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Race Rewind: Looking back at the Aaron's 499

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, May. 06, 2012

3 keys to victory

1. The first key was to remain up front and although Brad Keselowski led only twice Sunday, he never drifted outside the top 10 except during green-flag pit stops.

2. Keselowski got a taste of the lead on Lap 151 when he passed Paul Menard. He remained out front eight laps until passed by Denny Hamlin.

3. Keselowski and Kyle Busch made a quick decision on the final restart to work together. Matt Kenseth got a big jump, but the Keselowski-Busch tandem was so fast, they moved into the lead before the start of the final lap.

Turning point

Kenseth got a great restart and looked like he would sail away to victory until Keselowski went flying by to the lead, pushed by Busch.

Things would have been different if ...

Keselowski might have inadvertently taken out some of his best competition. Kurt Busch was particularly strong late in Sunday's race, but Keselowski ran into the back of him on Lap 181, sending Kurt Busch spinning into the infield grass.

Utter: Bad luck no reason to alter rules

Sunday's race at Talladega, Ala., looked more like a race at the track about five years ago, when pack racing dominated, large wrecks collected several contenders and most drivers left unhappy. There are many - drivers who were involved in the wrecks and their fans - who likely will pronounce their affection for the two-car tandem. Don't expect NASCAR to change course again.

Observations

• Kyle Busch has been known as a sore loser, but his two second-place finishes at Talladega - losing to Joe Gibbs teammate Joey Logano on Saturday and Brad Keselowski on Sunday - left him sitting pretty good after a slow start to the season. His win last weekend at Richmond, Va., combined with second on Sunday, have him back in the top 10 in Cup points (ninth).

• NASCAR officials said they will talk to driver Danica Patrick next weekend at Darlington, S.C., about her actions at Talladega after the Nationwide race Saturday, when she wrecked Sam Hornish Jr. on the cool-down lap. If Patrick's actions weren't serious enough to talk to her when they happened, waiting a week certainly isn't going to make any difference. Admonish offenders if you think they did something wrong - not because there is a big uproar for not doing so.

Notes

Solid second weekend: Kyle Busch got beat being pushed to the finish line Saturday and got beat working the reverse position Sunday. For a guy who sometimes doesn't take losing well, a pair of second-place finishes went over pretty well.

"We got connected (with winner Brad Keselowski) and I was pushing and passed everybody, got to Turn 3 and I got disconnected from him, I got unhooked," Busch said. "I thought we had a shot to win the thing. Once that happened, the race was over. It was all his."

Busch did move into the top 10 in the series standings. He is ninth, 70 behind leader Greg Biffle.

Biffle remains out front: Biffle's was one of the few Ford teams to battle high engine temperatures, but he did manage to get himself in position late in the race to help Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth try for the win.

On the last restart, Kenseth got too far ahead of Biffle, which slowed their momentum, and the tandem of Keselowski and Kyle Busch swept past.

"The car ran hot a lot of the day and we had to manage the water temperature and the fuel. It was close at the end, but I just wish I could have stayed on Matt's bumper," said Biffle, who remains the points leader.

Plate races bad for Johnson, Gordon: Restrictor-plate races have not been good for Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson this season.

At the Daytona 500, Gordon suffered an engine failure and Johnson was caught up in an early wreck. Sunday, it was Johnson with an engine problem (detached oil pan belt) and Gordon who got caught up in a wreck.

"It's just a bummer. We had such a great race car, up there leading the race and had something happen there," said Johnson, who finished 35th. Gordon ended up 33rd and is now 23rd in points.

McClure in stable condition: Eric McClure, injured in a 10-car wreck during Saturday's Nationwide race, was listed in stable condition at UAB Hospital in Birmingham on Sunday. He was expected to remain there a second night.

"Eric and I would like to thank everyone for their prayers. They truly made a difference. We are so thankful that he survived" Saturday, Eric's wife, Miranda, said in a statement. "It is nothing short of a miracle that he was not hurt more than he is."

McClure's car hit head-on on the inside of Turn 3, an area that was covered by energy-absorbing SAFER barriers.

Next race

Southern 500

Where: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

TV: Fox

Radio: Motor Racing Network

Last year's winner: Regan Smith

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