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TALLADEGA, Ala.—About the only good thing about the last-lap wreck in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway was that all the drivers walked away uninjured.
A wild crash that sent Tony Stewart’s car airborne and rolling over the top of other cars involved 24 of the 36 cars still running as they headed into the final turn of the Good Sam 500.
Stewart was uninjured and was able to joke about the crash—a little, anyway.
“I’m a finely tuned athlete,” he said. “I’ve got a really strenuous workout regimen, so I’m good.”
Stewart, who was leading when the field took the white flag, took the blame for the accident, saying he was trying to block Michael Waltrip to hold on to the lead.
Stewart’s car got turned by Waltrip and then went airborne after getting hit by Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard. Stewart’s car was upside-down on top of other cars before landing upright.
“I was trying to win the race and I was trying to stay ahead of Matt (Kenseth) there,” Stewart said. “Michael got a great run on the bottom and had a big head of steam. When I turned down, I turned down across the right front of his car.
“It was a mistake on my part but it cost a lot of people a bad day.”
It cost a lot of drivers who are vying for the Sprint Cup title. Among those involved in the wreck were 10 of the 12 drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, including leaders Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.
Keselowski, running fourth at the time of the accident, spun but was able get his car straightened out. He finished seventh and ahead of the drivers who are closest to him in the standings. Hamlin finished 14th and Johnson 17th.
That left Keselowski 14 points ahead of Johnson and 23 points ahead of Hamlin with six races remaining.
“Just a bunch of guys running four-wide,” Keselowski said. “You know it’s a matter of time before they wreck. We all did.”
Johnson was able to get his car across the finish line before it caught fire.
“I could see some tire smoke off the guys in front of me, and then everybody just merged together and we were all in a big wad at that point,” Johnson said. “Fortunately my car I could still drive to the finish so I passed a couple of guys that were sitting there on the bottom trying to get going themselves.”
Hamlin was happy he salvaged a decent finish and “get it all over with and go on to real racetracks where we can control our destiny.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who laid back and ran near the rear of the field all day, somewhat controlled his destiny at the end and didn’t think he even was involved in the accident.
“I was at the very tail end of the field and once they started crashing, immediately I just stood on the brake and waited on everyone to kind of wash down the track and then I drove around them,” Hamlin said. “We don’t have a scratch on our car and it (stinks) to get a good finish that way but that’s the strategy in which we played today is to not get in a wreck.”
Kasey Kahne, whose car was destroyed, finished 12th and is now fourth in the standings, 36 points back. Clint Bowyer, who was leading with two laps remaining, ended up 23rd and is now fifth in the standings, 40 points behind Keselowski.
“I made the wrong decisions and got wrecked,” Bowyer said.
Stewart dropped two spots from fifth to seventh (46 points behind) while Earnhardt dropped four spots from seventh to 11th (51 points behind).
“You just can’t get away from each other,” Earnhardt said about the five-wide situation just prior to the wreck. “How many cars were in the wreck? That was crazy and that’s OK for everybody?”