TALLADEGA, Ala. — Matt Kenseth had the best speed; Brad Keselowski had the best plan for the end of Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Brains, not brawn, won.
Keselowski not only caught Kenseth not paying attention for a split second coming to the white flag, he used a move on the final lap that baffled Kyle Busch’s plan for a mad dash to the finish line.
Kenseth was overpowering at the 2.66-mile raceway, but that speed cost him a chance to back up his win at the Daytona 500.
He got too big of a cushion with 1½ laps remaining, and that allowed Keselowski and Busch to work in tandem for a pass that caught everyone, especially Kenseth, by surprise.
Once Kenseth was shuffled to third, Busch waited until the final two turns to make his move, but Keselowski veered high, then low to break Busch’s momentum. He ran the final mile without a challenge.
“At Talladega patience is an oxymoron,” Keselowski said. “I had this plan. I dreamed about it. I pulled the move and it worked. I went into Turn 3 high and pulled down low to break up the tandem. Now that I’ve done it, I’ll have to come up with something different.”
Kenseth dejectedly finished third, while Kasey Kahne was fourth, Biffle was fifth, Clint Bowyer was sixth and David Ragan was seventh.
Kenseth couldn’t believe Keselowski and Busch caught him so quickly, especially since he took his eyes off them for a second.
“You’re going 200 mph. You look out the windshield for one second, that’s a football field,” Keselowski said. “Once the 16 (Biffle) and 17 (Kenseth) separated, I knew it was our race.”
Two cars working nose-to-tail are as much as 10 mph faster than a single car since they can divide the wind resistance.
Busch couldn’t believe he never got the chance for a pass during the stretch drive, especially since the previous four races at Talladega were won with a last-lap pass.
There was one caution in the first 144 of 194 laps, and that was for oil for Regan Smith’s blown engine. There were four in the final 50 laps, including a nine-car crash that pushed the finish six laps into overtime.
Kenseth led the final restart with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle pushing from behind. As they approached the third turn, Kenseth pulled away from Biffle to break up their tandem – and give Keselowski and Busch the unexpected opportunity to make their charge.