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Bowyer edges Harvick at Talladega

Clint Bowyer wins at TalladegaClint Bowyer was declared the winner of Sunday's NASCAR Chase round at Talladega as the race ended under caution while he battled for the lead with team-mate Kevin Harvick on the final lap.

In typical Talladega fashion, the battle for victory unfolded in a four-lap sprint to the finish, following the fifth caution of the race which waved for debris on the track.

Leader Bowyer and reigning champion Jimmie Johnson took the green flag from the front row, Bowyer strategically selecting the inside lane to be right ahead of Earnhardt Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya, who had worked well with him in the draft earlier.

The pair eventually motored away from the field in a two-car tandem, looking set to battle it out between them for the victory. However restarting from 13th, Harvick got up a head of steam while pushed by Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann, both actually catching the leading duo with two laps to go in a two-for-two battle.

The two pairs raced head-to-head, Bowyer running on the inside pushed by Montoya while on the outside Harvick's car ran pushed by Reutimann despite a battered front end from two incidents he was involved in. Harvick kept the pressure on his team-mate, setting up a nail-biting final lap, where the Montoya and Reutimann were also timing their respective moves.

However as the leaders entered the last 2.6 miles of racing, mayhem was ignited behind them with a multi-car incident which included AJ Allmendinger flipping over and crashing against the inside wall, and getting airborne again after the impact. The crash forced the caution to wave for the final time, causing confusion as to who had actually won the race.

As per NASCAR rules, once the leader crosses the white flag for the final lap, the race may finish under caution if an incident occurs.

Finally, after NASCAR reviewed video evidence and with Bowyer having already begun a celebratory burnout, Bowyer was handed victory as his car was slightly ahead of Harvick's entering Turn 1 when the caution was thrown.

"Hell yeah! Claim that one before somebody else does!" joked Bowyer about his somewhat anticipated celebration. "I knew I had Juan behind me. I just wanted to have ECR power pushing me and I knew I had a good shot at it. Certainly we did that with Juan.

"I didn't know if his motor was going to last but we were fixing to find out. He wasn't going to let off me and I appreciate his help today. Kevin coming up on the outside... I thought we were good and gone and nobody was going to come and here they came on the outside..."

Despite missing out on a Talladega sweep this year, Harvick was happy to finish second after surviving two incidents where contact damaged the front end of his car. He also closed on Johnson's lead in the championship and Denny Hamlin's second place, as the Chase developed its closest battle for the title with three races remaining, the top three split only by 38 points.

"I knew the #00 [Reutimann] was a good pusher behind me," said Harvick. "I could feel him hitting the front of his car into my car. It was one of those deals where it was time to go. You've just got to keep pushing and hope for the best there.

"[It was] cool that it came down to myself and Clint. We didn't know who won. I knew that we had beat him to the start/finish line, but I didn't know when the caution had come out."

Polesitter Montoya drove probably his best restrictor-plate race ever, placing himself in the right spot to launch a last-lap attack for victory. However the final caution left him wondering what might have been, having led the race eight times and for 18 laps, before finishing third in the end.

"The best chance I had to win the race was [to] push Bowyer up front, when we got to the line, try to make a move," said Montoya. "I've been twice here, I've been running second or third, whatever. Every time you're there, a caution comes out on the last lap. If you make a move, then it doesn't come out and you finish 20th! It's what it is."

Johnson got shuffled back to seventh place in the end, saving his car in a sideways moment on the final lap, the very action that ignited chaos and the last caution. Hamlin made a great recovery from dropping a lap down after losing the draft to finish ninth, and now trails Johnson in the points by 14 points.

Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top-10, the four-time champion losing momentum in the closing stages after launching an attack with Hendrick team-mate Johnson. The pair got to the front of the field with Gordon ahead, but their tandem ended when a suspected engine failure that did not transpire forced Johnson to leave his team-mate's rear bumper.

Crowd favourite Dale Earnhardt Jr led the most laps and was one of 26 different leaders, who swapped the front of the field 87 times, the second highest shift in the lead during a single race in series history.

Pos  Driver                Car        Laps
 1.  Clint Bowyer          Chevrolet  188
 2.  Kevin Harvick         Chevrolet  188
 3.  Juan Pablo Montoya    Chevrolet  188
 4.  David Reutimann       Toyota     188
 5.  Joey Logano           Toyota     188
 6.  Martin Truex Jr       Toyota     188
 7.  Jimmie Johnson        Chevrolet  188
 8.  Jeff Gordon           Chevrolet  188
 9.  Denny Hamlin          Toyota     188
10.  Brad Keselowski       Dodge      188
11.  Mark Martin           Chevrolet  188
12.  Regan Smith           Chevrolet  188
13.  Paul Menard           Ford       188
14.  Elliott Sadler        Ford       188
15.  Sam Hornish Jr        Dodge      188
16.  Matt Kenseth          Ford       188
17.  Carl Edwards          Ford       188
18.  Robby Gordon          Toyota     188
19.  Greg Biffle           Ford       188
20.  Aric Almirola         Ford       188
21.  David Ragan           Ford       188
22.  Chad McCumbee         Chevrolet  188
23.  Ryan Newman           Chevrolet  188
24.  Casey Mears           Toyota     188
25.  Kyle Busch            Toyota     188
26.  Kasey Kahne           Toyota     188
27.  Joe Nemechek          Toyota     188
28.  Michael Waltrip       Toyota     188
29.  Scott Speed           Toyota     188
30.  Kurt Busch            Dodge      188
31.  Tony Stewart          Chevrolet  188
32.  AJ Allmendinger       Ford       187
33.  David Gilliland       Ford       187
34.  Marcos Ambrose        Toyota     187
35.  Michael McDowell      Chevrolet  186
36.  Jamie McMurray        Chevrolet  183
37.  Robert Richardson Jr  Ford       180
38.  Bobby Labonte         Chevrolet  172
39.  Dale Earnhardt Jr     Chevrolet  163
40.  Bill Elliott          Ford       140
41.  Jeff Burton           Chevrolet  133
42.  Dave Blaney           Chevrolet  12
43.  Jeff Fuller           Toyota     2
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Montoya claims Talladega pole