Plate hate: 15 controversial moments at Daytona, Talladega
The much-maligned ending to Sunday's elimination race at Talladega is the buzz of the NASCAR world, but races at Daytona and Talladega have a long history of producing strange and sometimes downright flagrant acts. Following are 15 memorable plate-race controversies.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesChris Graythen
Junior Nation goes ballistic after NASCAR freezes field, hands win to Gordon
When the caution flag waved and NASCAR 'froze' the field at Talladega in April 2004, fan-favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. was initially scored as the leader, but replays appeared to show Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet was about three-quarters of a car length ahead of Earnhardt's No. 8 Monte Carlo when the final caution flag was displayed. Thus, NASCAR awarded Gordon the victory, prompting the Earnhardt faithful in attendance to litter the track with beer cans in a show of unbridled displeasure.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Chad Knaus gets suspended, sent home from Daytona Speedweeks
When Jimmie Johnson won his first Daytona 500 in 2006, he did so without crew chief Chad Knaus (pictured), who was sent home from Daytona International Speedway and suspended for four races. During post-qualifying inspection, the rear window of Johnson's No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was found to have a movable device, which unfairly aided aerodynamics. NASCAR punished the team, in part, by sending Knaus home early.
Getty ImagesDoug Benc
Brian Vickers wrecks Jimmie and Junior to win at Dega
Brian Vickers became Public Enemy No. 1 of Junior Nation for a day when he hit teammate Jimmie Johnson on the final lap at Talladega in October 2006, sending Johnson into a spin and collecting Dale Earnhardt Jr. while the three men raced for the lead. The field was frozen and, after review, NASCAR awarded the win to Vickers who was quickly greeted with a chorus of boos.
Getty Images for NASCARRusty Jarrett
Michael Waltrip Racing cheating scandal rocks Daytona Speedweeks
The 2007 season marked the arrival of Toyota into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, a move that drew tremendous attention from fans and the media. One of the Toyota team owners was Michael Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 winner. But after qualifying, Waltrip's car was found to have tainted fuel, with a mysterious performance-enhancing substance discovered in its fuel cell. NASCAR suspended Waltrip's crew chief indefinitely, seized his car and fined him 100 points. He raced his way into the 500, anyway.
Getty ImagesMatthew Stockman
Kevin Harvick nips Mark Martin for Daytona 500 win
Mark Martin held the lead in the final turn on the final lap of the 2007 Daytona 500 and was only a few hundred yards from a long-awaited first 500 win -- until Kevin Harvick had other ideas. Harvick put his No. 29 Chevrolet on the high line, and Martin went low as they came off Turn 4 and raced to the checkered flag. Harvick had the momentum, and that was enough. He put his nose in front and reached the checkered flag first, a margin of victory of two-hundredths of a second. NASCAR first ruled that the race finished under green. Then officials said the yellow did come out, but only after Harvick had taken the lead. Martin, one of the sport's most beloved drivers, experienced Daytona 500 heartbreak once again.
MCT via Getty ImagesStephen M. Dowell
Regan Smith passes Tony Stewart at Talladega but gets DQ'd
Unheralded Regan Smith (01) beat veteran Tony Stewart to the finish line on Oct. 5, 2008 at Talladega but was stripped of what would have been his first career victory for going below the yellow line -- NASCAR's version of 'out of bounds' -- to make the winning pass.
Getty Images for NASCARJerry Markland
Edwards hits Talladega catchfence as Keselowski wins first
Carl Edwards (99) went airborne and slammed the Talladega catchfence after contact with Brad Keselowski in the tri-oval on the final lap in April 2009. Keselowski went on to his first career win while Edwards emerged uninjured from his demolished car and ran across the finish line on foot. Eight fans were injured by flying debris; the most serious one being a woman who suffered a broken jaw and was airlifted to a nearby hospital. The incident led to renewed concerns about the dangers of plate racing and the safety of catchfences.
Getty ImagesTodd Warshaw
Pothole wreaks havoc on 2010 Daytona 500
One of the biggest embarrassments in NASCAR history came at the sport's biggest race in 2010 when NASCAR officials looked like mere amateurs in having to twice halt 'The Great American Race' -- for a total of 2 hours 25 minutes -- to patch a pothole in the Daytona International Speedway racing surface. After more conventional repairs failed, Daytona track crews decided to try Bondo, even asking the NASCAR teams to contribute any they had in their haulers.
Getty Images for NASCARJerry Markland
With push from Dale Jr., Johnson wins Talladega nailbiter
Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line .002-seconds ahead of Clint Bowyer at Talladega in spring 2011 after a last-lap push from teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., tying the closest margin of victory since the advent of electronic scoring. While Earnhardt and Johnson celebrated teamwork, the finish made fans grow increasingly weary of the widely unpopular tandem drafting that replaced pack racing at the plate tracks for several years.
Getty Images for NASCARJerry Markland
Montoya hits jet dryer at 2012 Daytona 500
OK, so this wasn't a controversy per se, but one of the strangest moments in the history of restrictor-plate racing occurred at the 2012 Daytona 500 when Juan Pablo Montoya's car struck a jet dryer under caution. The incident caused the jet dryer -- which was was stocked with 200 gallons of jet fuel -- to erupt into a massive ball of fire, and sent a large portion of the racetrack up in flames, forcing officials to red flag NASCAR's biggest race for some two hours.
Getty Images for NASCARJonathan Ferrey
Tony Stewart goes on epic Talladega rant
Frustrated by NASCAR's superspeedway rules package at Talladega in May 2012, Tony Stewart went on an unforgettable rant after the race, chiding his fellow drivers for not wrecking enough cars to appease race fans. The best part of all? It was completely deadpan and ridiculously hilarious. Or you might just call it vintage 'Smoke.'
Getty Images for NASCARKevin C. Cox
Kyle Larson takes violent ride into Daytona catchfence
Kyle Larson's Chevrolet (pictured) went airborne into the Daytona frontstretch catchfence after being collected in a last-lap crash in the 2013 XFINITY Series season opener. Both a tire and Larson's engine reached the grandstand side of the catchfence in the 12-car wreck, which resulted in around 20 fans being injured and the track pledging to redouble its safety efforts.
Getty ImagesChris Graythen
'Mayhem' strikes group qualifying for Daytona 500
This year, for the first time in the 57-year history of the Daytona 500, NASCAR did away with single-car qualifying runs. In its place, NASCAR implemented a knockout-style qualifying session first introduced last year at other tracks. The end result, in driver Denny Hamlin's words, was 'mayhem,' as a multi-car wreck destroyed the cars of multiple drivers -- most notably Clint Bowyer (pictured), who bluntly said, 'It's NASCAR's fault for putting us out in the middle of this crap for nothing.' NASCAR has since revised its qualifying procedures at the plate tracks.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesPatrick Smith
Kyle Busch gets injured in vicious XFINITY Series crash at Daytona
One of the scariest moments in recent plate-race history came in February at Daytona when Kyle Busch's No. 54 Toyota slammed a portion of the wall unprotected by SAFER barrier. Busch, who suffered significant leg and foot injuries as a result of the vicious collision with the concrete, missed the next day's Daytona's 500 along with the next 10 Sprint Cup Series points races.
TNS via Getty ImagesOrlando Sentinel
Austin Dillon's car flies into Daytona catchfence
One of the most frightening moments ever at Daytona occurred in July when Austin Dillon's No. 3 Richard Childress Racing car went airborne and flew violently into the catchfence on the final lap. Thankfully, Dillon walked away with only bruises, but the incident led NASCAR to change its policy on green-white-checkered finishes at restrictor-plate tracks.