"We were looking to draft to the front with the 56 car (Martin Truex Jr.) before the last caution," said Busch, hoping to finally win in restrictor-plate racing in his 40th career plate race. "On the restart, we were stuck on the outside. The first two rows broke away, then it got three wide and we got shuffled back because the cars in front of our line just didn't go anywhere. It's disappointing. We ran in the top 10 all day and ready to make a run at the end, but never got the chance. Typical Talladega."
Busch lined up 10th for the final restart on Lap 185 - the fifth car on the outside row - and hoped to be in the mix in the battle for the win. While the front two rows seemed to blast out front when the race returned to green, Busch was caught up on the high side. Before the pack had gone a full lap around this massive 2.66-mile track, Busch found himself stuck back in a three-wide and 10-deep battle. When the leaders took the white flag, the big pack running behind got wadded up as A.J. Allmendinger spun wildly and began flipping end-over-end down into Turn 1. When the smoke had settled, Busch and a dozen other drivers sustained damage during the fracas.
NASCAR officials had to review the film several times before declaring Clint Bowyer the winner over teammate Kevin Harvick as the race ended under caution. Juan Pablo Montoya, the Coors Light Pole winner, finished third, with David Reutimann fourth and Joey Logano fifth. Truex, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Penske Racing's Brad Kesolowski rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. came home 15th, while Busch managed to drive his damaged Miller Lite Dodge Charger back around to the garage and was credited with a 30th-place finish.
"We had a really fast Miller Lite Dodge, a lot of speed in the car," offered crew chief Steve Addington. "All weekend, we were pretty happy with the car. After that last caution, we got in that situation where we were in a line and it didn't go on the last restart. We were better at pushing; we pushed cars to the front all day long. We would have been alright if we had somebody that could go in front us. We had drafted with the 56 (Truex) earlier and when we hooked up, we could really move. Throughout the race, it didn't matter if we got shuffled out, Kurt (Busch) could drive right back up there."
With three races remaining in the 2010 Chase, Johnson has a 14-point lead on Hamlin (6,149 to 6,135). Hamlin was able to battle back from a lap down late in the race and keep the points race tight. Harvick is third with 6,111 points, with Kyle Busch fourth (5,942) and Gordon (5,919) fifth. Here is the full top-12 breakdown, with rank, car number, wins, total points and deficit to first:
1) #48-Jimmie Johnson [6 wins], 6149
2) #11-Denny Hamlin [7 wins], 6135, -14
3) #29-Kevin Harvick [3 wins], 6111, -38
4) #18-Kyle Busch [3 wins], 5942, -207
5) #24-Jeff Gordon, 5919, -230
6) #99-Carl Edwards, 5902, -247
7) #14-Tony Stewart [2 wins], 5832, -317
8) #17-Matt Kenseth, 5825, -324
9) #2-Kurt Busch [2 wins], 5799, -350
10) #31-Jeff Burton, 5797, -352
11) #16-Greg Biffle [2 wins], 5788, -361
12) #33-Clint Bowyer [2 wins], 5782, -367
The Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Texas Motor Speedway, where Busch is the defending champion of the big fall NASCAR race. Friday's practice from 12:00 Noon till 1:30 p.m. kicks off this weekend's action at Texas. Qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's battle is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. local (live on SPEED). Saturday's morning practice is scheduled from 8:45 a.m. till 9:30 a.m. and the final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 10:00 a.m. till 11:00 a.m. (TV: SPEED). Sunday's AAA Texas 500 (334 laps, 501 miles) has a scheduled 2:00 p.m. local starting time on the 1.5-mile Dallas/Fort Worth Area speed plant. ESPN-TV and PRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.