- Ed Hinton, NASCAR
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TALLADEGA, Ala. -- What do you say after you've made Matt Kenseth feel "stupid" and Kyle Busch think he "screwed up" in about 50 seconds, and then your car owner -- the most famous and diverse in the world -- says you drove a "perfect race"?
You say, "Hell, it's my job to be good," if you're Brad Keselowski, who keeps hurtling to the front of NASCAR as both a driver and a personality. "I don't get paid to suck at this."
Just when Sunday's Aaron's 499 appeared at the brink of becoming a repeat of the Daytona 500, with Kenseth clearly dominant, Keselowski blew the whole thing apart on the green-white-checkered finish at Talladega Superspeedway.
Kenseth had taken what appeared to be clear command of the race with 21 laps left, and was sailing along just as he had in winning Daytona in February. He easily held off competitors for two late restarts, and then on the GWC he jumped out front again, pushed as usual by teammate Greg Biffle.
But exiting Turn 2 on the first lap of overtime, "I looked forward for a second," Kenseth said. "When I looked back, Greg and I were separated and those guys [Keselowski, pushed by Busch] were already outside of him. With nobody behind him, he lost his speed. And with me not paying enough attention, not dragging the brake and keep us hooked up, it cost us a shot at the win and cost Greg a shot at the win."
And so, "We had the winning car today; we just didn't have the winning driver," Kenseth said. "I was just too stupid, I guess, at the end, to keep him [Biffle] with me."
Keselowski and Busch blew past Kenseth and Biffle down the backstretch, and Busch had more than a lap to take the advantage the second-place driver is supposed to have late at Talladega.
"Unfortunately I must have screwed something up or something," Busch said, "because we got to Turn 3 [on the final lap] and came unhooked. So I just gave a win away over there."
No, he didn't. Keselowski snatched it from him.
"I had this whole plan if I ever got in that situation where I was leading [often the sitting-duck spot on the last lap at Talladega]," Keselowski said. "I thought about it, and thought about it, and dreamed about it, what to do. And sure enough, going into 3 it was just me and Kyle.
"The guy running second should have the advantage, but I had this move all worked up in my mind. Now everybody's seen it and they know it, but I'm glad I was able to get away with it."
Busch still didn't know, after the race, what Brad K. had pulled, which was:
"I went into Turn 3 high," Keselowski said, "and pulled down off of Kyle and broke the tandem up. Which allowed me to drive untouched to the checkered flag."
Summing up the two final, flawless laps, "I felt real good about the move we were able to pull on Matt," Keselowski said. "I was surprised him and the 16 [Biffle] didn't gang up with more full force than what they did
I'd say he's certainly become a student of the game. If you look at the cars today and the rules today, I'd have to say he ran a perfect race.
”-- Roger Penske on Brad Keselowski
"Kyle, I just needed to make the move. That disconnected us.
"You gotta have a plan, have the moves ready," Keselowski said. "We were fortunate enough to have the car and the team to put me in place."
"I'd say he's certainly become a student of the game," said his car owner, Roger Penske, whose drivers have won 15 Indianapolis 500s but who got his first Talladega win Sunday. Penske has been trying here since 1972.
"If you look at the cars today and the rules today, I'd have to say he ran a perfect race," Penske said of Keselowski. "He ran the bottom lane all day. When it was time to go, he had it figured out."
Keselowski's race may not have been flawless in Kurt Busch's eyes. Kyle's elder brother was challenging for the win before he spun in the tri-oval with seven laps to go in regulation, after being clipped from behind by Keselowski.
"I want to apologize for that," Keselowski said. "He ran a great race. He's been a great friend of mine over the last few years, really helped me get to where I'm at here today."
Keselowski, who was teammates with Kurt Busch before Busch left Penske by mutual agreement after last season, called it miscommunication that caused the spin.
On a restart, "I knew we had to get to Kurt and go," Keselowski said. "I got to Kurt and tried to push him. He tried staying in line. He didn't want to go. He probably didn't know what was going on behind him, which is natural."
Just a bump, just off-center of Busch's bumper, and he broke loose.
The win was Keselowski's second of the season, and moved him to 12th in points.
Slow as his points start has been, the second win "already makes us just about immune to missing the Chase," he said.