Jeff Gordon criticized NASCAR officials for not waving yellow flags in the closing laps at Watkins Glen after oil was spilled on the track.
The slippery surface of the last two laps set up a spectacular finish at the front of the field but Gordon was among those caught out in the tricky conditions, spinning at the final turn while racing Matt Kenseth for eighth place.
The four-time champion was furious after the race, claiming there was no warning about the conditions caused by oil left on the surface by Bobby Labonte's expiring Toyota.
"They don't want to end a race under caution and put that many cars in jeopardy," said the four-time champion. "I had no idea that there was oil out there. I knew there was all kinds of havoc happening all around..."
He added: "To work that hard all day long, come all the way from way back up into the top 10 and have it taken away because they don't want to throw a caution, it's pretty disappointing.
"I jumped out there to the outside of Kenseth and I think he could see the oil because he just gave it to me. I went out there and there was just no grip and it just completely came around."
Kyle Busch held a two-second lead with two laps remaining, but he too slid on the oil and then came out worst from a three-way fight for victory after making contact with Penske's Brad Keselowski on the last lap.
"There was another car in the field that blew a motor. We knew he blew a motor and instead of getting off the racetrack like he should have, he tried to stay out there and run the extra two laps and when he did he ran right through the groove," said Busch's crew chief Dave Rogers. "That was a mistake by another driver and the rest of us had to deal with it. Kyle was just the first one there."
Eventual race winner Marcos Ambrose backed NASCAR's position, the conditions having created the thrilling finish where he claimed his second Sprint Cup Series career victory.
"Big shout-out to NASCAR. A lot of people saying, 'Should they have thrown a caution or not?,'" he said. "No one wants to see these races finish under caution, bunched back up in these two-by-twos, and making it a random finish.
"We had the three fastest cars duking it out for the win. That's the way it should be and I think they made the right call."