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The Closest Finishes You Can Relive on NASCAR Classics

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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Let’s have a little more fun today, strolling down memory lane paved for us through NASCAR’s new Classics page where you can relive many of the vital moments that shaped our sport into what it is today. Yesterday, I wrote an article about the 5 best Championship Clinching races you can rewatch with this new feature.

But for today’s installment, we’re going to take a look at the 5 closest finishes in the history of NASCAR. These finishes are iconic and will live on forever as some of the key moments of excitement in our sport. So, without further ado, here are the five closest finishes that you can relive on the NASCAR Classics page.

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#5 2001 Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 at Atlanta

The first one up on this list is perhaps one of the most emotional victories the sport has ever seen. It being Kevin Harvick’s final year with his #4Ever Tour, even if you weren’t a fan watching in 2011, you’ve seen a video package or two with this iconic finish. Heck, Harvick himself did a throwback to this finish and he drove a No. 29 car in the All-Star Race this year at North Wilkesboro.

To set the stage, the 2001 Daytona 500 saw one of the darkest days in motorsports history with the loss of legendary driver, Dale Earnhardt. And while quitting racing was on the table for Richard Childress Racing, he knew his fallen friend wouldn’t have it any other way than for his old team to get up, dust themselves off, and go racing the next weekend at Rockingham. They took the black parts of the No. 3 car and painted them white. The number, rather than being a white No. 3 was a red No. 29. And it didn’t take long for rookie, Kevin Harvick, to cement his legacy in the car.

It all went down at the fourth race of the season in Atlanta. Harvick was strong all day but had a challenger in the late-charging Jeff Gordon who got a run coming out of turn 4 towards the checkered. But Harvick stood his ground and was able to score his first win in the Cup Series with a margin of 0.006 seconds. Perhaps the most fitting part of all of this is that it was nearly an exact replica of the finish between Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte the year before.

#4 2007 Pepsi 400 at Daytona

I remember watching this race as it happened. This was back when my family had Direct TV and NASCAR had the HotPass feature where you’d follow a single driver through the course of the whole race. Obviously, I was on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s channel as he ran that gorgeous red, white, and blue Budweiser number 8 shown in the thumbnail below. Man, that was a good-looking car! But Dale Jr. would end up having some engine problems early in the race (a problem for DEI as an organization was struggling with throughout that entire season). When a driver falls out, the HotPass channel would just switch over to the regular broadcast on NBC which is where I watched the final laps of the race.

Rewatching it now, I’m astounded that there were no more cautions after that restart with 7 laps to go. But there weren’t and we were given a real barn-burner of a finish! As the pack raced through the trioval, it really did look like Kyle Busch had the race won. But it would be a last-lap charge by the high line led by Jamie McMurry and his Roush teammate, Carl Edwards, that would spoil the Hendrick Motorsports party.

#3 1993 Die Hard 500 at Talladega

The 1993 Die Hard 500 at Talladega is largely remembered for the absolutely brutal crash involving Neil Bonnet in a second #31 entry for Richard Childress Racing. Bonnet had had a lot of issues with injuries up to that point so to say that the wreck was frightening would be an understatement, especially considering what was to come. That said, the race also has the honor of having one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history!

In the closing laps of the race, there were a handful of cars that managed to break away from the larger pack as they ran in a single-file train. With four laps to go, restrictor plat ace, Dale Earnhardt was able to shuffle himself to the lead. As Kyle Petty and Irvan battled for second, Dale Earnhardt in his black No. 3 was able to pull away from the back. This allowed Irvan and Petty to make a run on the intimidator as Ivan regained the lead with a lap to go. But as Kyle Petty got behind Earnhardt heading to the line, Earnhardt was able to just barely pull off the victory at a staggering margin of 0.005 seconds.

#2 2011 Aarons 499 at Talladega

This race was back during the two-car tandem era. Say what you will about that kind of racing (I certainly didn’t care for it at the time) but it sure did provide us with a lot of barn-burner finishes, including this one. It was the 2011 Aarons 499 at Talladega and the Hendrick Motorsports tandems of Jimmie Johnson/Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon/Mark Martin were the class of the field most of the day. Unfortunately for us Jr. fans, his No. 88 National Guard Impala was faster pushing than leading and that was the position he found himself in in the closing laps of the race. When it came to the tandem, timing was everything. Clint Boyer and Kevin Harvick timed everything up similarly to Johnson and Earnhardt. But it would be ole 7-time who would get the better of his teammates and the RCR team on that day, winning the race by 0.002 seconds, tied for the closest finish in NASCAR history.

#1 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington

We all knew this one was coming. This is undisputedly the closest finish in NASCAR history with a margin of 0.002 seconds. It’s on all the highlight reels of NASCAR’s most iconic moments. And you can relive the whole race on the NASCAR Classics page. The ending of the race was a real “slobber knocker” (my old-school WWE fans will appreciate that Jim Ross reference). Kurt Busch had a reputation for being one of the roughest drivers in the sport. And for a hungry Ricky Craven, he couldn’t care less. The beatin’ and bangin’ on that last lap is unreal. I don’t even see how the two were able to make it across the finish line. And it would be Craven who would be victorious on this day.

What do you think, NASCAR fans? What other lists of iconic moments would you like to relive on the new NASCAR Classics page? Let us know and keep it right here for all your breaking NASCAR news and stories.

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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