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It's Clint Bowyer by a nose over Kevin Harvick, in a heck of a Talladega 500

 Clint Bowyer: "Vindication!" (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Clint Bowyer, after some very anxious moments, got the victory nod from NASCAR over teammate Kevin Harvick in a dramatic photo finish to Sunday's Talladega Amp 500, a race that tightened up NASCAR's three-man championship playoffs even more, with three races left this season.
   So team owner Richard Childress can celebrate a 1-2 finish....and, with Juan Pablo Montoya finishing third, with a Childress engine, the veteran car owner actually went 1-2-3.

   "Can we say Whoooeee!" Childress yelled in victory.
   "Vindication," Bowyer added.
   The race ended under yellow with a last lap crash that sent AJ Allmendinger flipping end over end. He was uninjured. But the melee led to some confusion over who had actually won the race.
   Jimmie Johnson rallied late on what looked like a badly off day to finish seventh and remain the stock car tour leader, adding a little to his lead over Denny Hamlin, now a scant 14 points down heading this week to Texas after his ninth place finish.
   Harvick was the day's big playoff winner, pulling within 38 points of Johnson.
   Johnson and Hamlin both had weak runs yet still somehow managed to pull out top-10 finishes.
   Harvick, on the other hand, had one of the fastest cars in the field, until he got caught up in a late race wreck that left him with a damaged nose.

Burnout City: Clint Bowyer celebrates (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Nevertheless Harvick rallied too and actually crossed the finish line ahead of Bowyer – side-by-side -- at the white flag, just as the final yellow came out for the Allmendinger crash, officially ending the race.
   However it was nearly five minutes until NASCAR officials, after rechecking the video replays and scoring loop tapes, finally determined the winner.
    "It probably didn't go to a scoring loop, they usually just sync the video with the caution lights to decide," Harvick said.
   "I knew we'd beaten Clint to the finish line, but we didn't know where the caution came out. Heck, I didn't even know the caution was out until I was halfway through turns one and two.
    "But you're not going to complain about finishing second here."
   It was very, very close, with the actual video footage at the decisive moment in the shadows of the corner.
   Bowyer's run, and the win, is some vindication for the controversy surrounding his victory at Loudon.
   The race had 87 official lead changes, the second-most in series history, second only to the spring race here, which had 88 different leaders.
   Harvick and teammates Bowyer and Jeff Burton were the class of the field most of the warm, sunny afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway. But Burton's run ended when he was inadvertently tagged in the rear by Dale Earnhardt Jr. on lap 135 of the 188.
   Harvick has shown himself to be one of the sport's best at restrictor plate racing this season. "About six more inches and we'd have won every superspeedway race this year," Harvick, winner here in April and winner at Daytona in July, said.
   "If you have to lose to someone, it might as well be your teammate."
    Toyota's David Reutimann helped push Harvick's Chevy down the stretch, perhaps a somewhat surprising turn, considering Toyota's Hamlin is fighting for this title too.
    Johnson didn't even run in the top-25 most of the race, but crew chief Chad Knaus planned for Johnson and teammate Jeff Gordon to begin a late charge with about 15 laps to go in the 188-lapper. And in just three laps Gordon pulled Johnson right up through the pack, and Johnson wound up the leader with just 10 laps to go. But Gordon had engine problems, and Johnson was left to fend for himself in the final miles.
   "I had a shot to win the race, but Jeff unfortunately had an engine problem late," Johnson said. "Jeff pulled out of the way so he wouldn't blow up in front of me. But as it turned out he only had an oil leak.
   "Still, not a bad finish. We'll take it."
   So can Johnson hang on to win his fifth straight Sprint Cup championship over these next three weeks?
   "I like Jimmie as good as anybody,  but somebody other than him needs to win, for the good of the sport," Harvick said, with a grin and laugh, while sitting next to Johnson post-race.
   "Says who?" Johnson retorted, with a grin too.
   "Everybody but you," Harvick shot back.

                                                 The results of Sunday's Talladega Amp 500


  A nice crowd on a beautiful Alabama afternoon (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Whether they use the scoring

Whether they use the scoring loop or sync the video, the bottom line is it's not a legitimate method of determining the running order - only racing back the line can properly determine the order. Scoring loops are not the start-finish line.

An underappreciated reason for NASCAR's decline in popularity is rules like this - rules that take away control of the racing from the racers and give it to the officiating tower. And it's been an epidemic of the wrong winner being declared at Talladega since this rule has been in place, in 2004, 2005, 2006, and now. Throw in the 2008 Firecracker 400 and the sport has seen at least seven races decided by declaring the winner based on position away from the start-finish line.

By no objective measure can this be called a credible method of determining the winner.

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I agree that the start/finish

I agree that the start/finish line is the only place on the track where position should be determined.
I disagree about racing back to the flag. Several years ago Dale Jarrett demonstrated how dangerous that can be when his car came to rest in the middle of the track at Dover (or was it New Hampshire?).
In my opinion, the final finishing order should be order in which the last lap was successfully completed.

where is the photo that

where is the photo that determined the finish? how is it that espn never really showed a replay. football would have shown 20 replays in the time we waited for the final call. who actually made the final call? where was the scoring loop and why is it noone saw it? nascar.com has telemtry on the cars for their feed. the lack of info here is scarry. i think we got a nascar trick instead of a treat

ah, yes....very good

ah, yes....very good point....and it's been like that with these photo finishes for quite a while. the fans and the media never really get a good look at it. why? that's been my question.

I had the same thought for

I had the same thought for about a half-hour after the race ended.
For the record, there was a replay that showed the caution lights coming on as Bowyer & Harvick were in turn 1. ESPN showed it on the post-race show.
Sorry. I couldn't find a clip on the internet. I suppose it's out there somewhere.

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