TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Matt Kenseth won Sunday's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway after Michael Waltrip ran into Tony Stewart on the last lap, triggering a crash that wrecked more than two dozen cars.
Jeff Gordon continued to try and salvage his hopes for a fifth championship, as he finished second for the fourth time in the last six races, followed by Kyle Busch, David Ragan and Regan Smith.
Points leader Brad Keselowski dodged most of the carnage to finish seventh, best of any of the championship contenders. Jimmie Johnson, second in points, was 17th, while third-place Denny Hamlin ended the race 14th.
Four races into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Keselowski unofficially leads Johnson by 14 points and Hamlin by 23.
But the big winner on the day was Kenseth, who survived a near wreck early in the race to win on one of NASCAR's biggest stages. Talladega, along with Daytona International Speedway, is one of two restrictor-plate tracks NASCAR races on.
In four restrictor-plate races this season, Kenseth has two victories and two third-place finishes. This is his final season with Roush Fenway Racing before moving to Joe Gibbs Racing next season.
"I feel like I'm pretty clumsy at plate racing my whole career and never had a lot of great finishes, but I'm glad the plan came together," said Kenseth, who won his second race of the season and the 23rd of his career. "These are the guys that deserve it. They do all the work and make these cars go fast. I was just holding the wheel."
Kenseth's victory came about because of the violent last-lap crash, part of a green-white-checkered finish.
Stewart was leading the race when Waltrip sent him first up the track and then upside down, igniting a huge pile-up that left several drivers frustrated.
"With the green/white/checker (finish), you know you're not making it back to the checkered (flag)," said Gordon. "You wonder if you'll make it to the white. You know you're not going to make it back to the checkered without there being a wreck."
"You know it's only a matter of time before they wreck," said points-leader Keselowski. "We all did."
"Typical Talladega day," added third-place finisher Busch. "Just glad and thankful that I was able to get out through the aero with no damage and make it through unscathed.
Asked what he saw, Kenseth's teammate Greg Biffle parsed no words.
"If I told you, you wouldn't believe me," said Biffle, who finished sixth. "Unbelievable. I was probably 20th and five-wide up against the wall and then cars started wrecking. A car flew over the top of my car as I turned to the bottom and missed guys by three inches. It was like 'Days of Thunder' coming through the smoke and the grass and just kept it going straight."
Pole-sitter Kasey Kahne led the first seven laps, and then the lead began to change hands with regularity, as it tends to do at Talladega.
In the first 50 laps, eight different drivers led, with a total of 14 lead changes.
Kurt Busch, who was leading, ran out of gas and got wrecked on Lap 99 in Turn 2. Busch stopped on the track and when safety crews approached, Busch drove away without his helmet on. NASCAR promptly parked him for the day.
It was an ugly end to Busch's final ride with Phoenix Racing, a tempestuous pairing that didn't even last a single season. Next week he moves to the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
A caution flag for debris on Lap 140 occurred just after Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced his way back on the lead lap for the first time since Lap 62, when he got a pit-road speed penalty.
Jamie McMurray, who dominated much of the race, got turned around by Kevin Harvick with six laps to go, bringing out a late-race caution and setting up a sprint to the finish.
Stewart was on the bottom line when Waltrip hit him, wadding up the field and sending Stewart's car upside down.
NOTES: Lots of folks were thinking pink at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. The cars of Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Biffle and Trevor Bayne were all decked out in pink in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. ... Harvick said he expects a major management reorganization at Richard Childress Racing after the end of the season, including the hiring of a new competition director. ... NASCAR will redo its qualifying procedures next year, eliminating guaranteed spots based on owner points. Expect a formal announcement in the next two weeks.