When it comes to racing at Talladega Superspeedway, the unexpected is to be expected, with the unpredictable nature of big pack drafting being the name of the game around this mammoth 2.66-mile facility.
Sunday's Aaron's 499 was no different, although the finish was somewhat anticlimatic in comparison to the Friday ARCA race which saw Brandon McRyenolds win with a last lap, quad-oval pass and Saturday's Nationwide spectacular won by Joey Logano with a slingshot pass on teammate Kyle Busch.
After three hours and 13 minutes of racing, Talladega saw a repeat winner in Brad Keselowski, who piloted his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger to a convincing win over Kyle Busch.
Using some clever racing savvy, the Rochester Hills, MI native laid back on the final restart, working with rival Busch in a tandem, drafting by Matt Kenseth, who led a race high 73 laps.
Keselowski was uncontested essentially after his power pass on Kenseth, who put enough distance between himself and Busch to win in rather casual fashion.
"'I had this whole plan if I ever got into that situation where I was leading,'' Keselowski said per AP Sports Writer Jenna Fryer's recap. ''I thought about it and thought about it and dreamed about it, what to do. Sure enough going into 3 it was just me and Kyle.
''I knew the move I wanted to pull and it worked.''
Kenseth, who won the Daytona 500 earlier this year, had a dominant No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion that was fast and nearly bulletproof. Even with a bent in right front fender and a B-post that was flapping towards the end of the race, it looked like it would be win number two for the Cambridge, WI native.
Instead, Kenseth took home a podium finish, saying ''I think we had the winning car, I just don't think we had the winning driver."
Additionally, the track left its mark on 10 of the sport's elite names while others fell victim to mechanical problems.
Among those who were swept up by "The Big One" were Dave Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., and pole sitter Jeff Gordon, whose season has been plagued by bad luck in about every race thus far in 2012.
All in all, the track consumed racers like a siren in the ocean. Just ask Kurt Busch, who was in position for a possible victory in his No. 51 Chevy which carried the colors of NASCAR's most famous fictional racer since Cole Trickle in Ricky Bobby's "Me" scheme.
Busch, whose Phoenix Racing team could've used a win, tangled with Keselowski and wound up smacking the inside retaining wall past the start/finish line in the winding moments of the race. The 2004 series champ struggled home, finishing 20th.
Aggression and overheating were the two main occurences in the race, as racers grew a bit impatient as they drew closer to the finish. Although nothing out of the ordinary for Talladega, some of the sport's top drivers found themselves in the garage area much earlier before the checkered flag.
Gordon, who was looking to turn his season around, sat on the pole but didn't lead a single lap all race long.
Biding his time and nursing a No. 24 DuPont 20 Years Chevrolet Impala that was overheating, the four-time champion was collected in the race's first "Big One," when he was clipped by a spinning Truex.
That contact sent Gordon into the SAFER barrier between turns three and four, ending his promising afternoon with a disappointing 33rd finish.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was the sentimental favorite heading into the race, brought his No. 88 National Guard Chevy back home with a ninth-place finish. His corporate Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne placed fourth in his No. 5 Farmers Insurance machine.
Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer finished fifth and sixth while Front Row Motorsports' David Ragan delivered a stellar seventh place finish in his underfunded No. 34 Ford Fusion.
Trevor Bayne came in eighth while Jeff Burton nabbed a 10th place finish, a solid run for the South Boston, VA talent.
Next on the docket for the Sprint Cup tour is Darlington Raceway and its annual Mother's Day weekend race with the Bojangles Southern 500 (Live next Saturday, 7:30 PM ET on FOX). Regan Smith hopes to repeat his victory from a year ago while Danica Patrick hopes to make her second start of the season in the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevy.
Here's a look at the current Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship standings, with the projected wild card seeds:
- Greg Biffle (Roush-Fenway/Ford/1 win)
- Matt Kenseth (Roush-Fenway/Ford/1 win)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick/Chevy)
- Denny Hamlin (Gibbs/Toyota/2 wins)
- Kevin Harvick (Childress/Chevy)
- Martin Truex, Jr. (Waltrip/Toyota)
- Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas/Chevy/2 wins)
- Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick/Chevy/1 win)
- Kyle Busch (Gibbs/Toyota/1 win)
- Clint Bowyer (Waltrip/Toyota)
- Brad Keselowski (Penske/Dodge/2 wins)
- Ryan Newman (Stewart-Haas/Chevy/1 win)