Another Great Finish Mired By A Controversial ‘Judgment Call’

By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on

In Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series Mountain Dew 250 Aric Almirola had the field in tow heading down the front stretch in what looked to be his first career victory at a Superspeedway, but as has been the case at Talladega recently, controversy ensued.

This is becoming a disturbing trend where the finish of the race is dictated by a judgment call instead of a “black and white” rule, which in turn is leading many to think the sport is more of a joke than an actual sanctioning body.

Today’s controversy was actually spawned because of another judgment call made back in 2008.

In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Talladega that season we had a similar finish between Tony Stewart and then rookie-of-the-year contender Regan Smith.

Coming off the fourth turn Stewart held the top spot and was looking to be headed to victory to end a career-long 44-race winless drought, until Smith finally made his move.

Heading towards the finish line Smith faked high, a move that Stewart would block, then Smith countered with a great move to the inside.

Smith would have position on the inside, but Stewart fighting to the bitter end as you would expect forced Smith to either go under the yellow line or end his day in a horrific crash.

Smith opted for the route that would keep everyone safe, and would still give him a chance at the win.

When you are put in that position, where it’s either crash or go below the line that is the epitome of being forced below the line. So Smith should have won right? Wrong, Smith was stripped of the victory despite beating Tony Stewart to the line that day.

Now fast forward to Saturday’s event. Coming off of turn four Almirola played the role of Tony Stewart this time around, while Kyle Busch was the modern-day Regan Smith. Busch faked high coming through the trioval a move that Almirola went to block. As he did that Busch went low for the lead.

In the process of his pass for the lead Busch lost control briefly, which sent his truck below the yellow line as he passed Almirola for the win in what turned out to be the closest finish in NASCAR history at an incredible margin of just .002 of a second.

Now based on how NASCAR handled this situation back in 2008, you would think they would be forced to rule in favor of Almirola right? Wrong, NASCAR let Kyle Busch keep the victory this time around, which sent off conspiracy theories all over the internet.

Now usually conspiracy theories have no substance, and are nothing more than racefans wishing their driver had crossed the line first, but in my opinion this case is different.

We have seen this exact same situation happen the exact same way twice in the past three years, yet NASCAR has made a different ruling both times.

What’s the correlation between each ruling? The driver who had the larger fan-base got the favorable ruling, and that is all there is to it.

If NASCAR wants to be taken seriously, it is time for them to eliminate the “judgment call” from the sport. Saturday’s truck race was an incredible contest. It was fast, furious and there were several “Oh my moments”, but in the end all we will remember is the controversy and that’s a damn shame.

Author: Toby Christie

Toby is the Editor of and Social Media Director of all things @TheFinalLap. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly radio show and podcast, and he is the writer and co-host of the Racing Legends podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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