Race Report: Talladega

It was a battle for survival in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

When it was over Kyle Busch was the only Joe Gibbs Racing to survive without major damage. He would lead the four-car team with a second-place finish, while separate accidents collected Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards at various times resulting in finishes of 23rd, 31st, and 35th respectively.

Busch started the No. 18 Skittles/Marvel from the 17th position and was able to race his way toward the front of the field to race with his teammates through the early portion of the race. He would take his first lead of the day on lap 40 and would lead 12 laps before a caution would bring the leaders down pit road. Busch continued to race patiently and continued to avoid being caught up in several big wrecks. He maneuvered his Skittles/Marvel Camry to the outside following the final restart of the afternoon with four to go and managed to slide up into second behind the 2 car. He was hoping to make one final push to the front when an accident behind the leaders brought out the checkered flag a few hundred yards prior to the line. Busch was scored officially in second.

Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the fourth position and spent the majority of the afternoon toward the front of the field racing in the pack with the leaders. Kenseth would take his first lead of the day on lap 14. At the halfway point he was the lap leader with 30 total laps at that point. He would continue to keep his Dollar General Camry at the front of the field and made his way back to the lead with just over 40 laps remaining. Kenseth continued to ride up front with the leaders as the race neared its conclusion. He was third in line on the bottom of the track behind his teammate Busch with less than 10 laps to go when a car from the outside came down the track and into his right side resulting in the No. 20 Camry going airborne. Fortunately the Dollar General Camry would come to rest on its tires and Kenseth was okay. He would go on to be scored in 23rd at the finish.

Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota from the eighth position and chose to join the majority of his teammates running at the front of the field. He would come down pit road following a lap 49 caution and contact with the 16 car while attempting to exit his pit stall would force him to back up into his box once again for repairs. That would put Hamlin to the back of the leaders on the restart, but he would find his way through the pack once again to race with the leaders. In fact, he would lead several laps starting at lap 83. More trouble on pit road would occur during a round of stops following a caution with 60 laps remaining. This time Hamlin was spun by the 38 car while entering the pits and once again he would restart at the back of the pack. Another accident with 28 laps to go would set off a major chain reaction and although he managed to avoid most of the cars that were spinning around him he would have to come down the track and into the grass. The damage resulted in a trip to the garage. He would return with nine laps to go but was scored 18 laps down and ultimately finished 31st.

Edwards started the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota from the ninth position seeking a third straight win. Edwards ran much of the first half of the race toward the back of the pack. In fact, he would race toward the back of the main pack for much of the first half of the race managing to avoid several accidents. He would find trouble however when several cars wrecked in front of him on lap 96 and contact with the 46 car as it came down the track resulted in damage to the right front of his ARRIS Camry. Edwards would bring it down pit road for repairs and was able to remain on the lead lap. Trouble would strike again however on lap 111 when it appeared his right front tire went down causing him to swing up into the 88 car and the outside wall. This time the damage was major ending the day for the ARRIS team. He would be scored in 35th.

Keselowski captured the win, followed by Kyle Busch in second, Austin Dillon third, Jamie McMurray fourth Chase Elliott rounded out the top five. There were 10 cautions for a total of 41 laps and 37 lead changes among 17 different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway next Saturday night. Live coverage on Fox Sports 1 will start Saturday, May 7 at 7 PM (race starts at 7:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.