With the AdvoCare 500 shaping up, all the attention was on leader Kevin Harvick. That is, until the focus of the camera moved from the race leader to a car in the wall with seven laps to go.
The car in the wall was that of Jeff Gordon, after making contact with Clint Bowyer, a situation similar to the one between the two in the late laps of Martinsville earlier this year. With Gordon’s car shedding debris across the track, NASCAR somehow deemed the track safe enough to stay green.
Just as Harvick, the race leader with two to go, came out of turn four to take the white flag, Gordon’s temper got the best of him. Gordon and Bowyer’s cars were suddenly scrunched up pieces of sheet metal, and they happened to collect innocent bystanders (Logano and Almirola) in the carnage as well. Point’s leader Keselowski barely scraped by the wreck as the caution flew.
Gordon proceeded to pull his car behind the wall and get out, and almost simultaneously, the crews of Gordon and Bowyer were in a mass fight, catching a few officials and others in the mix. The few crew members who managed to stay out of the brawl restrained Gordon as the chaos commenced.
If that wasn’t crazy enough, by this time Bowyer had made his way down pit road, jumped out of the car and sprinted towards Gordon’s hauler, hurdling over pit wall and darting through masses of people in the infield. As Bowyer approached his destination, he was confronted by NASCAR officials and held back from getting to Gordon.
The red flag was out at this time, and the entire field was parked on the track. While commotion continued on the infield, ESPN reporters sought out the crew chiefs of Gordon and Bowyer to get their sides of the conflict.
Brian Pattie, crew chief for Bowyer, gave a rather frustrated interview, even letting an expletive slip on national TV. When Alan Gustafson, crew chief for Gordon, was approached and questioned about the “pre-meditated” wreck, he claimed that it was “about the fifth time” Gordon and Bowyer had conflict, and fully backed Gordon on the situation.
While cops guarded the NASCAR hauler where Gordon and Gustafson were, more drama ensued – this time, concerning leader Kevin Harvick and owner Richard Childress. Childress and Harvick, adamantly refuting NASCAR’s call for a green-white-checkered finish, protested the situation with officials. A replay of the lap clearly showed that Harvick did not receive the white flag, which would mean the yellow flag ended the race, as the start/finish line wasn’t even in the frame when the caution came out.
As everything on-track was cleared up, Bowyer returned to his car in a futile attempt to finish the race and the red flag was replaced by a yellow one. Bowyer’s attempt was short-lived as he pulled behind the wall almost immediately.
Harvick, the race leader, was informed by his crew chief Gil Martin that he may not make it on fuel. When the green came out, points leader Keselowski slipped back initially. Before Harvick saw the white flag, Danica Patrick spun in front of traffic, and NASCAR yet again deemed the track safe enough to race on.
Pulling away, Harvick took the checkers as Patrick limped down the front stretch. Cars, including Ryan Newman, wrecked across the finish line. Keselowski slid by the wreckage to gain crucial positions, ultimately finishing sixth. The wreck across the line eventually caught Patrick, and cars were sprawled across the front stretch.
With Harvick reigning victorious among all the commotion, the best possible way to describe today’s race is the description that ESPN gave it in the post race show – “from Talladega Nights to Phoenix Afternoons”.
By Alanis King