Tony Stewart Wins in Controversial Finish at Talladega
The Sprint Cup Series headed to the biggest wild card race in the Chase for the Championship at Talladega Superspeedway.
Every Chase contender knew that if they could just survive at Talladega and make it through the "Big One," they could have a shot at winning the Championship.
Travis Kvapil had the best view for the start of the race by earning his first career pole in his 100th career Sprint Cup start. Many drivers would take turns at the front of the field including Kvapil, Brian Vickers, Aric Almirola, David Ragan, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Mike Wallace.
The first caution flag of the race came out when Mike Wallace happened to be leading for debris on lap 34. All the leaders would come down pit road for the first time in the race with Jeff Gordon coming out in the lead.
Gordon would be one of the drivers to lead during the next green flag run before the second caution flag of the race came out on lap 46. The different leaders included Gordon, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Vickers, Elliott Sadler, and Casey Mears. The leaders would all come to pit lane with Sadler coming out first.
The next stretch of the race had Sadler, Kyle Busch, and Kurt Busch all take turns at the head of the field. Kurt Busch was leading the race though when the first Chase contender had problems.
Jeff Gordon was involved in a crash with David Reutimann and Jon Wood on lap 53. Gordon tried to avoid Reutimann, who had blown a tire and turned hard to the right into Wood. Gordon would make repairs and finish a disappointing 38th.
The next period of the race had Jamie McMurray, Vickers, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Reed Sorenson, and Earnhardt Jr., all leading the race before the dreaded "Big One" finally occurred.
It began at the head of the field when Vickers, who was running in the fourth position, blew a right front tire, causing a nine-car accident. The drivers involved were Martin Truex Jr., Vickers, David Gilliland, Tony Raines, Kahne, McMurray, Terry Labonte, Mike Skinner, and Almirola. Most of these cars would make repairs but finish many laps behind the leaders.
The leaders would pit under the caution period with Jr. coming out first with a two-tire stop. Earnhardt, Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Tony Stewart would all lead laps before the caution flag would wave again for a blown tire on Mike Wallace’s car on lap 81. The leader would pit again with Kyle Busch coming out in the lead.
The race would stay green for about a 20-lap period before the caution flag waved again on lap 99 for a crash involving another Chase contender.
Denny Hamlin was leading the race when he blew a right front tire and pounded the turn two wall. Hamlin would be taken to the hospital for precautionary measures, but he would be ok. Hamlin would finish way back in the 39th position.
The leaders would come to pit lane again with Scott Riggs coming out in the lead.
The race would stay green for a while until the caution flag came out on lap 138 for smoke billowing from Jeff Gordon’s repaired car. The leader would hit pit road with Kyle Busch coming out first.
This would set up for another wild finish at Talladega. Everybody was jockeying around with fewer than 15 laps to go to get into position to win the race when the "Big One" struck again involving 11 cars.
The drivers involved included Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Michael Waltrip, Kvapil, Dave Blaney, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kevin Harvick, Sorenson, and Kyle Busch.
Six Chase contenders were involved in the accident and it all started when Edwards got into the back of his teammate, Greg Biffle, entering turn three.
Biffle was running in the second position at the time, so he ended up blocking the entire track, collecting a number of good cars.
Tony Stewart was leading the race at the time of the accident and missed it completely. Stewart would remain the leader of the race when the ninth, and final, caution flag of the race came out for another blown tire on Jamie McMurray’s machine with just three laps remaining.
This would set up for a green/white/checkered finish with Stewart trying to get his first career victory at Talladega.
Stewart led most of the final two laps when, all of a sudden, Regan Smith went below the yellow line in the tri-oval, passing Stewart for the victory.
Passing below the yellow line is not allowed at Talladega or Daytona, so NASCAR took the victory away from Smith and gave the win to Stewart.
Smith believed that Stewart forced him below the yellow line, which would make Smith’s pass for the lead legal. But NASCAR officials saw it differently and declared Tony Stewart the winner.
The top ten finishers were Stewart, Paul Menard, Ragan, Burton, Clint Bowyer, Bobby Labonte, Riggs, Robby Gordon, Johnson, and Sadler.
Some notable finishes included Joe Nemechek in 11th, Kenny Wallace in 12th, Kyle Busch in 15th, Ken Schrader in 16th, Terry Labonte in 17th, and Regan Smith was dropped back to the 18th position after being penalized for passing under the yellow line.
The top twelve in the point standings are:
- Jimmie Johnson
- Carl Edwards
- Greg Biffle
- Jeff Burton
- Clint Bowyer
- Kevin Harvick
- Tony Stewart
- Jeff Gordon
- Matt Kenseth
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Kyle Busch
- Denny Hamlin
Talladega is now in the history books and we can all look forward to a great race at Charlotte under the lights next weekend.
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