Most memorable NASCAR Playoffs moments
By Staff report | Thursday, September 3, 2020
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The NASCAR Playoffs are here. To get ready (not that we could be any more excited), take a look back at some of the most memorable and exciting moments since a playoff-style format was introduced in 2004.
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2004: A new championship-determining format debuted, and Kurt Busch nearly saw his title chances go bouncing away when his No. 97 Ford lost a wheel on pit road less than 100 laps into the race at Miami. Incredibly, Busch managed to stay on the lead lap, and his solid fifth-place finish was enough to out-point Jimmie Johnson (second) and Jeff Gordon (third) and cap an incredible inaugural playoff for the series.
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2006: In one of the most memorable finishes in NASCAR's playoff history, Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth waged an intense battle for the win at Dover, with Burton finally taking the lead with only six laps remaining. Kenseth had led the previous 131 laps before his former teammate made the winning move. Kenseth ran out of fuel to finish 10th while Burton snapped a 175-race winless skid.
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2007: Jeff Gordon was cruising toward a fifth NASCAR premier series title ... and then his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson had something to say about it. Save for two weeks, Gordon held the points lead from the fifth race of the season on until Johnson swept four straight playoff races, starting at Martinsville, to secure his second straight championship.
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2011: It started at Martinsville. Tony Stewart won the 33rd race of the season, then started the mind games on championship points leader and presumptive title favorite Carl Edwards. "He better be worried. He's not going to sleep for the next three weeks," Stewart declared. This epic battle culminated most appropriately in Miami three weeks later, with the two drivers swapping the lead throughout the night before 'Smoke' pulled away at the end to win and claim his third championship -- on a tiebreaker.
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2012: Clint Bowyer's run for the title took a big shot -- almost as big as the one doled out to his car -- in the penultimate race of the season at Phoenix. Locked in a battle with Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson for the championship, Bowyer was the recipient of Jeff Gordon's ire. The four-time champion hooked Bowyer's car with two laps remaining as the tensions from several recent on-track incidents bubbled over. Bowyer effectively saw his championship hopes end -- and the video of him sprinting through the garage to confront Gordon post-race lives on.
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2012: Brad Keselowski's title run was one for the ages, and so was his live hit on ESPN's 'SportsCenter.' Chugging from a jumbo glass of beer, Keselowski declared 'I got a little buzz going' within seconds of being on the air. It only got better from there.
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2014: In the waning laps of the second Round of 8 race, Brad Keselowski felt he had room to make a move on Jeff Gordon for the lead at Texas. Instead, there was contact and Gordon went from the lead to a 29th-place finish, with his title hopes taking a major hit. Post-race tensions boiled over leading to an altercation on pit road between the two drivers and crews with a little assist (or a “Harvicking” moment) from Kevin Harvick.
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2014: With a spot in the Championship 4 on the line, Ryan Newman was willing to do whatever it took to get into the battle at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That meant giving Kyle Larson quite the nudge in the final turn to gain the one point he needed to leap ahead of Jeff Gordon in the standings for the fourth and final spot.
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2014: His back against the wall in an elimination race in a new playoff format, Kevin Harvick went out and dominated, leading 264 of 312 laps at Phoenix for his third straight win at the track. The victory put Harvick in the first ever Championship 4 and set the stage for an even greater triumph, when he won at Homestead-Miami Speedway to capture the 2014 championship.
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2015: Contact with Jimmie Johnson on a restart midway through the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway led to an incident for reigning champion Kevin Harvick and a 42nd-place finish. After the race, Johnson went to Harvick's motorcoach to talk and Harvick responded with a shove. With his back against the wall once again, Harvick dominated at Dover two weeks later to win his way into the Round of 12. Harvick would end up as the runner-up at Miami in November.
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2015: Joey Logano lit the NASCAR world on fire by sweeping all three races -- Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega -- in the Round of 12. Perhaps the most memorable moment of his dominant run was at Kansas, where he created contact with Matt Kenseth in Turn 1 with five laps remaining.
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2015: 'We're goin' to Homestead!' Jeff Gordon's final season as a full-time driver yielded one final win -- the 93rd of his career -- and one iconic soundbite. Grabbing the lead late at Martinsville (where else?), Gordon screamed a phrase that has simply become legendary.
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2015: A wreck in the Xfinity Series opener left Kyle Busch with a broken leg and foot and sidelined for the season's first 11 races. Busch returned in May and won four times in five races over the summer. “Rowdy” methodically worked his way through the playoff rounds, surging at Homestead-Miami Speedway on a late restart to take the title and cap off one of the sport’s greatest comeback stories.
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2016: History was rewritten at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2016 when Jimmie Johnson earned his seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship, tying the record set by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Johnson earned three victories during the 10-race playoff stretch (Charlotte, Martinsville, Miami) on his way to the remarkable feat.
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2017: Chase Elliott appeared headed to his first career Cup Series victory at Martinsville -- and an automatic advancement in the NASCAR Playoffs -- when Denny Hamlin nudged Elliott's back bumper with four laps remaining. Hamlin went on to win, and Elliott went on to have heated words with the No. 11 driver after the race.
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2017: Martin Truex Jr. started on the front row and had to battle with his Championship 4 contenders all day -- along with Kyle Larson, who led 145 laps -- and he held off Kyle Busch late to win his first title.
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2018: The first-ever race at the Charlotte Roval produced plenty of thrills -- and an unforgettable finish. Martin Truex Jr. led Jimmie Johnson going into the final chicane. The No. 48 attempted a pass to go for the win, locked his brakes and spun both cars. Ryan Blaney came from third place to win, and Johnson was eliminated from the playoffs in a stunner.
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2018: Martin Truex Jr. meticulously tracked down and passed Joey Logano late at Martinsville. Logano returned the favor on the last corner of the last lap, although he used contact to do so. It clinched a spot in the Championship 4 for the Team Penske driver, and led to the quote of the postseason from Truex Jr.: "He ain't winning the damn war."
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2018: Joey Logano came into the Championship 4 -- or as he called it the "Big 3 and me" -- as the perceived underdog. But Logano executed perhaps the best restart of his life, passing Martin Truex Jr. perfectly with 12 laps remaining and pulling away to win his first series championship.
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2019: Chase Elliott gave us one of the more memorable celebrations and images in memory at the Charlotte Roval. Leading late, Elliott totally missed the sharp Turn 1 on a restart, driving into the barrier and seemingly missing out on a win. The driver, though, rallied back to victory, then put on an epic smoke show ... near the very spot where he almost lost the race.
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2019: Ryan Blaney needed a win, and he got one at perhaps the most unpredictable track on the circuit. The Team Penske driver led the final seven laps, jumping lanes as needed, and somehow held off Ryan Newman by .007 seconds -- tied for the sixth-closest finish in NASCAR history -- to win and claim his spot in the Round of 8.