That meant that Sunday’s AMP Energy Juice 500 was over. But as for who the winner was, nobody knew.
Television quickly said it was Kevin Harvick, who was in third place for the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff. Clint Bowyer didn’t think — or at least hoped — that wasn’t right.
As NASCAR checked video replay to determine which driver was in the lead when the caution came out, Bowyer got tired of waiting and did a burnout just in case.
“I was going to claim that baby before somebody else did,” he said.
It turned out that he was right.
In a distance of what NASCAR officials called inches on the frame-by-frame replay, Bowyer picked up the AMP Energy Juice 500 victory over his Richard Childress Racing teammate.
While both of the drivers really wanted the win, Childress was the only one in a no-lose situation. But even he didn’t realize that right off.
“My grandson said, ‘We know we won it, so let’s go to the winner’s circle,’” Childress said. “I was sitting there kind of numb until he told me that.”
In addition to the Childress drivers finishing one and two, Chevrolet teammate and polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya took home third place. The next three places were occupied by Toyota drivers David Reutimann, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr.
Points leader Jimmie Johnson was seventh, followed by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon in eighth.
While it was obvious that Bowyer was happy with the win, at this point in the season, he likely would have been happy with just a Top 10 finish.
After starting The Chase with a win at New Hampshire — which he was later docked for — he’s been very hit or miss. Mostly miss.
He’s been outside of the Top 15 three times with the most recent bad finish being his worst, a 38th-place finish at Martinsville. Going down 150 points for not meeting post-race inspection at New Hampshire, while he’s still in 12th place in The Chase, he’s only 17 points out of 10th and 60 points out of seventh.
And that’s been a sticking point for him. At the season-ending banquet, only the Top 10 of the 12 Chasers get to go across the stage.
“Haven’t been paying much attention since the first one,” he said to a room full of laughter. “... The two races after that whole mess was a disaster. … haven’t had much to look forward to.
“I’ve never finished out of the top five, so, seventh is still very frustrating.”
Harvick didn’t seem too upset at the second-place finish, but then again, there were plenty of reasons for him not to be upset.
For one, it did go to his teammate. Secondly, he finished ahead of Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, the only two drivers he trailed in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Thirdly, he’s just cool like that.
“I mean, there’s no reason to worry about the things you can’t control,” he said. “You go up, and you wait; they make the call.
“You just go along with the flow.”
That was what many drivers did in a much more tame version of Talladega. Until the final-lap fracas that sent Allmendinger briefly airborne, Talladega’s race day was free of the multi-car accidents that it has become known for over the years.
Some drivers just hung around in the back of the pack and rode around. For a while, they looked like little school children in a single-file line around the 2.66-mile tri-oval.
But when the race got inside of 50 laps, like animals to the ark, they came in pairs.
Because of the aerodynamic package with the height of the rear spoiler, the two-car run was the key to getting up front. And all it really took was getting up there.
With so many drivers fearful of The Big One, the lead was more often than not just conceded to the next guy.
In all, it changed hands among 26 drivers 87 times, one off a NASCAR record, which was set here in the spring’s Aaron’s 499.
The cardinal rule of racing at Talladega Superspeedway is not to be in the lead on the final lap. With the drafting and aerodynamics, it makes a slingshot move like Harvick pulled off in the spring race a near-undefendable position.
That was exactly what Montoya was thinking as he pushed Bowyer on the tri-oval. And he was hoping it wouldn’t turn out as unfortunate for him as it had before.
“The best chance I had to win the race was push Bowyer up front,” Montoya said. “When we got to the line, try to make a move.
“But I’ve been here twice, I’ve been running second or third … Every time you’re there, a caution comes out on the last lap. If you make a move, then it doesn’t come out and you finish 20th. It’s what it is.”
Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570.