Sights and sounds from Dale Jr.’s final Alabama 500

Sights and sounds from Dale Jr.’s final Alabama 500
Brad Keselowski is sprayed with champagne upon winning the Alabama 500. (Karim Shamsi-Basha / Alabama NewsCenter)

Brad Keselowski ended up in the winner’s circle at the Talladega Superspeedway Sunday, but he certainly wasn’t the only winner.

From the green flag when Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the race to Keselowski’s dramatic pass of Ryan Newman to take the lead on the final lap, fans were treated to some of the most dramatic racing of the season, including a few wrecks that shook up the field.

Patriotism was another big element with several military appreciation elements – from the 313th Army Band playing the National Anthem to the Air Force flyover featuring a World War II P-51 Mustang fighter plane and an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Alabama 500 on the fast track, from Dale Jr.’s farewell to Keselowski in the winner’s circle from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

From the economic impact to the national television exposure and Gov. Kay Ivey as the grand marshal, the state of Alabama is always a big winner on race weekend.

But the weekend’s most celebrated winner actually finished the race in seventh place. Earnhardt was cheered at every pass as the Talladega fans made it clear who the favorite was among the field. This was his last race at Talladega as he retires at the end of this year to start a career in broadcasting for the sport. Despite not winning, Earnhardt stole the show, from a special presentation of his father’s car on Friday through the race, when Keselowski’s own car carried a message placed among the various sponsorships: #CHEERS2DALEJR.

“I really do owe a lot to this track and the support that we have had here from the fans,” said Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. “When I was a little kid we got to go to a handful of racetracks throughout the year, and this was always a fun trip. Just so many good memories as a kid coming here.”

Earnhardt won at Talladega six times, while his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., won there 10 times.

“This is the first place I really ran any laps outside of a late-model car,” Earnhardt said. “A lot of great memories here, and then obviously the career in Cup here, four in a row, all those things mean a lot to me. I hope to always have a great connection here, and trust me when I say that whatever the track needs from me, anytime they want anything, I’ll be here to help promote and support this place no matter what the request is. They’ve done so much for me, and I want to remain very close.”

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