Closest Finishes in NASCAR History

NASCAR Sprint Cup racing provides some of most intense and electrifying racing that motorsports has to offer. While some finishes may not produce the “on the edge of your seat” thrill, NASCAR has had its share of photo finishes. NASCAR began using electronic scoring in 1993, which allows race margins to be determined by fractions of a second. This gives fans an exact statistic to determine the precise distance from first place to runner up.

2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway (0.002 seconds)

Not only was this a close finish, but it was perhaps the best finish in NASCAR’s rich history. As the laps winded down, Kurt Busch, driving for powerhouse Roush Racing, was leading the race, but his tires were old and weathered. Gaining on him was Ricky Craven, driving for a lower-budgeted PPI Motorsports owned by Cal Wells. Craven nudged Busch to briefly grab the lead. Busch would quickly muscle his way back out in front. Coming off the fourth turn, the two drivers bumped and banged while side-by-side, crossing the finish line just inches apart. Craven won the race by a mere 0.002 seconds.

2011 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway (0.002 seconds)

Heading to the white flag lap, Mark Martin literally pushed Jeff Gordon passed the Roush Fenway Racing one-two punch of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. By the time they reached the backstretch, Kevin Harvick had pushed Clint Bowyer alongside Gordon and Martin. However, lurking within striking distance was the tandem of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Timed to perfection, Earnhardt Jr pushed Johnson ahead by 0.002 seconds of Bowyer. There were eight cars finishing within 10 car lengths of each other the race ended.

2007 Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway (0.005 seconds)

Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch spent the final laps side by side, as they eagerly awaited the checkered flag. The announcers felt as if Busch had the edge, as he had the preferred inside line. Nevertheless, McMurray had one last burst of speed as they approached the finish line. He edged out Busch by only 0.005 seconds. The win was the first for McMurray in nearly five years. It was his first with Roush Fenway Racing.

1993 DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (0.005 seconds)

A pack of single-file cars led by Kyle Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Ernie Irvan led the way. Earnhardt and Irvan would team up and shuffle the Pontiac of Petty back to fourth. Petty would come back on the inside, but to no avail. He pulled in line behind Earnhardt while Irvan had the inside lane, pushed by Mark Martin. As they crossed the finish line, electronic scoring confirmed that it was Earnhardt barely squeezing out the victory by razor-thin 0.005 seconds. At the time, this was the closest finish determined by electronic scoring. While it is unarguably one of the most thrilling finishes in NASCAR history, the weekend was marred by the tragic death of Davey Allison just days earlier.

2001 Cracker Barrell 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (0.006) seconds

NASCAR has had several emotional victories, but few rival the 2001 Cracker Barrell 500 at Atlanta. Kevin Harvick, in only his third race since replacing the Dale Earnhardt, edged out Jeff Gordon at the finish line. Earnhardt had passed away just a month earlier on the final lap of the Daytona 500, and Richard Childress tabbed the rookie Harvick as the new driver of the white No. 29, formerly the black No. 3. The closing laps exhibited a quintet of cars vying for the victory. Harvick cleared Jerry Nadeau for the lead, with Gordon nearby in his tracks. Dale Earnhardt Jr cut a tire, as Harvick and Gordon pulled away. In turn three of the last circuit, Gordon used the inside line to make his move on Harvick. Nonetheless, Harvick had enough steam coming down the frontstretch to hold off Gordon by 0.006 seconds.

Below are links to videos of these fantastic NASCAR finishes.

2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington

2011 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

2007 Pepsi 400 at Daytona

1993 DieHard 500 at Talladega

2001 Cracker Barrell 500 at Atlanta