David Ragan won a bizarre Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, crossing the finish line nearly seven hours after the green flag first waved.
Sunday's race had it all, including a nearly four-hour-long rain delay that threatened to shorten the race. There were two huge wrecks, one early and one late, setting up a memorable finish that saw the underdog Ragan outlast David Gilliland, Carl Edwards, Michael Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson to win.
Matt Kenseth, who led 142 of the 192 laps Sunday, finished a disappointing seventh.
Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick both finished outside the Top 10. Patrick was taken out in the late multi-car pile up while Earnhardt struggled to keep pace with the leaders late.
Here's a look at the Top 10 finishers from Sunday's race:
2013 Aaron's 499 Top 10 Results
|8||Martin Truex Jr.||56|
|17||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88|
*Click here to view full results from NASCAR.com.
The race began under sunny skies on Sunday as Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron kicked it off with pace car duties. Here he is accompanied by model girlfriend Katherine Webb.
One of the favorites to win on Sunday ran into some early trouble, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. made contact with another car on lap 21, forcing him to the pits.
Here's a look at Earnhardt's unfortunate mishap:
A few laps later Denny Hamlin and Brian Vickers pulled off a unique driver swap, as Hamlin took advantage of an early caution to get to the pits, hop out of his car and let Vickers take over.
Hamlin is recovering from a compression fracture in his lower back and ensured that he would earn some points on Sunday by starting the race.
It definitely didn't take long at all for the big one to rear its ugly head on Sunday. A number of cars were taken out early on, including a few contenders when a pile up occurred following contact between Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne.
Here's a look at how the big one unfolded:
WWE superstar Shawn Michaels was as shocked as anyone.
USA Today's Nate Ryan breaks down those involved.
During cleanup of the wreak, Kyle Busch took responsibility for playing a key role.
Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick were some of the notable contenders taken out in the monster wreck.
After a lengthy cleanup, the green flag waved once again at Talladega as the drivers raced furiously to get to the front knowing that rain was in the forecast. Sure enough, after more than half of the laps had been completed, rain drops brought out the caution flag.
Carl Edwards was the leader at the time the caution came out.
Soon after the red flag was brought out as the drivers set up shop in the pits.
NASCAR made several attempts to dry the track following the early rain showers, but Mother Nature had other ideas as more storms rolled into Talladega, causing a nearly four-hour-long rain delay.
While there was obvious frustration during the delay, most had praise for NASCAR and its attempt to give the fans what they paid for, all 500 miles of racing on Sunday.
Shawn Michaels was certainly pleased when the green flag finally dropped around 7 p.m. ET.
After running a few caution laps to help dry the track, racing continued with just over 50 laps to go. Most were expecting a wild finish and another multi-car pile up perhaps, but instead the final third of Sunday's race featured drama in the form of some late pit stops under green.
Then, with 15 laps to go, Michael McDowell struck the wall and brought out a caution, bringing the pack closer together for a thrilling restart with 11 laps to go.
As expected, with just a few laps left to race, the big one happened again, as multiple cars got into each other, including Kurt Busch, who's car rolled over.
J.J. Yeley, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick were also involved.
Newman spoke with Sporting News to ensure fans that he is fine:
'I am doing this interview to let everybody know I'm all right,' Newman said. 'They can build safer racecars, they can build safer walls, but they can't get their heads out of their asses far enough to keep them on the racetrack, and that's pretty disappointing.
I wanted to make sure I get that point across. Y'all can figure out who 'they' is. That's no way to end a race. Our car was much better than that. That's just poor judgment in restarting the race, poor judgment. I mean, you got what you wanted, but poor judgment and running in the dark and running in the rain.'
After a few more caution laps, NASCAR decided on a green-white-checkered finish, and it was David Ragan outlasting a field of favorites to pull off the shocking upset in Alabama.
Here's how it impacted the current season standings:
2013 Sprint Cup Standings
|4||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||297|
*Standings courtesy of NASCAR.com.
While a number of big-time favorites ran poorly on Sunday, a lot of it had to do with the unpredictability of Talladega. The big one struck not once, but twice this weekend, making survival that much more difficult.
It's hard to hand out blame in a seven-hour race that featured rain, wrecks, darkness and a momentum-killing delay.
Some will be pointing their finger at NASCAR for allowing the race to go on in the rain and into the night, but kudos to Ragan and drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, who ran well all day and turned out strong finishes despite Sunday's Sprint Cup race turning into a marathon.
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