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February 26, 2024

NASCAR Classics: Races to watch following exciting photo finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, crosses the start/finish line ahead of Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger/AARP Chevrolet, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Jerry Markland
Getty Images

Throughout the 2024 NASCAR season, Ken Martin, director of historical content for the sanctioning body, will offer his suggestions on which historical races fans should watch from the NASCAR Classics library in preparation for each upcoming race weekend.

Martin has worked for NASCAR exclusively since 2008 but has been involved with the sport since 1982, overseeing various projects. He worked in the broadcast booth for hundreds of races, assisting the broadcast team with different tasks. This includes calculating the “points as they run” for the historic 1992 finale – the Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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Following the conclusion of the historic Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta, Martin put together a special list of thrilling finishes from the past that fans can watch and enjoy on the NASCAR Classics platform.

Photo finish of the 1959 Daytona 500

1959 Daytona 500 at Daytona

The first three-wide finish in NASCAR history came in the first race at Daytona International Speedway in 1959. Joe Weatherly’s car was on the high side as Johnny Beauchamp and Lee Petty battled to the very end for the victory, but the finish was so close that a winner was not immediately declared.

It took Bill France Sr. three days to officially declare Petty the event winner.

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1974 Firecracker 400 at Daytona

The thrilling final lap saw a bit of everything, including a cat-and-mouse race for the victory and the only dead heat in NASCAR history.

David Pearson led the most laps on the day and found himself with the lead as the final laps passed by. On the final lap, Richard Petty blazed past Pearson’s No. 21 Mercury, leaving the announcers wondering if something had happened to Pearson’s car. Instead, Pearson purposely let Petty get an advantage. Petty put a rather large gap on Pearson, who started to close on the field as the cars exited the fourth turn. Pearson lined up Petty and moved past Petty for the victory.

Somehow, that wasn’t even the craziest battle to the start-finish line as Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough crossed the line simultaneously for third and fourth. The lack of extensive technology gave no conclusive evidence of who finished in front of the other, leaving NASCAR to declare a dead heat.

Both drivers were credited with a third-place finish.

Jimmie Johnson, in the No. 48 Chevrolet, races ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet, at Talladega Superspeedway.
Jeff Zelevansky | Getty Images

2011 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

A thrilling last-lap battle at Talladega saw a 0.002-second margin of victory, tying the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway for the closest in Cup Series history. The race also checked off a box in the history book as the closest finish between the first six finishers in history.

Jimmie Johnson beat Clint Bowyer to the line, thanks to a tandem push from his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Bowyer, who was pushed by his teammate Kevin Harvick, finished second. Jeff Gordon came home with a third-place finish, while Earnhardt Jr. was fourth, Harvick was fifth and Carl Edwards was sixth.

MORE: Closest finishes in NASCAR Cup Series history