Strong Weekend for Dale Earnhardt Inc. Culminates in Controversial Finish at Talladega Talladega, Ala. (Oct. 5, 2008) -- What shaped up to be one of the strongest weekends in recent memory for Dale Earnhardt Inc. came to a controversial...
Strong Weekend for Dale Earnhardt Inc. Culminates in Controversial Finish at Talladega
Talladega, Ala. (Oct. 5, 2008) -- What shaped up to be one of the strongest weekends in recent memory for Dale Earnhardt Inc. came to a controversial ending on Sunday afternoon when NASCAR ruled that DEI driver Regan Smith's pass for the win on the final lap of the race was illegal, despite the fact it appeared the rookie had been forced below the yellow line by leader Tony Stewart.
"I knew I was only going to get one shot at him," Smith said after the race. "I knew where I was going to make my move and was always told that the rule is if you get forced down there, then you are the winner of the race and on the last lap, anything goes. That's what I was going with. I got forced down there, man, I had a nose inside of him and I could have piled up the whole field."
Still, Smith and his Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammates left Talladega with their heads held high and carrying a strong sense of accomplishment. Smith eventually was placed at the back of the lead lap - officially finishing 18th.
DEI teammate Paul Menard and the No. 15 team finished second. Smith, Menard and teammate Aric Almirola started two, three and four during the race's final restart during a green-white-checkered finish.
"I thought Regan (Smith) had it," said Menard. "That was cool to see him beat him to the line, but I guess he went underneath the yellow line or whatever. DEI (Dale Earnhardt, Inc.) horsepower with ECR engines was very strong this weekend. It was a very cool day for DEI and I'm definitely looking forward to finishing out the year with these guys."
Almirola, who appeared to have the stable's strongest car during the much of the race, slowed briefly on the restart, was quickly shuffled out of line and was forced to settle for a 13th-place finish, despite having run the majority of the race inside the top five. Almirola also led the first lap of his Sprint Cup career on lap 14 of the race.
"This was a great day for Dale Earnhardt Inc.," said Almirola. "I thought it was pretty cool that three DEI cars were running second, third and fourth for the final restart. I just had an awesome car today and our finish should have been much better. The guys gave me a great car. I was able to move in and out of the draft and we were able to really work our way through the field when we needed to. It is a lot of fun to drive a racecar like that."
DEI's other entry, Martin Truex Jr. got caught up in an accident after showing a strong car and leading the race early. In fact, three of DEI's four cars led on the day, and had Smith's pass for the win been allowed, all four cars would have led at least a lap during the race.
"We had a great car," said Truex. "I have to thank everybody at DEI and ECR engines. This was the best car I ever had here. If we could have made it to the end, we were going to have a shot today."
The strong effort on Sunday followed up a solid effort in Saturday's qualifying session that saw all four of DEI's cars qualify inside the top 10, with three of the cars qualifying top three for the 500-mile race.
The teams will look to continue their momentum when they return to action next weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway.