    as I watched that wreckfest while doing chores on a rainy afternoon, I thought several times how glad I was that Jeff Gordon was in the booth and not on the track in that mess.

    • Avatar

      Me too Gina. While I don’t want anyone to get hurt, Jeff was like a part of the family to me and it was nice not having one of my family members playing Russian Roulette. Most of the angst I am used to feeling when watching the RP races was greatly reduced.

    • Avatar

      Go away Gina. You keep breaking your promise to leave. And add nothing to the discussion except your crush on little Jeffie. Grow the F up and get your own man.

    • Avatar

      Gina you should stay around and actively post just to piss Broken Arrow off. JA.

      • Avatar

        Hell, I’d be entertained just to know what she did to piss him off so badly.

      • Avatar

        I just hate female fans who “love” their driver and set up shrines to them. It is clearly neurotic behavior and as I said, Regina Spence should join E Harmony and find a man instead of a blow up doll to satisfy her hormonal urges. Of course, in Jeff’s case, the blow-up doll would probably be more satisfying.

        And I hate people who break their promises. Regina said she was leaving, so LEAVE ALREADY!

      • Avatar

        And Bill B, the rest of you non-fans are enough to piss me off without Regina. What you know about racing could fit in Regina’s virginal hole.

        • Avatar

          Well, when someone gives a crap what you think or how much you THINK you know, you will be the first to know. Until then STFU.

          By the way Tim S, all it takes to piss him off is to have an opinion that differs from him.

          • Avatar

            Bill B, you obviously give a crap because I annoy you every week as much as Regina Spence does me. And since ALL the opinions of the FS staff and its Old-fart fan base differ with reason and logic, I will be happy to be PO’ed every week. And I will not be STingTFU anytime soon – unless FS undergoes new management and hires competent journalists instead of old men, horny women and high school children.

          • Matt

            Just curious. Does Messenger agree with you again this week? I mean you could really go Sybil on us and it would be a landslide.

            The Incompetent Old Man

          • Avatar

            You seem to have all the answers and lots of knowledge BA. Maybe you should start your own NASCAR website with writers you deem worthy and run this website of old men, horny women and high school children, out of business.

            You don’t annoy me BA, I just can’t resist f-ing with idiots like yourself.

  7. Avatar

    Brian must have thought he’d died and gone to heaven when the tower guy phoned him at the bar and told him about the demo derby. There’s a lot of film available to use to advertise the next restrictor plate race and it won’t be close finishes.

    We got the rain all day up here. How come the weather experts can predict weather 1500 miles away but not down the street?

    Did anybody else get a feeling of impending disaster when Mikey was at the front? It could have been a lot worse but he tried. It’s a good thing he finished the race because it kept him out of the Notell Hotel. Nice eye candy.

  8. Avatar

    I’m guessing Stewart was plenty fine getting out of the car after that wreck fest. Mike, your love of all things Gibbs and your dislike for Stewart is clouding your judgement. To essentially call him a whiner because Gibbs was playing Russian Roulette with their cars wheels (and drivers lives) to get an advantage and using the fact that a tire hasn’t come off in a while is pretty ludicrous. Stewart is completely right. 3 lug nuts on a tire is a disaster waiting to happen and it could have happened at Talladega this weekend had Stewart not said anything. It might be better if you just reporting on the race. It will make you look less foolish.

  9. Avatar

    Thanks Mike for reminding me to vote early and often for the most deserving driver to make the All-Star race. And his name is not Matt or Ryan, in spite of FS’s pathetic campaign to denigrate his accomplishments.

  10. Avatar

    The answer has been obvious for 30 years. Cut down the banking or close the tracks. Daytona is no longer the prestigious race it used to be. Neither Daytona nor Dega put any premium on driver ability, just luck. Hell, run the road course, if you must have a race at Daytona at all.

    • Avatar

      Yeah, 400 million was just spent on “Daytona Rising”. Don’t see Daytona closing any time soon. Come on, get in the game!

      • Avatar

        $400 million down the drain when NASCAR bites the dust. And a few more deaths to the participants or fans should do the trick.

  11. Avatar

    Long before I had gray hair, I had suggested that the fix to plate racing was to get rid of it. Give the drivers all the HP they can handle…along with a 1:1 gear. It breaks up the pack and gives drivers control by tempting fate by blowing up the engine/gear combo.

  12. Avatar

    Best race of the year by far!!!!! Hope there is a “threat of rain” every week! Drivers raced their balls off ( sorry Danica) the whole race. Please quit feeling sorry for the drivers because they were in crashes. That’s what they are paid to do. Grow a pair!

    • Avatar

      You must be an a.d.d. newbie. Racing is not crashing. If that’s all that thrills you, hit every demo derby you can because that must be what drives you. This “race” was beyond pathetic. If NA$CAR wasn’t embarrassed by that show, they sure as hell should be.

  13. Avatar

    And Mike, your lover boy DiBenedetto finished 36th at Dega. That sure has the making of a groundswell of support for a driver who is lucky to have a ride.

  14. Avatar

    Mike’s done a commendable job taking over the “Thinkin’ Out Loud” column but this week begs for Matt to do a one-off column and savage this debacle of a plate race.

  15. Avatar

    Will you quit saying driver so-and-so blah, blah blah
    “assuming he attempts all of the remaining races” …

    There is no requirement that any driver must attempt to
    make all scheduled “events”. Apparently you were not
    paying attention last year.

  16. Avatar

    Dang, it sure is ugly in here today.

    • Avatar

      On Saturday, after the Xfinity version of the Talladega Demolition Derby, I read some comments on a couple of other sites from people who actually posted that it was too bad Joey didn’t hit the wall hard enough to end his career, and one person did say that too bad Joey was still alive. I made a comment about it on the article that Aaron Bearden wrote, and suggested that maybe it would be a good time for this site to reprint an article that Amy Henderson wrote, where she condemned fans who cheer a driver crashing and booing that driver as he got out of his (or her) car). Mr. Bearden replied that he was happy that people who respond on this site have shown more consideration and self-control than that.

      Reading one person’s comments, Aaron was wrong.

    • Avatar

      No kidding. My guess is that his arrow is broken because some “female fan” kicked him in the quiver.

  17. Avatar

    Oh, before I forget, whomever it was who posted a response last week about the comments sections (I think it was someone named Dan Greene, the site’s webmaster), thank you for admitting there has been a problem with comments appearing, and thank you for fixing it!

    • DanG

      You’re welcome Ken. I’m just glad I was able to pin down the problem and get it fixed.

      Dan