2009-04-30 / Sports

Keselowski Clips Edwards For Wild Win

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

TALLADEGA, Ala., - Brad Keselowski got his first career Sprint Cup win Sunday in dramatic fashion in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

"Wow, how about this team," said Keselowski. "I want to thank all the fans for coming and apologize to Carl Edwards for wrecking him, but man, the rule is you can't go beyond the yellow line. He blocked me and I wasn't going below it.

"I don't want to wreck a guy, but you're forced into that situation. There was nothing else I could do."

With four laps to go in the 188- lap race, Keselowski was running eighth behind Edwards.

One lap later, Edwards was third and Keselowski was fourth.

Keselowski continued to push Edwards toward the front.

When the white flag was given, signaling one lap remaining, Edwards and Keselowski had passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman for the lead.

Keselowski remained right on Edwards rear bumper. As the two cars exited turn four and headed to the finish line, Keselowski pretended to move up the track. Edwards moved up to block, then Keselowski went low. Edwards attempted to block him again, but this time the nose of Keselowski's No. 1 James Finch Chevrolet was under Edwards.

Edwards' car spun sideways and then went airborne, and into the grandstand chain link fence. Ryan Newman, who was running third, had the roof of his No. 39 torn off as he passed under Edwards' flying car.

Edwards climbed from his burning car and jogged across the finish line.

"I didn't know if it mattered, but I wanted to say I finished the race," said Edwards. "I'm very fortunate that I didn't hit the wall where it would crush my rollcage down on my neck. NASCAR just puts us in this box. We'll race like this until we kill somebody and then we'll see what happens.

"I congratulate Brad on his win."

Talladega officials said there were at least eight relatively minor injuries caused by flying debris from Edwards' car. Track medical director Dr. Bobby Lewis said a woman suffered an apparent fractured jaw and a mouth laceration. She had bloody smears across the front of her shirt as medical workers treated her near the accident site.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second. It was his first top-5 finish this season.

"We were staying close together, and I was thinking there is no way anyone is going to catch us there at the end," said Dale Jr., "They were smart enough to move up into the higher lane, which had been easier and faster all day."

There were two big wrecks. The first one came just seven laps into the race and involved at least 14 cars. Nine of the cars went to the garage area. Five did not return to the track.

Drivers that had heavily damaged cars included Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Mark Martin, and AJ Allmendinger.

The second one occurred during lap 180 and involved nine cars.

The top-10 finishers: 1. Brad Keselowski, 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 3. Ryan Newman, 4. Marcos Ambrose, 5. Scott Speed, 6. Kurt Busch, 7. Greg Biffle, 8. Brian Vickers, 9. Joey Logano, 10. Jeff Burton

Top-12 Chase Contenders after 9 of 36: 1. Kurt Busch-1299, 2. J. Gordon-1294, 3. Johnson- 1235, 4. Stewart-1232, 5. Hamlin- 1193, 6. Kyle Busch-1124, 7. Edwards 1119, 8. Bowyer-1098, 9. Burton-1092, 10. Biffle-1081, 11. Reutimann-1077, 12. Kenseth- 1063

Ragan takes Talladega Nationwide race

David Ragan made a last lap pass on Ryan Newman to win Saturday's Aaron's 312. The top- 10 Points leaders after 8 of 35: 1. Ky. Busch-1219, 2. Edwards-1157, 3. Ragan-1139, 4. Leffler-1082, 5. Logano-1058, 6. Brad Keselowski 1041, 7. Keller-925, 8. Lagasse- 886, 9. Allgaier-885, 10. McDowell- 879

NASCAR banquet moves to Vegas

NASCAR announced last week that Las Vegas formally becomes the "Official Host City of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week." NASCAR's annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony will be held at the Wynn Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 4, 2009. The move to Las Vegas provides for greater flexibility for driver and fan events.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events will be combined and held at the Lowes Miami Beach on Monday, Nov. 23.

NASCAR had held the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event in New York City every year since 1981. After exploring several options, NASCAR formed a partnership with Las Vegas Events, making the change of venue a reality.

"I can't say enough about the warm reception from Las Vegas," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. "Las Vegas really made it a priority to get the awards ceremony moved there. We were able to come to an agreement on reasonable room blocks, banquet facilities, and approvals to hold fan activities on the famous Las Vegas Strip.

"I also want to thank New York City and especially the Waldorf Astoria for being such an important part of NASCAR's history over the years. We look forward to a continued presence in the Big Apple where we have so many dedicated fans."

State of the camping world truck series

The Camping World Truck Series numbers appear to be holding steady, but hard times have forced several teams to scale back operations. Some top teams have been unable to secure full sponsorship and others struggle just to keep going as the economy suffers.

There was a time when NASCAR's Truck Series was a natural place for young drivers to develop their skills, with an eye toward reaching the sport's higher levels. That time appears to be gone. The question is if it will ever return.

With a shortage of sponsorship dollars, a lack of monetary compensation relative to NASCAR's other major touring series and an identity more personified by older veterans than up-and-comers, the Truck Series is at a crossroads after 15 seasons.

"I'm worried about it," threetime Cup champion Darrell Waltrip said on NASCAR.com "It's good racing. We talk about competition and the car of tomorrow and racing's not that exciting in Sprint Cup, but truck racing is as exciting as it gets most every week, and still they are having a hard time."

Rick Crawford, who fields the No. 14 and 10 truck teams has been racing in the series since 1997.

"I think if this series can survive the next two years that it's going to be around for quite a while," he said. "The next two years is going to be a survival point for the American people. It's going to be a survival point for our government. It's going to be a survival point for our au- tomakers. It's going to be a survival point for a lot of businesses, but not only the businesses, it's going to be survival for the American public."

The sluggish economy that has created ripple effects in all of NASCAR's national series has taken a particularly difficult toll on the trucks. While teams have smaller budgets than their Sprint Cup and Nationwide counterparts, their race earnings are also substantially less.

Next week: Will Mikey hang it up after this year

Weekend racing: The NASCAR Cup and Nationwide teams are at the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway. The Camping World Trucks are off until May 15.

Friday, May 1, Nationwide Series Lipton 250, race 9 of 35, starting time: 7 p.m. (EST); TV: ESPN2.

Saturday, May 2, Sprint Cup Crown Royal 400, race 10 of 36, starting time: 7 p.m. (EST); TV: FOX.

Racing trivia question: Where is Mark Martin's home town?

Last week's question: Who will AJ Allmendinger drive for in 2010? Answer. He will continue to drive for Richard Petty Motorsports.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

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