NASCAR's weekend at Talladega Superspeedway has come and gone, so here's a look back at the winners and losers:
In move that was nothing short of brilliant, Kurt Busch decided that the best way to maximize exposure for his underfunded, single-car Phoenix Racing team was by incorporating a paint scheme from "Talladega Nights."
The plan worked perfectly, as the media soaked up the novel idea like a sponge and fans became so enamored with Busch's Ricky Bobby-inspired ride that it was trending on Twitter throughout Sunday's Aaron's 499.
Brad Keselowski put on a clinic both on and off the track. First, despite being in a position no one wants to be in on the last lap at Talladega – leading with a car directly behind you – the Penske driver not only found a way to keep second-place Kyle Busch behind him but also a way to break the draft and speed away from the No. 18 Toyota to score his second victory of 2012.
Afterward, Keselowski again showed why he may be the best interview in all of NASCAR as he was glib, humorous and incredibly insightful in the post-race winner's press conference.
In his first season with Front Row Motorsports, it's been a struggle for David Ragan. Through nine races, he had finished no better than 21st. But on the kind of track he has consistently shown a knack for running and finishing well at – his lone Sprint Cup Series win came at Daytona last July – Ragan deftly avoid the many calamities which victimized others and drove to his best result of the year, a seventh-place finish.
It's hard to fault a guy who finished third in a race that more often than not resembles a crapshoot. But when you lead the most laps, have the best car, have your teammate behind you acting as your wingman and you lose the race on what you described as "driver error," third can be seen as disappointing.
Through six races, Stewart-Haas Racing had won three times and some – including myself – were praising the two-car team as the most complete in the garage. But in the last four races since going to Victory Lane at Martinsville, the dropoff has been considerable, as Ryan Newman has posted finishes of 21st, 20th, 15th and 36th, while Tony Stewart has finished 24th, 13th, 3rd and 24th.
A week after his gaffe at Richmond cost himself a potential victory, Carl Edwards' day came to a premature end 52 laps from the finish after he got swept up in an accident that collected eight other cars. The resulting 31st-place finish dropped the man who many thought would contend for the championship out of the Chase – for now.
Adding salt to the wound, Edwards' Roush Fenway teammates both finished in the top five and left Talladega sitting first and second in the standings.