Keselowski avoids Talladega carnage, wins on last-lap pass
Brad Keselowski was the last man standing after 16 caution and three red flags, winning the Alabama 500.
Just six undamaged cars were running towards the chequered flag at Talladega Superspeedway after multiple wrecks at the restrictor-plate track left one pack remaining with three laps left.
Keselowski out-raced Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin for the thrilling win.
A wreck involving Daniel Suarez, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Chris Buescher brought out the red flag with six laps remaining, setting up a sprint to the finish.
Newman led down the backstretch on the final lap but Keselowski used a neat crossover move to pass Newman on the high side and with the help of team-mate Joey Logano was able to hold on for the finish to punch his ticket to the Round of 8.
Newman was second, followed by Trevor Bayne, Logano, and Aric Almirola.
In his final race at the Talladega - his top track - Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in position for his first win in his final season in NASCAR but was pushed to fifth on the final lap and was unable to find a partner to push toward the front. He finished seventh.
In restrictor-plate racing, a simple slip can cause a wreck as cars are separated in the draft literally by inches. That is what happened when the "Big One" occurred with just 17 laps remaining, the first of three red-flag wrecks. Martin Truex Jr. was trying to create space in turn three and hit the rear of Kevin Harvick, who turned team-mate Kurt Busch igniting a huge wreck that collected out play-off drivers Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth and others.
Another huge wreck occurred just five laps later as Logano appeared to get into Bayne, triggering a red-flag crash that collected Ryan Blaney and Harvick.
Play-off contender Jamie McMurray saw his hopes go up in smoke just 26 laps into the race during green-flag pit stops. McMurray slowed near Kyle Busch and was hit from behind by Erik Jones, which turned McMurray up the track and into Jeffrey Earnhardt.
"You assume everyone is working as a group," McMurray told NBC Sports. "It was my fault. I assumed that they said the 18 was going to let me in, so I thought we were all going to pit. I didn't even know where the 77 was. When I got on the brakes, I thought we were all coming to pit road as a group. I'll take the blame for that. I just kind of assumed we were coming to pit road right there. Obviously not everyone was."
The Cup Series will be back in action next Sunday at Kansas, where the bottom four drivers in the play-off standings will be eliminated from contention as the Round of 8 will be finalised.