We knew four more drivers would see their Sprint Cup title dreams come crashing to an end. We knew the so-called Big One could happen at any time with all of the inches-apart, three- and four-wide pack racing that happens on NASCAR’s biggest track that measures 2.66 miles around.
At first, there was the serious prospect that the 188-lap race would be run completely caution-free, but that thought was dashed when Justin Allgaier lost his engine at lap 132. When the only other yellow flag flew, all insanity broke loose.
And Halloween is still a few days away. Then again, what followed in the closing laps was crazy and chaotic all by itself.
That is, before defending champion Kevin Harvick got involved.
The race’s second caution came out at lap 185 when Jamie McMurray lost his engine and forced a green-white-checkered finish, the only attempt NASCAR would allow. As USA Today motor sports writer Jeff Gluck wrote, the finish became “simply a colossal embarrassment.”
It all started when, on the first restart attempt, an 11-car group at the middle of the pack got tangled before the leaders crossed the starting line.
On the second try at the first restart, Harvick, who had an engine that was basically on its last legs, turned into Trevor Bayne and caused a wreck that handed the victory to Logano over Dale Earnhardt Jr., completing a sweep of the three Contender round races.
At a track where son and his late father combined for 16 wins, including Junior’s most recent one in May, the fans in attendance were none too pleased – along with several drivers – at the end result.
With the field frozen at the point of the wreck, Harvick finished 15th to keep his chances to repeat alive. Harvick finished six points ahead of Ryan Newman, who was eliminated at Talladega along with Kenseth, Dale Jr. and Denny Hamlin.
Kenseth, Hamlin, and Bayne did plenty to express their disgust at the outcome.
“What a joke we have a car with no motor wreck the field to end the race,” Hamlin tweeted afterward. “Complete crap. Sorry to anyone who spent $ coming to this circus.”
Kenseth doesn’t do Twitter, but he had plenty to say about Harvick’s intent.
“He clipped him and caused a wreck because he knew he’d make the (next round of the) Chase that way,” Kenseth said in the USA Today story.
The winner of five races in 2015 told USA Today’s Mike Hembree the closing laps “wasn’t really racing to be honest with you. It was just a bunch of games going on.”
Bayne added his thoughts this way: “That’s a crappy way for Harvick to have to get in the Chase, is to wreck somebody -- what I believe to be on purpose.”
NASCAR didn’t think so, at least not yet, following a video review by officials.
“We don’t see anything there that is suspect so far,” NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton said.
Enter those fantastic key words: So far. Could there be more to come on this? Will any new evidence come to light that restores some happy vibes to a race that turned memorable for nothing but ugly reasons?
As the Chase heads to the final round over the next three weeks at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix, only fortune tellers may know for sure.
Followers and comments welcome on Twitter @Tomzsports.
NEXT WEEK'S RACES
Martinsville Speedway (.526-mile oval), Martinsville, Virginia
-SPRINT CUP: Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger, Sunday, 1:15 p.m. ET/10:15 a.m. PT, NBC Sports Network. Radio: SiriusXM Channel 90 or your local MRN Radio affiliate.
Race distance: 500 laps, 263 miles.
2014 champion: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
-CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES: Kroger 200, 1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT, Fox Sports 1. Radio: SiriusXM Channel 90 or your local MRN Radio affiliate.
Race distance: 200 laps, 105.2 miles.
2014 champion: Darrell Wallace Jr.
-XFINITY SERIES: Off until Nov. 7 for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.