Winning Car Owner James Finch Remembers Neil Bonnet

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IApril 27, 2009

TALLADEGA, AL - APRIL 26:  (R) Brad Keselowski, driver of the #09 Miccosukee Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane with team owner James Finch after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 26, 2009 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Everyone knew that Brad Keselowski was going to be a NASCAR Sprint Cup winner.

However, most thought that would come in about a year or two when it was presumed that he would take over the No. 5 car for Hendrick Motorsports.

We were wrong.

In what was almost a deja vu moment from the fall race at Talladega, it came down to two cars battling through the tri-oval and toward the start/finish line.

Except, this time the second place car didn't dip below the yellow line.

Keselowski has just pushed Carl Edwards past the two cars of Ryan Newman and his Nationwide Series car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

As they headed to the start/finish line, Keselowski dove toward the bottom with a run on Edwards, when Edwards blocked, Keselowksi held his ground.

Edwards went flipping, collecting Ryan Newman, and Keselowksi went to victory lane.

He was apologetic to a point.

"I got to apologize to Carl, but man, the rule is you can't go below the yellow line. He blocked and I wasn't going below it, so. I don't want to wreck a guy, but you're forced in that situation. So, there's nothing else I could do," he said in victory lane.

Keselowski won but not driving a car for Hendrick Motorsports. Today he was in the No. 09 for James Finch, which he qualified his way into the field and then into victory lane. 

When the celebration ended, car owner Mark Reno, Keselowski, and owner Finch headed to the media center to talk about their victory.

The first thing out of Finch's mouth when thinking about today might have been unexpected.

Neil Bonnet was an 18-time winner in his career, and at one point, almost walked away from racing. 

He was in a horrific crash at the Darlington Raceway in 1990 but over the next few years, he ran test cars for friend Dale Earnhardt before making his return in 1993 at none other than Talladega Superspeedway.

Midway through the race, Bonnet's car spun, got airborne and hit the spectator fence in the tri-oval.

A year later, 1994, he was driving in a six-race sponsorship deal with James Finch.

It was during a practice session for the Daytona 500 on February 11, that Bonnet's car cut a right-front tire and hit the wall head on. 

He died on impact.

On Sunday, everyone was thinking about Bonnet again as Carl Edwards spun and hit the fence in the exact same spot and in the exact same wreck that Bonnet experienced.

Only today, as Brad Keselowski celebrated in his car, James Finch was thinking about Neil Bonnet in another way.

"I want to dedicate this one to Neil Bonnet's family. Neil died in one of my race cars in 1994 trying to do what we did today," he said at the post-race press conference.

Today, Neil Bonnet was at the Talladega Super Speedway in more ways than one.