Up until mile number 498, the signature moment at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday was Kurt Busch thinking he was Dale Earnhardt.  Years ago, The Intimidator had gotten in a serious wreck and thought his day was done.  He then inspected his car and deemed it road worthy and took it back on track.  Busch the elder tried the same stunt, neglecting the fact that emergency staff had equipment on the car and the driver had no helmet.  His head might have still been in it.

However no one will remember that foolishness, because Tony Stewart made a wrong move in the racing groove and piled up half the field.  He tried to fend off a charge from the tandem of Michael Waltrip and Casey Mears allowing Matt Kenseth to be deemed the winner at the moment of caution.  Stewart admitted his mistake, but sorry doesn't decrease the workload in the fabrication shop.

As a result Stewart is now public enemy number one in a few circles:   1)  NASCAR officials that had to piece together a finishing order most likely relying a fourth of fifth protocol in the rule book.   2)  Michael Waltrip who had a really good shot at actually winning the race   3)  Other car owners including Waltrip for causing at least $2 million damage to 25 cars with the checkered flag set to wave   4)  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who now hates Talladega and Daytona (seriously).  He was quoted after the race, "I don't even want to go to Daytona and Talladega next year, but I ain't got much choice."    5)  At least 5 other chase contenders for lousing up their chance to gain on the point leader.

Conversely, Smoke is beloved by these folks for his last lap antics:   1)  Matt Kenseth as he picks up his first Talladega win and was really good at plate tracks this year.   2)  Brad Keselowski who was mired in mid pack before escaping with minor damage and cruised home seventh.   3)  NASCAR hierarchy because big crash buzz is good for the brand.   4)  Haters of Jimmie Johnson as BK triples his lead over 5-time.   5)  The track promoters of Talladega Superspeedway...need I say more.

The championship picture after thirty races is nowhere near defined.  The race at Charlotte will be the first of three races at one and a half mile tracks yet to come in the chase.  Denny Hamlin has to win for there to be any pretext for a comeback.  Especially if the Deuce finishes in the top 5.  Johnson just needs to finish ahead of BK to stay relevant because there's always Martinsville.  Please don't engrave the trophy yet.