NASCAR officials ruled that Brad Keselowski's Talladega victory was legitimate despite his crash with Carl Edwards on the last lap of the race.
The 25-year-old rookie claimed his first Sprint Cup series victory in his first restrictor-plate race at Talladega by sticking to an passing move on Edwards on the final lap of the race despite the Roush Fenway driver trying to push him to pass below the double yellow line that limits the boundaries of the track on the inside.
Following a controversial finish at the track last autumn, when Regan Smith was stripped of his first victory for passing Tony Stewart below the line, NASCAR had warned drivers that such moves will result in similar penalties to Smith's, while blocking to prevent overtaking may also be punished.
NASCAR's vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, said that even despite the wild finish and Edwards' massive crash, Keselowski drove by the rulebook while making the decisive move that gave him the victory.
"It's just the way it works sometimes," Pemberton told AUTOSPORT. "Brad did a good job, he did what he had to do and he didn't go below the yellow line and they just ran out of racing room between him and the No. 9 (Edwards).
"You're coming on the checkered (flag) on this stuff, so there's no give or take. That is all gone by then and it's for the drivers to work it out and you know, they're all trying to win the race. Sometimes you have things like this happen."
Pemberton said that despite a nearly tragic end to the race, which left seven fans in the stands injured by flying debris, he saw no reason why the ruling for restrictor plate racing regarding blocking and overtaking under the yellow line should be reviewed.
"No, because the yellow line is there for safety reasons," said Pemberton. "If you go below the yellow line then we're racing into the grass next. So that's there for a reason and it's to keep everybody racing within the boundaries that we lay out. That's the rules."
Keselowski said that even if the rules are clear, drivers react in different ways when faced with the decision of avoiding an incident and losing a possible victory or doing what he did and facing the consequences.
While admitting that Smith's choice last year was not something he would have been proud of, Keselowski said he is not in a position to afford losing a possible win at this point of his career.
"We all know the rules, and we know how to take advantage of them, and I guess we all have to look in the mirror and decide what we are going to do when we are faced with those decisions," said Keselowski. "I've said right along that I am not in a position to lift. I was not going to lose. I was not going to lift and hold my ground and consequences be damned."
Before the last-lap crash with Edwards, Keselowski had been warned by NASCAR officials for aggressive driving. At one point he nearly caused a major incident while trying to block Dale Earnhardt Jr and he was later involved in another controversial maneuver.
"Early in the race we warned multiple drivers about different scenarios involving aggressive driving," Pemberton confirmed. "That's not uncommon here and Brad happened to be one of them."Related stories:Seven fans injured by debrisAaron’s 499 race report