Dale Jr grabs another top 10 finish at Talladega

Dale Earnhardt Jr (car no. 88) recorded his sixth consecutive top 10 finish and finds himself in third place of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship standings (photo courtesy: John Harrelson, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Brad Keselowski had a push-pull finish at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. He used a strong push from Kyle Busch to take the lead from Matt Kenseth, and then he pulled away from Busch during the final lap to win Race 10 of 36 en route to NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 16-18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Kenseth led the race at the start of a green-white-checkered finish, but he put too much distance between himself and drafting partner Greg Biffle. That enabled Keselowski and Busch to sweep past Kenseth on the high side coming off Turn 4 entering the white-flag lap.

At that point, the expectation was that Busch would be able to attempt a pass on Keselowski coming through the tri-oval on the final lap. But before they reached the tri-oval, Keselowski was able to shake loose of Busch by drifting up toward the top of the track in Turn 3 and then dropping low entering Turn 4. That unexpected move enabled Keselowski to put enough distance between his car and Busch’s that Busch was unable to catch up.

“The guy running second should have the advantage, but I had this move all worked up in my mind,” Keselowski said. “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.”

NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished in the ninth place spot. The Talladega race marked Earnhardt Jr.'s sixth consecutive top-10 finish, which matches his career-long streak (the other one came in 2004).

"Two or three years ago, I would have complained about everything I thought was wrong with that car today over the radio," Earnhardt said. "Today, I know better."

It's that type of veteran experience – along with a good car and good team – that's propelled Earnhardt Jr. to what has so far been one of his best seasons ever.

"This is definitely the most consistent I've ever ran. We had plenty of people helping us,” said Earnhardt, who was trying to snap a 138-race winless streak and win at Talladega for the first time since 2004. “We just didn’t have a great car. Just between me and (crew chief) Steve (Letarte), we can improve quite a bit.”

Earnhardt dropped one spot in the standings to third, nine points behind series leader Greg Biffle. The Top 12 drivers in points after Race 26 qualify to contend for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, to be crowned in Miami on Nov. 18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

The victory was the second for Keselowski at Talladega Superspeedway, but it was the first Sprint Cup win at the track for longtime car owner Roger Penske. 

“We had a winning car, we just didn’t have the winning driver,” Kenseth said. “Greg [Biffle] was pushing me fast on that last restart. We got in front, I looked forward for a second, and when I looked back Greg and I were separated and he lost his speed. With me not paying attention, keeping us hooked up, it cost us a shot at the win. I just didn’t do a very good job of managing where he was on that last restart.”

The victory is the sixth for Keselowski in his Sprint Cup career, with four of the wins coming in the past 26 races, dating to last July. His first career Sprint Cup victory came at Talladega Superspeedway in the 2009 Aaron’s 499.

“Man, it feels good to win here in Talladega,” Keselowski said. “And the best is yet to come with this team.”

Next up for the Sprint Cup Series drivers is Darlington on Saturday, May 12 (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox TV, MRN Radio) —Race 11 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 16-18). Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
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