Busch Edges Almirola in Talladega Photo Finish
The victory was Busch’s sixth in 13 starts in the series this year, his second at Talladega and the 22nd of his career, but it left Almirola feeling robbed, after Busch appeared to cross the yellow out-of-bounds line between the apron and the racing surface while making the winning pass.
Busch’s margin of victory of .002 seconds tied Ricky Craven’s Sprint Cup win over Kurt Busch at Darlington in 2003 for the closest finish in any of NASCAR’s top three series since the introduction of electronic timing and scoring in 1993. Johnny Sauter ran third, followed by Matt Crafton and Ricky Carmichael.
Almirola met with NASCAR officials after the race but still wasn’t clear on the interpretation of the yellow-line rule.
"I just went and talked to them, and the reason they gave me was that Kyle’s truck was sideways when he was next to me, and that’s what made him go below the yellow line," Almirola said. "I didn’t force him below the yellow line, they didn’t tell me that I did. They said that he went below the yellow line because he was trying to regain control of his truck. I guess they’re going to have to do a better job elaborating in the driver’s meeting on what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable.
"I guess if you get out of control and you go below the yellow line and save it and still gain a position, that’s OK. I’m still confused, and I’m still disappointed. I probably shouldn’t even be doing interviews right now because I’m obviously biased because I finished second. … A part of me feels like I let my guys down, and we didn’t win, but a part of me feels like I got robbed."
Busch said he wasn’t even aware of the yellow line as he raced Almirola for the win.
"I was so busy watching the mirror and the 13 truck (Sauter) and seeing where he was and trying not to run into the side of the 51 (Almirola) and trying to get away. I was just sideways. The yellow line never even crossed my mind there at the end."
The yellow-line rule figured prominently in the Oct. 5, 2008, Cup race at the 2.66-mile racetrack, when Regan Smith was demoted from first to 18th for passing race winner Tony Stewart below the line on the final lap. NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton explained the sanctioning body’s decision not to penalize Busch.
"Right at the start/finish, due to side contact, him (Busch) and the 51 got together when he went below the 51," Pemberton said. "It (Busch’s truck) was spinning sideways and he was correcting it. It was just contact. There was plenty of room. There was almost two truck-widths.
"It’s not like he got pinched down there or not like he put himself down there where there wasn’t any room. The contact happened way back on the racetrack. The contact is what got him down there. He wasn’t forced down there because of a lack of room. He got down there because of the door-to-door contact.
"We looked at it two or three times. We had three or four camera angles, and there was absolutely no question whatsoever."
Neither driver, however, felt there was contact between the trucks as they raced toward the stripe.
Chris Fontaine held the lead when Norm Benning’s No. 57 stalled on the track to cause the fourth caution of the race on Lap 86. Fontaine restarted at the front of the field on Lap 89 with Busch beside him. Busch surged into the lead before the end of that circuit, only to be passed on the outside on Lap 90 by Aric Almirola and Johnny Sauter.
Almirola was out front a lap later when Grant Enfinger turned series leader Todd Bodine and ignited a wild wreck that ended with polesitter Ron Hornaday Jr.’s No. 33 Chevrolet sliding through the tri-oval on its roof.
The accident ended an adventurous day for Bodine, who saw his points lead over Almirola shrink to 216 points with three races left in the season.
Note: With the win, Busch, the owner of his No. 18 Toyota, took a 42-point lead over Bob Germain’s No. 30 Toyota (driven by Bodine) in the owners’ standings.
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