Carnage, crashing, flipping, what have you, Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway may go down in history as one of the most violent races in NASCAR history.
Chase Elliott led the field to the green flag for the 47th annual GEICO 500, and it didn’t take long for the wrecking to begin.
The first accident of the day took place on Lap 51, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. got loose off Turn 2 and spun back up the track into his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne.
“Just got loose,” said Jr. “I was in a bad spot with the wind. It pinned the nose real hard off the corner and the car was a little bit loose off the corner that run.”
Shortly after, the second crash took place as Michael Waltrip got sent down to the apron after receiving a big bump from the car behind him. Waltrip wasn’t able to get the car slowed down and came back up on track into the pack, clipping the back of Casey Mears and Aric Almirola.
Two semi-minor incidents to start off the event, but it was the third crash that really set off the string of wild wrecks.
On Lap 97, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Michael Annett, Jimmie Johnson, David Gilliland, and Chris Buescher all piled up headed down the backstretch. Buescher stole the spotlight of the incident though, as his No.34 machine turned over and barrel-rolled.
Buescher said everything went quiet inside the car when it started flipping.
“Miserable,” said Buescher. “It’s a bummer. No fun. Ready to go home.”
A lot of drivers were ready to go home after Sunday’s race.
Carl Edwards came into the 500-mile race at Talladega looking for a third-straight victory, but on Lap 111, fate had other plans. The No.19 car blew a tire going into Turn 1 and pancaked the wounded No.88 machine hard into the wall, ending both the drivers days.
“We were just out there riding around and something broke on the 19 and he came up into us and we were just out there chilling out, having fun,” said Jr.
Jr. was just out there “chilling” because he was multiple laps down due to his wreck earlier with his teammate Kahne. And ironically, only eighteen laps after Jr’s second incident with Edwards, the same fate ended up finding Kahne, who lost control of his No.5 machine and pounded the wall, completely ending his day.
And yet, the crashes kept on coming.
On Lap 162, the largest crash of the day took place. Kurt Busch was bumping Jimmie Johnson down the front-stretch until Johnson made contact with Paul Menard, sending the No.48 machine into the wall as other cars piled in.
“(Busch) was bump-drafting me and caused that wreck and just kept hitting me and finally ended up taking me out in the process,” said Johnson. “That was aggressive there.”
Over half the field ended up getting wiped out in the wreck, a total of 21 cars.
With so much of the field being damaged, you would think the wrecking would be subdued. Yet, it wasn’t.
With just less than seven laps to go in the race, chaos ensued once again. Danica Patrick spun into Matt Kenseth heading down the backstretch, sending the No.20 machine around and airborne. Kenseth’s car landed on its roof and slid atop the wall before coming to rest back on its wheels.
“I’ve only flipped a couple of times and they both were at Talladega,” said Kenseth. “All the time I’m upside down, I’m praying the whole time it lands on its wheels because I think I’ll be pretty claustrophobic if it lands on its roof.
Patrick’s car also spun down into the inside wall, in one of the hardest hits she said she has ever had.
“I hit my foot, I hit my arm,” said Patrick. “There was fire on the inside of the car. It was a pretty big hit. It kind of knocked the breath out of me a little bit.”
Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Landon Cassill, and Bobby Labonte all also received damage in the incident.
With just a handful of cars left in one piece, the field lined up for the final restart with 3 laps to go. Brad Keselowski managed to get out front and had to fend off hard charges from Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon.
As the field worked through the tri-oval on the last lap and headed for the finish line, one final wreck ensued. Contact was made back in the field, leading to Kevin Harvick getting turned onto his side hard into the wall, along with six other cars.
Keselowski was well out in front of the crash and crossed the finish line first in his No.2 Miller Lite Ford. Sunday’s victory is the 19th of Keselowski’s career, and an impressive fourth career victory at Talladega Superspeedway.
“One of the tickets to stay out of the wrecks at Talladega is to stay up front,” said Keselowski. “This No. 2 machine, man. This feels really good, really good.”
Just bringing the car back in one piece after that kind of race would make any driver feel good. It was a race full of attrition and vicious hits. 33 of the 40 cars in the race ended up being involved in a crash at some point of the race.
Luckily all the drivers were able to walk away from the accidents without injuries.