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Auto racing roundup: Keselowski wins crazy crash-fest at Talladega

Brad Keselowski celebrates after winning at Talladega on Sunday. (Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)
Brad Keselowski celebrates after winning at Talladega on Sunday. (Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

Two cars went airborne, 35 were involved in an accident of some kind, and Danica Patrick had the wind knocked out of her in a vicious crash into the wall.

Just another demolition derby at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Brad Keselowski won the crash-fest Sunday that was dominated by multiple wrecks that caused millions of dollars in damage to race teams. It was Keselowski’s fourth career win at Talladega and second victory of the season, and ended Joe Gibbs Racing’s streak of four consecutive victories.

“Crazy day. Somehow we managed to stay ahead of or out of all the chaos,” Keselowski said. “That’s how Talladega goes. Sometimes we run here and everybody kind of lines up against the wall, and sometimes we come here and it’s crazy side by side, wreck ’em up, flip ’em.

“I think that’s kind of the allure to coming here because you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

That’s not entirely true about Talladega, which more times than not turns into a mess of wrecked race cars.

Keselowski said that’s just part of restrictor-plate racing at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

“Racing has always been that balance of daredevils and chess players; this has always been more of a daredevil-type track,” said Keselowski.

Chris Buescher’s car flipped three times in an early crash, and Matt Kenseth was turned upside down in the waning laps. In Kenseth’s accident, Patrick hit hard into an energy-absorbing wall that that seemed to buckle upon impact. She appeared shaken after the hit and hustled out of her burning car.

“I have a pretty decent bruise on my arm and my foot, and my head feels like I hit a wall at 200,” she said. “My chest hurts when I breathe.”

There were 21- and 12-car accidents in the final 28 laps. And, as Keselowski crossed the finish line, another wreck in the back of the pack punctuated the sloppy day. NASCAR’s box score showed 35 of the 40 cars were involved in some sort of accident.

Only 21 of the 40 cars finished on the lead lap, and 12 cars were ruled out of the race.

Second-place finisher Kyle Busch said he looked in his rearview mirror at one point and only saw four cars without some sort of damage

“I hate it. I’d much rather be at home,” said Busch, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion. “I’ve got a win. I don’t need to be here.”

Austin Dillon finished third and said he enjoyed the race, even though it was nerve-racking. Dillon was in his own horrific crash at Daytona last July and said the style of racing at restrictor-plate tracks creates an atmosphere of danger.

“We all have to do it. I don’t know how many really love it,” Dillon said. “I know our moms, wives and girlfriends don’t like it. We don’t like to be part of crashes. If people are cheering for crashes, man, it’s not a good thing.”

The pace of Sunday’s race was up a tick because of potential rain that could have shortened the event from its scheduled 180 laps. Once the race hit the halfway point and was official, drivers began their charge to the front because they couldn’t avoid waiting and rain suddenly ending the event.

Patrick, who was inside the top 10 when she was hit by another car and turned into Kenseth, who went airborne, said the potential rain intensified the racing.

“We all raced to the halfway, then we all raced to the rain that was coming, then we all raced to the end,” she said. “It was like the whole race, you spent it racing like it was the end. There was no moment to relax at all. I’m sure that kind of expanded people’s comfort zones at the end of the race because we were already so used to running close.

“Some people took it over the edge.”

Formula One

Nico Rosberg cruised to victory in the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi as his title rival and teammate Lewis Hamilton battled through the pack for second.

Rosberg has won all four of this season’s races and has a hefty 43-point lead over Hamilton in the title race.

Having the pole position and the unbeatable pace of the Mercedes meant Rosberg faced little opposition as he won by 25 seconds over Hamilton, who had to fight through the field after starting 10th due to a car failure in qualifying.

Already up to fifth after an incident-packed first lap in which Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel crashed out, Hamilton passed both Williams cars and the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen to take and hold second.

Raikkonen was third, 6.9 seconds behind Hamilton.

NHRA

Courtney Force won the Funny Car final in the NHRA SpringNationals in Baytown, Texas, the fifth consecutive event with a female winner.

Force had a 3.913-second pass at 327.90 mph in her Chevrolet Camaro to beat No. 1 qualifier Tim Wilkerson at Royal Purple Raceway. Wilkerson powered his Ford Shelby Mustang to a 3.943 at 323.81.

Force, the daughter of Funny Car great John Force, won for the eighth time in her career and the first since 2014 in Madison, Illinois. She shares the season points lead with Wilkerson.

“It was a pretty amazing weekend for our Chevy Camaro team,” Force said. “I was nervous going into the final against Wilkerson. I knew what kind of numbers he could put on the board and I knew I just had to be right there with him. We’ve been working really hard and I feel like this one felt even better than my first ever career win. We wanted it more than anything.”

Doug Kalitta won in Top Fuel, and Greg Anderson in Pro Stock.

Kalitta beat No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence with a 3.813 at 280.60 for his first victory of the season and third at the SpringNationals. Kalitta has 39 career wins to tie Antron Brown and Kenny Bernstein for fourth on the Top Fuel list.

Anderson won for the third time this season, topping teammate Jason Line with a 6.630 at 209.43 in a Chevrolet Camaro. Anderson also has three victories in the SpringNationals.


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