The wild finish at Talladega Superspeedway left fans angry and dejected. That anger caused fans to litter the track with debris in protest, throwing cans as Joey Logano performed a celebratory burnout after NASCAR made the controversial decision that cost Dale Earnhardt Jr. the victory and one of the coveted positions in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
Both Earnhardt Jr. and Logano were racing side by side for the lead when they took the green flag on the first and only green-white-checkered restart. Just like the previous restart a multicar crash broke out behind the leaders, but unlike the previous restart NASCAR chose to throw the caution flag, in effect ending the race a race that would changed the look of the Chase. As the caution lights came on a celebratory cheer erupted from the fans mingled together in the infield back-stretch at Talladega all assumed Earnhardt Jr had won. The cheers were quickly replaced with boos as the announcement came over the speakers that Logano was the victor of the race.
But as Earnhardt Jr. climbed out of his car, he showed everyone the epitome of a class act, in his actions and his statements to the media after finishing second at Talladega which meant his being eliminated from the Chase. When Earnhardt Jr. was getting ready to leave he still took time to sign an autograph and to take a photo with a young fan.
“I’m going to get asked about the green-white-checkered rule, which I’m fine with it. I feel like no matter the rules, when the race is over, I can live with the result as long as everyone else is going by the same rules,” said Earnhardt Jr. after stepping out of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet. “Everybody is going to debate, but we were thinking before the race that they made a good change on the green-white-checkered to go to one, and I still feel that way. Per the rules, we ran second, and I can live with that.”
While Earnhardt Jr. failed to win the race, he can be proud of his team. He led a race high of 61 of the 196 laps. Earnhardt Jr. battled back from a pit-road pass through penalty after his team had come over the pit wall too early during a green flag pit stop. Earnhardt Jr. was able to catch up to the pack due to a caution; once the green flag was displayed it was only a short time before the #88 Chevrolet was leading the CampingWorld.com 500.
“I just wanted to go out there, whatever happened, put forth a good account of myself, my team,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I’m real proud of what we did today. So I can feel good about that. I can look back on a lot of different things that put me in this situation right now, starting with the first two races in this round where we didn’t run well. We got wrecked by Carl Edwards at Charlotte, and just didn’t run well at Kansas.”
“We could argue they could have waited another hundred feet to throw the caution, but they didn’t have to,” said Earnhardt Jr. “They threw it when they needed to. I’m fine with that.”
If anyone had a reason to be disappointed after the race it was Earnhardt Jr. His fans could learn a lesson from his actions, he refused to question or to criticize NASCAR’s decision. He took the blame for his position in the points which forced him to have to win to keep his championship dream alive. Earnhardt Jr. may have lost the race, but he won a victory in life.