In a Talladega race with 30+ lead changes, it would not have been completely taboo for a driver who did not lead at all in regulation to pick up the win.
Such was the case for five-time Talladega winner Brad Keselowski, who picked up win No. 6 at the track Sunday afternoon after a timely maneuver through the final lap of overtime.
The win is Keselowski’s first of the year and his first at the track since Oct. 15, 2017. With the win, nine different drivers have won at least one race this season.
A sunny afternoon set the scene for what was a highly-anticipated race at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday afternoon. The eagerness for some drivers, however, started off sour, as every Toyota except Kyle Busch was forced to the rear for unapproved adjustments before one lap was even run.
Almost immediately, lines began to form right from the start, as the majority of the Ford drivers stockpiled on the top lane while the Chevrolets and Toyotas combined to create a train on the bottom lane.
Joey Logano spearheaded the top lane and led through the first 10 laps of the race before Bubba Wallace jolted ahead of the Ford for the lead. The race continued at a two-lane pace through the lap 25 competition caution, with Busch leading the procession. Upon the restart half a dozen laps later, the three-wide lanes made itself apparent once more. This time, it was Denny Hamlin who blocked off Busch in the bottom as he continued to lead the middle.
A Joey Gase spin through turn four brought out the second caution of the day on lap 38. The race leaders, however, decided to stay out, and upon the lap 44 restart, bump drafting started to become more abundant, as Ryan Blaney pushed Hamlin to give the No. 11 Toyota the necessary momentum to hold onto the lead.
Leaders jockeyed and lanes shuffled until the final lap of stage one, as the third caution of the day occurred when Hamlin maneuvered into Logano from behind. The No. 22 Penske then issued contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. before the former went airborne and rolled.
Over the following 45+ laps, the lanes continued to shift, with each and every driver pivoting through each one to get the necessary draft of clean air. Hamlin continued to capitalize the most off of it before he got booked for speeding on pit road and was forced to the rear. As a result, a collection of drivers, including Ryan Preece and William Byron, vaulted to the top before Kurt Busch’s machine leaked oil on the backstretch on lap 103.
As stage two began to die down, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron and Bubba Wallace moved for the lead, with Wallace once again utilizing the top lane to hold onto the lead. Just like at the end of stage one, a huge wreck on the frontstretch ended the stage under caution, with Wallace picking up the stage win.
Blaney started off the final stage on the leader of the top lane and the field, but not without a hitch – debris collected on the front grille. As a result, Aric Almirola was able to take the lead, but with a new leader meant a fresher opportunity to rid the debris. With timely bump drafting, the debris was able to lift off.
As the race began to wane, a new bottom lane was created, with Ross Chastain captaining it through the pit stops with less than 35 to go. However, Erik Jones, who was ran right behind the No. 42 Chevy, shot out from the outside lane to take over the bottom for the lead.
A Quinn Houff skid into the wall brought out the yellow, and upon the restart with 12 to go, it was on. It would not be Talladega without drama late in the race, and drama there most certainly was, as debris in the frontstretch led to overtime. Although DiBenedetto led on the inside lane, Keselowski maneuvered through the outside, and while DiBenedetto attempted to block, Keselowski used the momentum to stay ahead and claim the victory.
Michael McDowell finished third. The finish snaps McDowell’s six-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.
DiBenedetto finished fifth. It is DiBenedetto’s best finish so far this season.
Harrison Burton finished 20th. It was Burton’s first career Cup race.
After his involvement in the wreck at the end of stage two, along with several speeding penalties, Hamlin finished 32nd. The finish is Hamlin’s first outside the top 15 this season and his worst finish since Apr. 28, 2019 at Talladega (36th).
The Cup Series will move onward to Kansas Speedway next weekend. Coverage for the race will begin on May 2 at 3:00 p.m. EST.
Unofficial playoff standings: