For several minutes after the end of the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, no one quite knew who had won - only that it was a matter of last man standing, after two late multi-car wrecks had wiped out large swathes of the field.
The race had been delayed by almost three hours by the rain that had earlier washed-out Cup qualifying. Finally X-Games star Travis Pastrana led the field to the green flag, having previously won his first ever Nationwide Series pole position in just his 17th race: with Trevor Bayne's drafting assistance he stayed out in front for four laps, before resuming Plan A by heading to the relative safety of the rear of the field.
The first caution of the race was on lap 13 after a miscommunication with her inexperienced Turner Motorsports team mate Kyle Larson resulted in Danica Patrick being spun out onto the grass, a trip that damaged the rear of the #34 car into retirement. Larson would hit problems of his own on lap 35 with a violent left rear blow-out that ripped up a large amount of bodywork.
Drafting pairs soon formed: Joe Gibbs Racing duo Elliot Sadler and Brian Vickers; Sprint Cup regulars Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne pairing up; Reed Sorenson working with Justin Allgaier; Sam Hornish Jr. with Regan Smith; Alex Bowman pushing Parker Kligerman; while Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers pulled off an audacious high line to go around the others to the front.
Rashly abandoning their safety-first Plan A, Travis Pastrana rejoined the battle and pushed Trevor Bayne to the lead at the halfway point, but the pair had cause to regret getting themselves involving themselves back at the front when Pastrana got soundly collected by a spinning Sorenson who had got turned by Brain Scott on lap 72.
A fourth caution came out on lap 88 after Blake Koch was hooked into the wall by Allgaier, just as a hint of renewed light rain teased the circuit and the light started to dip alarmingly fast. The combination of circumstances sparked a sense of panic among the drivers who all crowded for the lead with increased fervour just in case the race was called early, and the result was the proverbial 'Big One' on lap 94 triggered when Nationwide points leader Hornish moved down across the front of Eric McClure and ended up being spun into the wall.
In total over a dozen cars were involved in the aftermath, many of them sustaining serious damage, and the clean-up delay forced NASCAR to shorten the race by ten laps because of the encroaching darkness.
Only recently back on the lead lap after early spark plug problems, Austin Dillon had just been propelled into the lead by Joey Logano when Joey Coulter got spun out of fifth place into the wall off the front of Justin Allgaier's car. That set up a final green-white-chequered finish, with Dillon trying to break away for the win but then getting hunted down by Kurt Busch with Brian Vickers' assistance.
As the cars swept through the final turn more mayhem broke out as everyone floored the accelerator and went for it. Kahne was fractionally across the line first, but with the dust still settling a NASCAR review of the confused climax placed Regan Smith ahead of Logano when the yellow flags had come out.
That gave Smith not only the race win, but also a newly-minted 27 point lead in the championship standings over Hornish. Full race results, plus qualifying and practice
speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings