Talladega: Earnhardt Jr wins

Dale Earnhardt Jr took his fourth straight victory at Talledega Superspeedway after a mid-race dice with Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth ended in controversy. But despite running his DEI Chevrolet Monte Carlo below the yellow line as he passed Kenseth, NASCAR allowed Earnhardt Jr to keep his victory and decided not to penalise him.

Talladega: Earnhardt Jr wins

The victory may have been popular with the fans, but in the pits there was dissent. Many felt that Earnhardt should have been brought in to the pits for a stop-and-go penalty. The rule in question, in place for this year's four restrictor-plate races, is enforced for safety reasons. It states that a driver who puts any part of his car below the inside yellow line in the act of improving his position (passing another car) will be black-flagged and held in the pits for a stop-and-go. The rule is designed to stop cars running four or five wide across the apron transition.

"He was clearly below the yellow line," said rival Jimmie Johnson, who was behind Earnhardt and Kenseth at the time. "Anybody else who dances down there gets in trouble. From my vantage point, I didn't think it was a legal pass."

Earnhardt Jr, who worked hard for his victory and had to contend with more than a dozen pitstops to repair bodywork damage that was a legacy of a huge 27-car pile-up on lap four in a race that saw 39 lead changes, claimed that he didn't mean to do it.

"When we went into Turn 3, I had the left-sides down there on the apron and drove into the corner on the apron. I didn't really pull out down under the line on intention, nor did it have any effect one way or the other on getting by Matt. I was going by Matt whether I had the left-sides underneath the line or not.

"I did it basically because, one, I wasn't really watching. I was watching him and trying not to run into him if he came down and crossed the nose of my car, so it was more not to cause a wreck than anything. Again, I don't think it was an advantage on getting by Matt. It was real late down at the end of the straightaway. It was almost down into the corner, so I think it was just one hell of a move more than anything."

Kevin Harvick was second, having chased down the eventual winner in the closing laps and finished just 0.125s behind Earnhardt. After the race Harvick's RCR team protested the victory but NASCAR was unmoved. "This was a judgement call, very obviously," said NASCAR VP communications Jim Hunter.

"In our opinion, there is no question he went below the yellow line. Where the judgement call comes into effect [was that he] did not go below the yellow line to improve his position. He had already passed the 17 car when he went below the yellow line. We based our opinion on reviews of the tapes both in the tower at the time and after the race."

Elliott Sadler was third ahead of Ricky Craven fourth and Terry Labonte a strong fifth.

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