Observations• The weather was ideal in Talladega, Ala., this weekend, which seemed only fair after the deluge surrounding this race a year ago. That race finally ended at dusk on Sunday with some drivers feeling the finish was run under unsafe conditions (poor visibility and spotty rain).
• You have to chuckle when a caution light causes a caution. It was dangling from its mooring, and with all the air movement caused by so much green-flag racing, NASCAR felt obliged to go cut off the disabled part.
• Brad Keselowski says he has the right to go racing whether he’s six laps down or not. Jeff Gordon clearly felt otherwise about a driver’s aggressiveness that far back.
Slow down on pit road: That caution-light caution was bad luck for Kurt Busch, who entered pit road too fast and was sent to the back of the pack by NASCAR as a penalty.
Ignorance can be bliss: It was a fairly warm day with highs in the low 80s, and that contributed to a pattern of high-temperature engines. The crews removed some tape from car grilles, allowing more air to travel across the engines (but reducing aerodynamics slightly). Kevin Harvick was interviewed about this during a caution, and he said he just stopped looking at the temperature gauge.
Hard and clean until final third: With the race two-thirds over there had been 30 lead changes over 123 laps. Remarkably, through all of that racing, there was just one crash and that was the relatively minor tap-and-spinout by Brad Keselowski during the first 15 laps.
‘Smoke in the mirror’: Greg Biffle could see an accident behind him as the white flag was waving, signaling one last lap. Biffle said had he known there was debris near the start-finish line, he would have more aggressively tried to pass winner Denny Hamlin in anticipation of the race ending under caution.
5 key moments
1. Thirteen laps in, with plenty of three-wide racing, Brad Keselowski fails to clear leader Danica Patrick on an attempted pass. Keselowski’s car went down the track, he saved it, but it was tapped as he pulled back onto the track, losing a tire and some front driver’s side damage.
2. Keselowski gets loose in the middle of three lines of cars on Lap 136. His Ford pulls sideways along Turn 4 in the middle of traffic, taking 14 cars with him as he drifts up into the wall. At the time of the accident 41 of 43 cars that started the race were on the lead lap
3. Jimmie Johnson gets loose on Lap 174, similar to Keselowski’s second accident, taking out another handful of cars..
4. Justin Algaier’s Chevrolet gets caught up in a multi-car crash in the back of the field, just as leader Denny Hamlin takes the white flag. Algaier’s car leaves debris on the track near the start-finish line.
5. With the race leader on the last lap, NASCAR ends the race under caution, cinching the victory for Hamlin.