Kyle Busch charged inside Aric Almirola at virtually the last moment to win Saturday's Mountain Dew 250 Camping World Truck Series race in a thrilling three-wide finish at Talladega Superspeedway.
The race ended in a green-white-checkered finish, and Almirola led Busch and Johnny Sauter through the trioval on the last lap. Approaching the checkered, Busch slipped inside Almirola, dancing along the yellow line marking the inside boundary of the racing surface, and beat him to the finish by .002 of a second, the closest finish in series history.
Sauter went to the outside approaching the finish line and took third as the trucks made a three-wide crossing.
“That’s cool,” said Busch, who won for the sixth time this season in the truck series. “I didn’t want to do it. Aric deserved to win the race. I had Johnny pushing me. I couldn’t go too high because he would have gotten under me. I had to keep going. It was crazy there at the end.”
Almirola objected to the finish order in a meeting with NASCAR officials after the race. Almirola said replays clearly showed that Busch drove below the yellow line to make the pass, but he said NASCAR officials told him that Busch was regaining control of his truck as he crossed the line.
“The reason they gave me was that Kyle’s truck was sideways when he was next to me and that what made him go below the yellow line was that he was trying to regain control of his truck,” Almirola said. “I guess if you get out of control and go below the yellow line and save it, it’s OK to advance.
“I don’t have a clear understanding of the rule, I guess.”
Busch said he was trying to get his truck under control nearing the line.
“When I was alongside the 51 [Almirola], he kind of came back to me, and it got real loose and sideways,” he said. “I don’t know if I got near it or below it or on it [the yellow line]. I was working on getting my truck straight.”
After watching the television replay, he said, “Judgement call. It’s on NASCAR.”
The wild finish was set up when Norm Benning’s truck stalled on the track with nine laps to go, causing a caution and bunching the field.
Chris Fontaine led the race at that point with strong drafting help from Busch.
Fontaine led the pack to the green flag with six laps to go but was passed quickly by Busch, who then lost the lead to Almirola.
With three laps to go, chaos erupted in the trioval. Contact between Grant Enfinger and series point leader Todd Bodine in the front of the pack caused Bodine to lose control of his truck, scattering trucks up and down the track. Ron Hornaday Jr.’s truck was smacked and took off in a series of rolls and flips.
Hornaday’s truck landed on its roof on the track apron. Safety workers used harnesses to flip the truck onto its wheels to help Hornaday exit after NASCAR redflagged the race to a stop. He was not injured.
The red flag lasted nine minutes.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.