For 187 laps, things were calm. Drivers minded their P's and Q's, had some minor incidents, big saves, and close calls. In typical fashion, it came down to a green-white-checkered finish to determine the winner.
And then, it became typical Talladega action.
Turn 3 is where it happened. Tony Stewart leading, but with a gap to the pack, he was a sitting duck. Michael Waltrip made a charge, not even being mentioned during the entire race, but Stewart went for the block...but cliped his fender. What happened was the big fear that every driver wants to avoid, and hope never happens.
The last lap saw the last "Big One" on a restrictor plate track. A total of 20 cars mangled, some on fire, some overturned, but all in a heap of damage more suited for a juck yard rather than a NASCAR garage.
In all the melee, one driver in a bright pink car escaped the chaos and went on to win, and did so with a team he was leaving at the end of the year.
Matt Kenseth was the winner of the first plate race this season, and now he can say he won the last one of the year as well. His Ford EcoBoost/National Breast Cancer Foundation Ford Fusion was in victory lane, someway or another.
As for the writers, things could have been better. Only three managed a top-10 finish, with one in the top-five. The others, for the most part, fell victim to the last-lap massacre of cars. Here's where everyone stands following the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500:
Rob Tiongson (2162) Kevin Harvick finished 11th (4)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2161) Kasey Kahne finished 12th (3)
Ryan O'Hara (2155) Jeff Burton finished 10th (2)
James Broomhead (2154) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 20th (3)
Dustin Parks (2154) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 20th (2)
Kelly Crandall (2149) Clint Bowyer finished 23rd (4)
Kara Martin (2134) Kyle Busch finished 3rd (3)
Billy Fellin (2132) Clint Bowyer finished 23rd (5)
Misan Akuya (2126) Jamie McMurray finished 34th (1)
Patti Rodisch (2124) Jeff Burton finished 10th (2)
Christopher Leone (2123) Kurt Busch finished 39th (3)
Michael Hirshbein (2105) Kurt Busch finished 39th (1)
Next Race: Talladega is the lone race in the Chase that used restrictor plates on the engines. Next on the schedule is a race on a typical-sized track for the Chase, but the major difference is when it's going to be run.
No Sunday afternoon start time this week. Instead, NASCAR is heading home to Charlotte, treating the fans to the final Saturday night shootout of the season. Charlotte Motor Speedway is the midway point of the Chase, and with some clear favorites and other beginning to come on strong, running well in the home of many team headquarters could prove vital as the season nears completion.
It's going to be harder than ever to pick a winner, but writers, the Bank of America 500 picks are due by Thursday, October 11, at 10 p.m. ET.