"If this was what we did every week, I wouldn't be doing it, let me put it to you like that," said Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport's post popular driver with the fans who finished the race in 20th place. "I don't even want to go to Daytona and Talladega next year."
"But I ain't got much choice," he added, unhappily.
Before the carmeggeddon finish to the afternoon, the race had actually been relatively straightforward and uneventful by comparison. Polesitter Kasey Kahne led for the first seven laps with the help of Jeff Gordon, but after that Talladega's unique restrictor plate style of pack racing means that there was a rapid turnover of cars being pushed to the front and then dropping back as the draft broke up. In total there were 54 led changes involving 18 different drivers, with Jamie McMurray leading the most with 38 of the 189 laps out in front followed by
The first caution came on lap 18 for an accident involving Cole Whitt and Carl Edwards which also inflicted some damage on Joey Logano's car and effectively stopped the youngster from making much of an impact in the day's proceedings, eventually ending up two laps off the pace in 32nd place.
After that early mishap the race went green all the way to lap 99, the latter stages of which featured a spirited attempt by Kurt Busch - in his last outing with James Finch's Phoenix Racing - in a successful bid to wrest the lead from Jamie McMurray, which saw the #1 briefly pushed down below the double yellow line marking the inside limit of the track.
Busch's challenge ended abruptly minutes later, when his car suddenly ran out of gas much to his - and the team's - amazement, as they thought he was good for at least another four to five laps before the next round of green flag pit stops were due. Running out of fuel and suddenly losing speed is not a happy thing to do in the middle of a high speed pack, and inevitably McMurray tapped the #51 into a spin out of turn 2 and into the wall to bring out the second caution of the day.
Busch's car was badly damaged and dropping debris on the track as he tried to pull away to get back to the garage, but he ignored the safety officials and drove off anyway - with an EMT kit still perched on top of the car's roof. He'd taken his helmet off and was unable to hear the incandescent radio communications from NASCAR race control, and by the time he'd finally got back into pit lane he was in a huge amount of trouble and officially excluded and parked from the race for disobeying the instructions of the track workers
"We talked to Kurt about the situation with our emergency people around the car and his effort to get back into the garage area," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition. "He made an effort to get back in the car and get back in the garage, and we felt like it put some of our folks in harm's way."
Pemberton wouldn't say whether Busch - already on NASCAR probation through to the end of the year for comments he made to a member of the media in June - would face further sanctions for his actions on Sunday afternoon. But he added ominously: "We had a good conversation with him and I'm sure we'll talk more about it."
"I'm leading, I run out of gas, I wreck - and still that competitive guy wants to get back in the race," Busch told reporters afterwards. "And now NASCAR's yelling at me because I don't have my helmet on, and I'm trying to get it to the garage so the guys can work on it.
"Now I'm in trouble, now I've got this little storm right here. This is my life. I'm not complaining. I put myself in a lot of these situations, but it's good things are moving forward. I've got all the bad luck out of the way. This year has been a great year to test me in every which way."