TALLADEGA, AL - Tony Stewart maybe tried a bit too hard to hold the lead on the final lap at Talladega. Feeling the pressure with Matt Kenseth passing on the outside and Michael Waltrip benefiting by a push from Rick Mears on the inside, Stewart came down to block Waltrip making contact and causing a 25 car pile-up on the final lap. The wreck took Tony Stewart on a wild ride tumbling atop his fellow competitors. Watching from Clint Bowyers dash cam, Stewart’s car came at him on its side as Bowyer T-boned him. Stewart then spun on its side into Kasey Kahne before landing atop the # 5 car.
Benefitting from the melee, Matt Kenseth took the lead and was the first car to cross the finish-line and was declared the winner by NASCAR as he was in first place at the time of the accident. "The track kept getting looser for me as the day went on and we never could get it tightened up," said Kenseth. "On the last lap, that's why I chose the middle groove. I knew I couldn't be on the bottom or I'd get spun out, so I had to run the middle or the top to try to make a move. . . . I didn't know what was going happen and I'm still not sure what happened. Somehow, I think Tony got turned and caused a big wreck." Kenseth’s handling problem turned out to be a blessing.
Tony Stewart took full responsibility for the accident. "I just screwed up," Stewart said. "I turned down across -- I think it was Michael -- and crashed the whole field. It was my fault, blocking to try to stay where I was at. I take 100 percent of the blame. I was trying to win the race, trying to stay ahead of Matt there, and Michael got a great run on the bottom, had a big head of steam. When I turned down, I turned down across the right-front of his car. It was just a mistake on my part, but it cost a lot of people a bad day because of it."
Another beneficiary of the pileup was Jeff Gordon. Running in about 13th place, Gordon was able to avoid contact and take second place followed by Kyle Busch. "I don't know how we made it to the white flag," said Gordon. "Coming through that tri- oval, being hit from behind, hitting the guy in front of me, you're sandwiched in between, basically. There are cars doing the same thing on that side of you, cars on that side of them doing the same thing. I really don't know how we made it to the white flag. It was just insane. But you're doing all you can to try to move your lane and hope that you make it back around. In today's case, we did."
The first three spots in the Chase remain unchanged with Kieslowski, Johnson, and Hamlin on top. Jeff Gordon benefits the most from Talladega moving up four places to the 6th spot. Stewart loses two spots to 7th, while Dale Jr. suffered the most dropping 4 places to 11th.