Caution to the win: Drivers applaud finish that disappointed fans
After three hours of non-stop, white-knuckle action during Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, the battle for the win came down to NASCAR's decision to throw the yellow flag and end the race under caution.
As the field roared through the tri-oval coming the white flag, Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson got together, sending Bowman's No. 23 car hard into the outside wall. Behind them, Justin Allgaier spun through the grass, shedding debris and sending his fender into the middle of the track. All three drivers were able to drive away from the incident -- although pieces from Algaier's destroyed car flew onto the track as he rolled off.
While NASCAR initially let the race stay green, the sanctioning body threw the caution flag as the field headed down the backstretch, ending the race before they made it back to the start-finish line.
With the race ended under yellow, Denny Hamlin scored the victory over Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers and AJ Allmendinger.
As some fans took to social media to complain about the lackluster end to an exciting day, many of those behind the wheel were happy with NASCAR's decision.
Lining up on the bottom line coming to the white flag, race winner Hamlin was in a comfortable spot when the initial wreck occurred.
"I knew that there was a wreck somewhere around the start-finish line and I knew that we had to just keep in it," he said. "NASCAR did a good job of just letting the race play out as long as it was able to safely. Applaud them for that. We went all the way through three and four really ran three-quarters of a lap extra after the wreck happened. It gave everyone a chance to improve their position."
Runner-up Greg Biffle said when he saw the smoke in his mirror he knew he had a decision to make about going for the lead.
"I figured if it hadn't come out yet, we were going to be okay," he said. "When I got back around, I was wondering why nobody told me that there was half of a car laying in the track, we probably aren't going to race back so go ahead and try and pass him now, but that's a lot to happen in a short amount of time."
Sitting behind the leaders, Clint Bowyer agreed it was a frustrating situation, but praised NASCAR's decision.
"It's just frustrating because of the simple fact that we both thought we had an opportunity to pounce and make a move for the win," he said. "NASCAR did the right thing there. You can't put people in danger right there. If there's another greenâwhiteâcheckered, everybody would have been out of gas. It's just too much going on right there, and unfortunately we don't always see that crazy, wild finish to the end.
"But I don't think that's on NASCAR," he added. "I think they did the right thing there, and unfortunately it just didn't lead to that big wild, crazy finish right there at the end."