10 Most Thrilling Finishes in NASCAR History

Jim FolsomContributorMay 22, 2013

10 Most Thrilling Finishes in NASCAR History

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    NASCAR is a sport that builds for the finish. The finish is all that really counts in a NASCAR race. You can lead every lap but the last one, and that makes you a loser.

    Like baseball, a lot can happen during the course of the event, but the end is all that really matters. You can get 26 outs and be in good shape, but if you don't get that last one, you lose. Conversely, you can be down all day long, but pull it out at the end.

    In NASCAR, you can trail all day long as well, but if you lead at the end it is all that matters. So to narrow it down to the top 10 most exciting finishes of all time will be quite a task. It will surely lead to many arguments as well, but that's alright. It's why there is a comment section below.

    So without further ado, let's count them down.

10. 2013 COPD 300 at Daytona

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    It was probably not fun if you were sitting near the start/finish line, but the finish of the Nationwide race this past February at Daytona was certainly a thrilling one. Hopefully, there will never be another like it.

    Kyle Larson, in his first Nationwide race, winds up flying into the catch fence, tearing it up and sending flying car parts into the grandstands. Two people were hurt fairly severely, one of them was an eight-year-old boy.

    Tony Stewart wound up the winner, his seventh in the 300 for his career.

9. 2011 Finale at Homestead

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    The drama was incredible as the entire season championship came down to a battle for the win at Homestead between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. The finish was not that close, but there was so much at stake that the last few laps were edge-of-your-seat time.

    Stewart won the race and the championship, finishing tied with Edwards. Stewart won on a tiebreaker which was for having more wins than Edwards.

8. 1987 Winston All-Star Race

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    Many forget there were still seven laps to go after the famous "Pass in the Grass" by Dale Earnhardt in the 1987 All-Star race. Only Earnhardt could go into the grass, make a pass and hold on to the lead. He was the best of all time, whether you like him or not. There will never be another like "The Intimidator."

7. 1993 Daytona 500

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    There may not be a better final call of a race than the day Ned Jarrett called the last few laps of the 1993 Daytona 500. Dale Jarret out-dueled the best that day when he beat Earnhardt in his prime to win his first Daytona 500.

    I did not watch it or hear the call because I was at the track that day. It was pretty thrilling from where I sat as well.

6. 1979 Daytona 500

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    Of Richard Petty's seven Daytona 500 wins, this was clearly the most exciting. This race put NASCAR on the map as it was the first flag-to-flag race covered on national television. Luckily for NASCAR, most of the nation was inside because of bad weather. So many were watching their first NASCAR race. Many were hooked after this.

5. 2009 Talladega 500

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    In 2009, at Talladega, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski are the top two in the two-car tandem racing that was going on at the plate tracks. Of course, the car pushing in the lead tandem wants to win, too, so as Keselowski made his move for the win, he hits Edwards and spins him out. Edwards goes airborne at the finish line.

4. 2001 Atlanta 500

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    The fact that the finish was amazing was only half the story. It was Kevin Harvick's first win in the Goodwrench Chevy following the death of Dale Earnhardt. The team and the fans really needed that one.

    To beat Jeff Gordon, who was still in his prime then, made it even more special.

3. 2007 Daytona 500

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    You want a big race? They don't get any bigger than the Daytona 500. You want a close finish? How about Kevin Harvick beating Mark Martin by .002 of a second? You want a storyline? How about Mark Martin, who has never won the 500, being so close so late in his career. You want a big wreck at the finish, we got that too.

    What more can you want?

2. 1976 Daytona 500

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    NASCAR needs to look at this replay every time there is a massive wreck at Daytona or Talladega. This was proof that there doesn't need to be a field full of cars all glued together to produce an exciting race. All you need is two.

    There has rarely been a better end to a race than the 1976 Daytona 500. Two Hall of Famers battle it out for racing's biggest prize as Richard Petty and David Pearson go door to door before both spin out just shy of the line.

    As it turned out, it was Pearson's only win in the 500. Since Petty ended up winning seven of them, he shouldn't feel too badly about not getting this one.

1. 2003 Darlington Southern 500

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    Ricky Craven didn't have very many wins in his career, but he sure made an impression with this win at Darlington in 2003. Can there be a closer finish? I doubt it. Can there be a more excited broadcast tandem at the end of a race? I don't think so. Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip can call races for a long time without topping that one.

    Craven parlayed that win into an analyst's career at the World Wide Leader.

    Now, I know there are many I left off the list that I will be reminded of by you, the readers. Let me assure you, narrowing this down to 10 races was very tough. The 1998 Daytona 500 was, perhaps, the greatest race I've ever seen. If not that one, then the 1984 Firecracker 400 might have been. But, both of those races finished under caution, so the FINISH was not top-10 worthy in my opinion.

    Now, if there was a list of top 10 post races, then 1998 wins easily, with 1984 coming in second and the 198 Daytona 500 finishing third.