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Keselowski has the right move at the right time

May 15, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Brad Keselowski had planned the move that led him to victory long before getting to Talladega. (Getty Images)

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Executing perfectly a move he had saved for the right occasion, Brad Keselowski pulled away from Kyle Busch on the final lap to win the Aaron's 499 on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway in a green-white-checkered-flag finish.

Busch had pushed Keselowski to the lead on Lap 193 of 194 in a race that went six laps past its scheduled distance at the 2.66-mile track. The two cars ran bumper-to-bumper until Turn 3 of the final lap, when Keselowski entered the corner high and dived to the bottom of the track, separating his No. 2 Dodge from Busch's No. 18 Toyota.

"It wasn't easy to convince myself to do that, but it was the right move. I'm glad it worked."

--BRAD KESELOWSKI

After he ditched his dancing partner, Keselowski pulled away to win by 0.304 second, a relative whipping at a track where wins typically are measured in thousandths of a second.

The victory was Keselowski's second of the season, his second at the track and the sixth of his Cup career. It was the first win for Dodge at Talladega since Dave Marcis took the checkered flag 36 years ago.

Matt Kenseth, who led the field to the final restart on Lap 193, was third, followed by Kasey Kahne and points leader Greg Biffle. Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Trevor Bayne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton completed the top 10.

Conventional wisdom says that the driver running second on the final lap has a much better chance to win a restrictor-plate race than the driver who is leading, but Keselowski had thought long and hard about what he would do.

"I had this whole plan if I ever got in that situation where I was leading," Keselowski said. "I thought about it and thought about it -- dreamed about what to do -- and sure enough, going into (Turn) 3, it was just me and Busch. And I knew the move I wanted to pull.

"... I went into Turn 3 high and pulled down off of Kyle and broke the tandem up. That allowed me to drive untouched to the checkered flag. It wasn't easy to convince myself to do that, but it was the right move. I'm glad it worked."

After the race, Busch wasn't quite sure what had happened.

"I got to Turn 3, and I got disconnected from him, got unhooked," Busch said. "I hated that happened -- thought we had a shot to win that thing. I'm not sure he [Keselowski] did anything.

"If he did, he's pretty smart, but I think our stuff just came unplugged."

Keselowski's victory ended a wild final quarter of the race, with four cautions in the final 45 laps.

As the field began a round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 143, a massive chain-reaction wreck in Turn 3 eliminated a handful of contenders, including pole-sitter Jeff Gordon.

Contact between Aric Almirola and Dave Blaney triggered the crash, which also collected Martin Truex, Carl Edwards and Juan Montoya, among others.

"It was like a wreck at a stoplight," Edwards said. "Everybody started checking up and hitting each other."

With the herd thinned considerably, Paul Menard led the field to a restart on Lap 151. Denny Hamlin, who had regained a lost lap as the highest-scored lapped car when NASCAR called the caution on Lap 143, surged to the front, where he swapped the top spot with Keselowski.

Kenseth restarted at the back of the field, a penalty for pitting too soon under the Lap 143 caution. He quickly worked his way forward, wresting the lead from Denny Hamlin on Lap 167, with Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger lined up behind him.

Five laps later, Hamlin found an opening between Kenseth and Keselowski and took second, but a Lap 175 wreck that started when Casey Mears cut a tire scrambled the field for a restart with nine laps left in regulation.

As the field crossed the finish line on Lap 181, contact from Keselowski sent the Kurt Busch spinning into the inside wall at the entry to Turn 1. Kenseth led the field to a restart on Lap 185.

The green flag lasted only moments. As soon as the cars crossed the start/finish line, Hamlin ducked to the inside, and Allmendinger tried to block the middle lane. The nose of Hamlin's car was already inside Allmendinger's bumper, and contact between the two started a wreck that ruined the chances of Hamlin, Menard, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Michael Waltrip.

Notes-n-Nuggets

• Brad Keselowski won his sixth Sprint Cup Series race in his 99th start.
• Keselowski last won in March at Bristol, with five starts between the victories.
• Keselowski joins Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart as the only repeat winners of the season; each has two wins.
• It was Keselowski's second Talladega win in his seventh start and his second restrictor-plate win in his 13th start.
• He led twice for 10 laps, including the final two.
• Keselowski got his fifth Cup win in his past 34 starts.
• It was the 73rd Cup victory for Penske Racing and first at Talladega.
• Dodge got its fourth Talladega win and first since Dave Marcis in fall 1976.
• Kyle Busch (second) got his second top-five finish in 15 starts at Talladega and his third top-five of the season.
• Matt Kenseth (third) got his first top-10 finish in the past 11 races at Talladega; he led 73 laps, the most of all drivers.
• Kasey Kahne (fourth) had his fourth consecutive top-10 finish after starting the season with six straight finishes of 14th or worse.
• Greg Biffle (fifth) earned his second top-five finish in his 19th start at Talladega; his sixth top-five finish of 2012 leaves him as the points leader.
• David Ragan (seventh) hadn't finished in the top 10 since Sept. 2011 at New Hampshire, where he was seventh.
• Trevor Bayne (eighth) got his third career top-10 finish in his 22nd start.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (ninth) had his sixth consecutive top-10 finish, matching his career longest streak.
• It was the seventh race at Talladega to end with a green-white-checkered finish, second most among all tracks behind Daytona (nine).
• Nineteen cars failed to finish, the most of the season (11 at Daytona).

Note: Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman left the race with oil pump problems and finished 35th and 36th, respectively.