“I think we had the wining car, really just didn't have the winning driver,” said Kenseth, clearly annoyed with himself for how he had handled the finish. "I was just too stupid I guess at the end to keep a win.
"On the last restart, Greg and I got hooked together like Daytona ... Got clear in front of the #2 and Kyle as soon as we became clear. Wasn't long after that I looked forward for a second, and when I looked back Greg and I were separated, those guys were already outside him," Kenseth explained about what had gone wrong. “With nobody behind him, he lost his speed. With me not paying attention, keeping us hooked up, just cost us a shot at the win; cost Greg a shot at the win. Just didn't do a very good job of managing where he was on that last restart."
Meanwhile up ahead, the battle for the race win was raging as the white flag came and went. Busch had been in the top two in the final lap at Talladega just 24 hours earlier, but that had been in the lead of the Nationwide Series race and being pushed by Joey Logano. He'd felt that he had been a sitting duck out front, just waiting for Logano to slingshot out of the final turn to steal the win, just as it had played out. This time, Kyle must surely have thought that similar tactics would mean that the race was as good as his as he headed into the final corner tucked behind Keselowski. But then suddenly it all changed.
"I got to turn 3, and I got disconnected from him, got unhooked," said Busch. That broke his own drafting momentum at a critical moment and left him unable to play the slingshot card out of turn 4. "I hated that happened, thought we had a shot to win that thing.
"I'm not sure he did anything," Busch added later when asked if Keselowski had pulled off the move intentionally. "If he did, he's pretty smart, but I think our stuff just came unplugged."
But just up pit road, Keselowski was revealing to reporters that it has been no stroke of luck after all - and that it really had been down to a cunning plan on the part of the driver of the blue deuce.
"I went into turn 3 high and pulled down off of Kyle and broke the tandem up," he said, making it clear just how deliberate and pre-meditated that moment had been. "That allowed me to drive untouched to the chequered flag. It wasn't easy to convince myself to do that, but it was the right move. I'm glad it worked."
"My recollection is this is the first time we've won a Cup race at Talladega," said a delighted car owner Roger Penske in victory lane. "We've been coming here almost since 1972, so it's a long time to get a race win. It was certainly special."
It's special as well for the engine manufacturer with whom Penske will be parting company at the end of the season. The first and only time that Dodge has previously won at Talladega was on August 8, 1976 with Dave Marcis at the wheel. Penske was quick to credit the intelligence of his lead driver for this historic achievement, up to and including that supersmart last ploy to shake off Busch.
"I'd say that you certainly become a student of the game. The fact that he slowed down there at the beginning to get Kyle on that restart so they could get a run, then pulling on the outside of Kenseth was amazing," said the veteran motor racing team owner. "I would say he ran a perfect race. He ran the bottom lane all day. When it was time to go, he had it figured out. For me, that's what we hire these guys for, so it was a good job.