NASCAR & Auto Racing

Race rewind | Edwards sounds contrite, says 'you just do the best you can'

Rewinding Sunday's race at Talladega Superspeedway and wondering about that controversial finish:

HOW THE CHASERS FARED

No. 1 Jimmie Johnson (leader)

He may have a sizable points lead, but Johnson isn't taking anything for granted with six races remaining in the Chase.

"There is so much racing between now and Homestead. If we had (72) points going into Homestead, I'd be much more optimistic," Johnson said. "But right now, I've got to keep my head down and keep digging for points."

No. 2 Carl Edwards (-72)

Edwards took all the blame for the late-race multicar wreck that collected five drivers in the Chase. It was his bump-drafting with Greg Biffle that ignited the accident and sent Edwards, Biffle and Matt Kenseth to the garage.

"It's my fault. I feel bad that I took my teammates out. I know Matt's mad and I'm sure Greg's mad, but you just do the best you can and hope for the best," Edwards said. "I was worried about the idiots when you come here and I was the guy that caused that one."

No. 3 Greg Biffle (-77)

After two wins and a third, Biffle finally found some trouble in the Chase, getting caught up in the late 12-car pile-up that knocked him out of the race and left him with a 24th place finish.

"Yeah, it's disappointing, but we'll be all right," Biffle said. "We've got some races yet."

No. 4 Jeff Burton (-99)

Burton said he got a lot of help from his teammates on his way to a fourth-place finish. "I thought we did a good job today," Burton said. "I thought the three of us worked really well together and helped each other a lot."

Burton said a win would have been nice, but a top-five finish at Talladega is more than OK. "Anytime you get a top five at Talladega you have to be happy with it," Burton said. "This is a tough place."

No. 5 Clint Bowyer (-152)

Worried before Sunday's race that it could derail his title hopes because of its unpredictable nature, Bowyer instead reveled in his fifth-place finish.

"This race can bog you down in the points big time. If you look at some of the Chasers that had trouble, Jimmie Johnson was one of the only ones up front that got through it," Bowyer said. "We were able to capitalize on some people's misfortunes."

No. 6 Kevin Harvick (-171)

It appeared Harvick had saved his car for a run for the win after spinning on Lap 165, but after working his way back to the front and leading 22 laps, he was the victim of a 12-car pile-up and ended up 20th. His nine-race streak of top-10 finishes was also snapped.

"I know that his fans won't be very proud of him sitting back there riding around like a pansy," Harvick said of Edwards. "But when he got up there and decided to start racing, it caused a big wreck."

No. 7 Tony Stewart (-203)

Regan Smith said Stewart forced him below the yellow line on the last lap of Sunday's race. When Stewart was asked if he made a move to prevent Smith from passing him to the inside without going below the line, Stewart said, "You're darn right I did."

"I've lost Daytona 500s, I've lost races here at Talladega because somebody blocked," Stewart said. "That's the name of the game. Today's race wasn't any different from the past 19 races I've run here. There are always people blocking."

No. 8 Jeff Gordon (-232)

Gordon was the first Chase driver to get sidelined on Sunday, getting caught up in a Lap 54 accident with Jon Wood, David Reutimann and Jimmie Johnson.

No. 9 Matt Kenseth (-245)

Kenseth was another victim of the late-race multi-car wreck, started when his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards hit Greg Biffle from behind and the two collected Kenseth. Kenseth ended up 26th and remained ninth in the standings.

No. 10 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-249)

He led some laps and Earnhardt Jr. appeared to have a car capable of contending for the win, but he was caught up in the late-race 12-car pileup and finished 28th. That wreck puts him in a nearly impossible position to claim his first series championship this season.

"We didn't have the luck today. There wasn't much I could have done to try to avoid that," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I want to thank my team for working really hard this weekend. We tore up an awful lot of stuff and they just worked really, really hard."

No. 11 Kyle Busch (-331)

Busch received some damage from the late-race 12-car pile-up but still managed to finish 15th. He gained one spot in the standings, mostly because he fared better than his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin, who wrecked hard while leading after blowing a tire.

No. 12 Denny Hamlin (-335)

Hamlin was held overnight for observation at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center after a violent crash during Sunday's race. The right-front tire of Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota exploded while he was leading on Lap 99 and the car took a hard turn into the outside wall, where it eventually came to rest.

NASCAR officials said Hamlin was awake and alert before he was transported to the hospital. Hamlin appeared to need assistance getting out of the car after the wreck. Hamlin, 27, is in his third full season in Cup with JGR.

He was 10th in series points entering Sunday's race.

REAR-VIEW MIRROR/DAVID POOLE

Here is an excerpt from a blog I wrote on Feb. 20, 2007, after a Truck series race at Daytona:

"NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston was on 'The Morning Drive' on Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 128, and Marty Snider and I asked about the finish of the Truck race Friday. Johnny Benson went below the yellow line and passed Travis Kvapil for second in the three-wide finish with winner Jack Sprague.

" ...We asked Poston. He said the yellow line rule includes a caveat. 'When the drivers can see the checkered flag, you can get all you can get,' he said. ...He's saying that once the flagman has the checkered flag in his hand and is waving it, the area below the yellow line is not out of bounds."

But after Sunday's controversial finish at Talladega another NASCAR spokesman, Jim Hunter, said that's not the rule. If two NASCAR spokesmen have different versions of the same rule, how can that rule be used to determine the winner of a race?

If the rule is you can't go below the yellow line at Talladega and Daytona, then that has to be the rule.

This business of "anything goes if you can see the checkered flag" is ridiculous. But at the very least, if there's ANY confusion about a rule that important, it has to be cleared up.

Of course, if NASCAR called the rule consistently there wouldn't be any confusion to start with.

KEY MOMENTS

Lap 47

The second yellow flag of the race, for debris, allows Jimmie Johnson to get a lap back after having fallen behind on the restart. That put Johnson back in contention. In fact, by Lap 76, he was the race leader, one of a record 28 drivers to lead Sunday's race.

Lap 173

Tony Stewart pulls into the outside line and starts a draft that begins working its way toward the front. With a push from Matt Kenseth, Stewart starts making headway that carries him toward the lead and in front of what happens on the next lap.

Lap 174

Carl Edwards pushes Greg Biffle in the draft through Turn 3, but Biffle gets sideways and a wreck involving at least 11 cars - including five Chase drivers - begins. Johnson, however, makes it through, a development with major championship implications.

Lap 185

Jamie McMurray's car spins up the track and into the wall in Turn 2, bringing out the final caution and setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Stewart leads with DEI teammates Regan Smith, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola lined up behind him.

Lap 190

Smith, looking for his first Cup win, makes his move coming through the trioval for the final time. Stewart counters, trying to keep Smith from going by on the inside. Smith goes below the yellow line and is ruled out of bounds, giving Stewart the win.

NEXT RACE

Bank of America 500

Where: Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.

When: 7:25 p.m. Saturday.

TV: ABC.

Radio: Performance Racing Network.

Last year's winner: Jeff Gordon.

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