TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) – Brad Keselowski won his first Sprint Cup Series race Sunday after a dramatic final lap at Talladega Superspeedway when Carl Edwards’ airborne car sailed into the fence near the finish line.

Eight fans were injured from debris that flew into the crowd, and Edwards warned that restrictor-plate racing is eventually going to kill someone.

Keselowski, racing in just his fifth career Cup race, hooked onto the rear of Edwards’ bumper on the last lap to push him past Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Once clear of them, Keselowski peeked around Edwards to make a move for the lead.

Edwards tried to block the move by darting low, but Keselowski was too close to his bumper and the contact sent Edwards sailing up the track. His spinning car shot over Newman’s hood and into the safety fence on the frontstretch.

The fence swelled toward the race fans but held, and Edwards’ car landed back on the track. Officials said none of the injuries to fans was life-threatening.

Dr. Bobby Lewis, Talladega’s onsite physician, said two people in the crowd were airlifted from the track to avoid the heavy traffic. One woman had a possible broken jaw, Lewis said, and another had an undisclosed medical issue.

Edwards, who climbed from his crumpled race car and ran on foot across the finish line, railed against the racing style at Talladega and Daytona, the two tracks where horsepower-sapping restrictor plates are used.

“We’ll race like this until we kill somebody,” said Edwards, “then (NASCAR) will change it.”

Restrictor plates are used to combat the high speeds at NASCAR’s two fastest tracks, and the plates typically keep the field bunched tightly together. One wrong move by a driver can cause a massive accident.

In addition to Edwards’ frightening flight into the fence, Sunday’s race was also marred by a 13-car crash on the seventh lap and another 10-car accident with nine to go.

“Talladega is short for ‘We’re going to crash, we just don’t know when,”‘ said Newman, the third-place finisher, who also recalled Matt Kenseth’s fiery tumble in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday.

“We saw that two times this weekend, so maybe we need to look at things that keep the car down on the ground.”

Earnhardt Jr., a five-time Talladega winner and seven-time winner of restrictor-plate races, finished second but echoed concerns about the racing style. Drivers dread it because so much is out of their control, but Earnhardt said it’s loved by fans because of the element of danger.

“For years, we’ve had wrecks like this every time we’ve come to Talladega. Ever since the plate got here. And for years it was celebrated,” he said. “The media celebrated it, the networks celebrated it, calling it ‘The Big One’ just trying to attract attention and bring people’s attention to the race.

“So there’s a responsibility with the media and the networks and the sanctioning body itself to come to their senses a little bit.”

AP-ES-04-26-09 1902EDT

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