When the checkered flags flew after the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Trucks, Xfinity and Cup Series races from Talladega Superspeedway this past weekend many were left miffed, mystified and muttering.
During the final laps of Saturday’s Truck race, the caution was thrown on the White Flag lap as the field coursed through Turn 3. Later that day, the caution was waved on the final lap of the Xfinity Series race as they exited Turn 4.
When that takes place, the field is frozen and the finishing order is decided before they cross the start/finish line. Fair enough, it’s a rule…been a rule for a while and was duly enforced.
Raphael Lessard from Kyle Busch Motorsports won his first Truck race. He hails from Quebec, Canada and moved to the Mooresville, NC area in January to race for KBM.
For the Xfinity race, Justin Haley won his third-consecutive plate race. Chase Briscoe dominated by winning Stage 1 & 2 and leading 73 laps. But, he was jostled into the outside wall on the final lap relegating him to a misleading 19th-place finish. Both final results were determined under caution on the final lap when a wrecked occurred to freeze the field.
Everyone knew who the winner was, BEFORE they crossed the finish line.
Then came Sunday for the Cup Series. THIS is what has fans and people in the sport are still talking about days later, and probably more to come because it was just that wild.
After a race-record 13 cautions, the decimated field lined up for a second overtime Green-White-Checkered finish. First lap green, second lap white and third lap checkers. Pretty cut and dry.
When the checkered flag waved after the Cup Series race…well…it was quite different. As the field took the GWC restart to decide the winner, Matt DiBenedetto had the No. 21 in the lead.
As the field took the white, Matty D showed the way with Erik Jones locked to his bumper. Through Turns 1&2, down the Alabama Gang backstretch they go. Before entering Turn 3, Cody Ware spins out to the bottom of the track.
The field continues on under green. One more time…the field continues on with no caution being displayed as the field coursed through Turns 3 & 4. Where’s the caution to freeze the field?
Out of Turn 4 they roar, DiBenedetto goes high, then low to block the run by William Byron, who dipped below the Yellow Line and kept on going.
Denny Hamlin was below the Yellow Line, passed two cars, comes back up on the low side with Byron to his outside, DiBenedetto to his outside for a three-wide dash to the finish.
At the stripe, Hamlin is declared the winner by .0213 of a second. Hamlin, who appeared to be well below the Yellow Line for a noticeable moment…is declared the winner.
Oh, yeah. One other thing, coming out of Turn 4 to the finish, a few cars made contact and started spinning to the grassy infield…no caution waved to freeze the field this time. Hamlin is shown first, DiBenedetto second and Byron third for the finish.
Then, as if finishing second – again – wasn’t tough enough for the No. 21 team, it was ruled he forced the No. 24 below the yellow in Turn 4 and penalized him to a 21-place finish.
“It was a crazy finish, I haven’t even been able to really process it,” a visibly dejected DiBenedetto said on pit road. “I just really want to get this thing (No. 21 Ford) into Victory Lane. I feel this this is the same story, just a heartbreak.
“I want this 100th win for Wood Bros. so bad.”
As Hamlin pulled his No. 11 Toyota in front of the flag stand to get the checkers, fans in the stands could be heard voicing their displeasure and disagreement regarding the declared winner.
“This one was unexpected, to say the least,” Hamlin told NBC-TV. “We’re really excited about this win, wasn’t expected for sure.
“They were crashing in front of us, and we got forced down there (below the yellow line) like a few of those other cars.”
Days later, people are still asking how that happened via several inquiries.
How did Hamlin not get penalized? Why did DiBenedetto get penalized? How come the caution didn’t wave on the last lap and freeze the field like both races on Saturday?
Dega and plate racing, never a boring finish.