TALLADEGA, Ala. – The pack is back at Talladega Superspeedway. After a few years of a change to a two-car tandem style of racing, the spectacle of a large pack of Sprint Cup cars roaring tightly around the 2.66-mile tri-oval returned to Talladega on Sunday in the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Matt Kenseth passed Tony Stewart on the final lap following a green-white-checkered restart to pick up his first career victory at Talladega Superspeedway. It was the 54th lead change of the race involving 18 different drivers.
“We just decided the fans pay a lot of money to watch us race, these guys (on the team) pay me to drive the race car fast, so we just go out and race hard every lap,” said Kenseth, who led eight times for 33 laps.
The lead changed hands 12 times over the final 29 laps, including five times in a row from lap 168 through 172. Jamie McMurray led the most laps, motoring to the front nine different times for a total of 38 laps.
Jeff Gordon finished second, giving him two top-five finishes and three top-10s in his past five starts at Talladega. Afterward, Gordon said fans should have enjoyed the excitement produced by the return to pack racing.
“If I’m a fan, I would love that,” Gordon said. “I think it is incredibly intense. It’s wild, it’s crazy. … That literally is bumper cars at almost 200 miles per hour.
“From an entertainment standpoint, they should be lined up out to the highway out there. … If I’m a race fan, I want to see two and three-wide racing all day long, passing back and forth. I want to see guys shoving one another.”
Kyle Busch finished third, followed by David Ragan in fourth, Regan Smith fifth, Greg Biffle sixth, points leader Brad Keselowski seventh, Travis Kvapil eighth, Ryan Newman ninth and Jeff Burton 10th.
Among the drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, Kevin Harvick finished 11th, Kasey Kahne 12th, Martin Truex Jr. 13th, Denny Hamlin 14th, Jimmie Johnson 17th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 20th., Tony Stewart 22nd and Clint Bowyer 23rd.
Keselowski extended his lead in the standings over Johnson to 14 points. Hamlin is in third place in the standings, 23 out of the lead, while Kahne is in fourth place, 36 points back.
Kenseth has been stellar on restrictor-plate tracks all year. He won the season-opening Daytona 500, finished third in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega in May and was third in Daytona’s July race.
“The plate stuff has just been unbelievable this year,” Kenseth said. “All four plate races they put me in position to win. It’s really a testament to everybody at Roush Fenway Racing, the guys who build these cars and put bodies on them. I’m really proud to be in Victory Lane with these guys.”