'Extra' caution lap at Talladega has NASCAR playoff consequences

A four-lap caution that ran into overtime on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway arguably changed the complexion of both the race and the entire Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

Teams thought they were going to take the green flag on lap 190 but NASCAR never gave them the one-to-go until that lap. That extra trip around the 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway eventually saw Kurt Busch run out of gas as the leader on the final lap, handing the lead and victory to teammate Aric Almirola.

But Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski never even made it to the green — having to pit for fuel as the rest of the field were coming to the restart.

The trio all finished outside of the top-25 and in the case of Blaney and Keselowski, saw their championship hopes fade as a result.

Keselowski and Blaney were running fifth and sixth at the time they peeled off the track to pit and finished 27th and 29th, respectively. That’s over 20 points both drivers gave up as a result. Keselowski now finds himself 18 points out of a playoff transfer spot with just one race remaining at Kansas Speedway and Blaney is 22 points out of a transfer spot.

In other words, the extra lap under caution is currently the difference between advancing and not advancing.

"We fought hard all day, put ourselves in position to advance, and were going to restart fifth and be good but NASCAR decided to run three extra laps under caution and ran everyone out of gas," Blaney said.

Keselowski made the Championship Race last season and has the fourth most wins on the tour this season but now needs to rally at Kansas Speedway next weekend.

"It’s certainly not ideal, but it is what it is," Keselowski said.

And of course, Busch lashed out at NASCAR for the extra lap too, in addition for the non-caution call at the end of the race when he ran out of fuel coming to the checkered flag.

"There were two human element calls there at the end," Busch said on NBCSN. "I don’t know why we ran an extra lap under yellow and why there wasn’t a yellow for the dispatch of an ambulance."

Several teams were complaining of the decision to run a fourth caution lap leading into overtime but it’s also worth noting that it’s not out of the usual for NASCAR to run four caution laps at Talladega. Three other caution periods lasted four laps on Sunday, while three others lasted three laps.

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