Brad Keselowski took a surprise victory in his first Sprint Cup series race at Talladega Superspeedway after causing Carl Edwards to crash out of the lead in the final yards of the Aaron's 499.
The 25-year-old, racing a Hendrick Motorports car for James Finch, pushed Edwards into the lead of the race on the final lap after going by Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr, who were ahead on the final restart with four laps to go.
Keselowski kept pushing Edwards all the way until they came out of the last turn of the race and suddenly the rookie turned from being the Roush Fenway driver's drafting partner into his main challenger for victory.
Edwards kept his sight on his mirrors and he immediately tried to block Keselowski's moves, then attempted to force him to drive below the double-yellow line on the inside of the track.
However Keselowski stuck to his line and did not drive outside the boundaries of the track, tapping his rival into a spin. Edward's car got airborne, and was then hit by Ryan Newman's machine, sending it against the catch fence as it flipped over.
Last autumn, Regan Smith found himself in a similar position as Keselowski on the last lap but was stripped of victory for passing Tony Stewart by driving below the yellow line at the bottom of the track.
Keselowski, who races for Dale Earnhardt Jr's team in the Nationwide Series, did not let Edwards' blocking move intimidate him and despite causing a dangerous wreck that unfortunately left seven fans in the stands injured, he felt he had done what he had to do to become the tenth driver in history to win his first Sprint Cup race at Talladega.
"I got under [Edwards] barely but just enough to have the position on him and it was up to him if he wanted to drive me down or not and he did," said Keselowski. "I was not going to allow myself to be on that same spot as Regan Smith was last year here and I just held my ground.
"I was here to win, I had no reason to be here other than win and put these guys in victory lane and hold your line was the way to do it.
"I'm sorry it caused a wreck and I'm sorry for those that are hurt but that's the situation with the rules and the way it is. Either way it was a great show. This is NASCAR racing at its finest."
Edwards, who had not been a top contender until that final lap thanks to Keselowski's push, admitted the race-winner did what he had to in order to take victory, but lamented that the rules for restrictor-plate racing ended up causing a dangerous crash from which he thankfully emerged unhurt.
"Brad was pushing, he's doing everything he can," said Edwards, who crossed the finish line on foot and was classified 24th. "I saw him go high. I went high. He goes low right here and I didn't realise he got that far, so I went low to block a little bit and he was already there, so I turned around backwards.
"At this point I'm thinking, 'Boy, I wish this was made out of liquid gel material,' and then I'm very fortunate we hit the wall in a way it didn't crush my roll cage down on my neck because that would have been a lot worse.
"NASCAR just puts us in this box. Brad did a great job. Congratulations to him on the win, but they put us in this box and we'll race like this until we kill somebody and then they'll change it."
Earnhardt Jr saw it all unfold in front of him and was happy to see Keselowski take victory, even if he came just short of taking a much-needed win himself by finishing second.
"We were up front and had a shot to win," said Earnhardt Jr. "I thought we had them and here comes Brad pushing the #99, I could not believe it. Good job by both those guys. Too bad it happened on the front straightaway. That was a little rough looking. But I was glad to get through get it."
Newman found himself in a similar position to the one he had been in the day before in the Nationwide race. He was leading with Earnhardt Jr pushing from behind on the final restart, but there was nothing he could do when Edwards passed them both on the outside, pushed by Keselowski, and he eventually finished third.
Marcos Ambrose somehow made it through the chaos in the closing stages of the race to take a good fourth place finish ahead of Scott Speed, who recorded his best Sprint Cup series result with fifth.
Some of the top contenders for most of the day ended up involved in an incident with nine laps remaining, triggered by contact between Denny Hamlin and polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya.
When Montoya tried to get a push from Hamlin the Colombian got turned sideways, causing an incident that involved another seven cars. Montoya had been a frontrunner for most of the day, as had Hamlin. Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson was another of those caught up.
Kyle Busch, who led the most laps during the race, lost any chance of victory in an incident 15 laps from the end, when he got sideways while fighting at the front. Behind him Martin Truex, another top runner during the day, got spun and was unable to contend in the end.
However the 'Big One' came as early as lap seven when Jeff Gordon made contact with Matt Kenseth, losing control of his car and causing havoc behind him while entering Turn 3.
A total of 14 cars got wrecked in the multi-car pile up, which left several drivers out of the fight for victory, including Gordon. The four-time champion lost the points lead to Kurt Busch, who sustained some damage on his car in the crash but was able to still finish the race in sixth place.
Pos Driver Car Laps
1. Brad Keselowski Chevrolet 188
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 188
3. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 188
4. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 188
5. Scott Speed Toyota 188
6. Kurt Busch Dodge 188
7. Greg Biffle Ford 188
8. Brian Vickers Toyota 188
9. Joey Logano Toyota 188
10. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 188
11. Reed Sorenson Dodge 188
12. David Ragan Ford 188
13. Paul Menard Ford 188
14. Joe Nemechek Toyota 188
15. Regan Smith Chevrolet 188
16. Casey Mears Chevrolet 188
17. Matt Kenseth Ford 188
18. Max Papis Toyota 188
19. Elliott Sadler Dodge 188
20. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 188
21. Michael Waltrip Toyota 188
22. Denny Hamlin Toyota 188
23. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 188
24. Carl Edwards Ford 187
25. Kyle Busch Toyota 187
26. David Reutimann Toyota 187
27. John Andretti Chevrolet 187
28. Bobby Labonte Ford 179
29. Robby Gordon Toyota 179
30. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 179
31. David Stremme Dodge 179
32. Jeremy Mayfield Toyota 179
33. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 179
34. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 179
35. AJ Allmendinger Dodge 164
36. Kasey Kahne Dodge 133
37. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 128
38. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 127
39. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 8
40. David Gilliland Chevrolet 6
41. Scott Riggs Toyota 6
42. Jamie McMurray Ford 6
43. Mark Martin Chevrolet 6