How did that happen? Make sure you're comfortable. This is going to take a while to explain.
First, a little backstory. NASCAR said earlier in the week that there would be just one attempt at a green-white-checker finish. And of course, that rule came into play on Sunday as Jamie McMurray's engine expired with five laps to go. NASCAR extended the race past regulation and into the one GWC finish.
As the race went green, Logano, who was lined up next to Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the front row, spun his tires. Jimmie Johnson went spinning back in the pack. The caution came out ... before the field had reached the start/finish line. NASCAR deemed it not an "attempt," much to the chagrin of many team radios. The race was restarted again.
A similar scenario happened on the second restart. But it came just a bit later. NASCAR threw the caution flag after Logano and Junior had passed the start/finish line. The race was over at that point and NASCAR determined Logano was ahead of Junior when the caution came out. Since Junior was in a points scenario where he needed to win the race to make the Chase, he was eliminated.
How did the second caution start? Kevin Harvick was having engine issues and said his car couldn't accelerate. As he pulled out of line to avoid the pack, Trevor Bayne pulled to his outside. Harvick made contact with Bayne and Bayne's car went spinning to spark the melee.
Did Harvick do it on purpose? It's hard to blame him if he did, though it's a decision that could and possibly should face punishment by NASCAR if the sanctioning body deems it was intentional. With a car that was wounded, he couldn't afford to fall back in the pack. He could potentially miss the Chase. And given what happened on the first restart, he knew he could save himself with a caution.
Here's a GIF of Harvick's in-car camera teamed up with his roof camera:
Here's Harvick's explanation of what happened:
Harvick said he was hoping his car would restart better on last restart and then pulled to outside and didn't see 6 pull in front of him
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) October 25, 2015
Other drivers thought Harvick did it intentionally.
What a joke we have a car with no motor wreck the field to end the race. Complete crap. Sorry to anyone who spent $ coming to this circus
Wow. That was the champ. Not a very smart move. What a joke. Not happy
Bayne: That’s a crappy way 4 Harvick to have to get in the Chase is to wreck somebody – what I believe to be on purpose – maybe it wasn’t.
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) October 25, 2015
Officially, Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Hamlin won't advance to the next round of the Chase. The final 8 is Logano, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Harvick.
The next Sprint Cup Series race is November 1 at Martinsville.
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