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Kenseth escapes last lap 'Dega carnage

The reason why he's made so little impact on the Chase leader is because Keselowski also rode his luck and emerged from the smoke and debris of the backstretch wreck in seventh place, much to his relief.

"That's pretty big," said Keselowski. "I just feel lucky to survive Talladega. There's still a lot of racing left. At least we're not fighting from a hole."

In fact the day turned out well for Keselowski as his lead over Jimmie Johnson increased to 14pts after Johnson ended up managing to coax his car crawling across the line after the huge accident.

"We knew it was going to happen," said Johnson of the wreck. "It was just getting really tight. I think we were probably four-wide going into three. I could see some tyre smoke off the guys in front of me, and then everybody just merged together and we were all in a big wad at that point.

"Fortunately my car I could still drive to the finish, so I passed a couple of guys that were sitting there on the bottom trying to get going themselves," he explained. "I guess I finished 17th. I don't know, we'll take it I guess. We don't have a choice now."

The third-place man in the championship, Denny Hamlin, also considered himself fortunate to manage to get across the line classified in 14th place, behind a trio of Chase drivers to finish just outside the top ten consisting of Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. Hamlin himself was one of the few drivers not to have any damage at all.

"Once they started crashing, I immediately stood hard on the brakes and waited for everyone to kind of wash down the track," he said. "Then I drove around them. We don't have a scratch on our car, and it sucks to get a good finish that way, but that's the strategy in which we played [the race] - to not get into a wreck."

His strategy had been to sit at the back and save fuel during the three-hour race, he explained. "With this strategy, you're basically conceding a chance at a win, but you're just trying to do damage contro," he admitted.

"I felt if you were in the lead pack there, it was more than likely you were not going to make it there, or some of them weren't," he explained. "The wreck was going to start because some guys were going to run out of fuel, or guys were going to have to pit."

The scale of the accident led to many drivers and experts wondering whether Talladega really had a place on the Sprint Cup calendar - or at least a position in the Chase, when everyone is at their most overwrought and aggressive as the season comes to its climax.




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