“It’s going to be a drag race. They touch, they touch…”
NASCAR fans can all remember that finish on March 16, 2003, as one of the most memorable finishes. The finish between Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch was the closest in NASCAR Cup Series history until Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson tied it at Talladega Superspeedway in 2011.
Some fantastic finishes get buried beneath history though. It is time to blow off the dust of the VHS tapes and relive these five forgotten finishes.
1. 2003 darlingtonraceway.com 200
The same race weekend at Darlington as the Craven-Busch clash provided some amazing racing all around. The NASCAR Xfinity Series race that weekend also had an amazing battle for the win.
That race was delayed by rain, which pushed the race from Saturday to Monday. In the closing stages of the race, Stacy Compton, with older tires, had a three-second lead with seven laps to go. With three laps to go, Compton, Jamie McMurray and Todd Bodine were three-wide in turn 2. Compton lost the lead.
The race was down to Bodine and McMurray to duel it out for the win. McMurray got a huge run on the outside coming to the checkered flag. The finish was setting up to look like the previous day’s Cup race until Bodine got loose. Bodine overcorrected the car into McMurray, spinning McMurray toward the inside wall while Bodine headed for the outside wall. Bodine straightened up his car and coasted across the line for the win, while a spinning McMurray crossed the line in second.
2. 2001 Sam’s Town 250
This was another race plagued by rain that ended up with a great finish. This Xfinity race at Memphis International Raceway was originally slated for a Saturday, but rain pushed it to Sunday, at the same time as the Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. But, the rainstorms were then in Martinsville on Sunday, delaying the Cup race and moving the Memphis race and this great finish into the limelight.
Randy LaJoie stayed out on the racetrack with older tires as the leaders pitted during the last caution of the day with 35 laps to go. In the “God Bless America” scheme, Jay Sauter, who battled from fourth position on the restart on old tires, took the lead with 13 laps to go. Jeff Green, who restarted outside of the top 10, was coming to the front with four fresh tires. Sauter was trying to hold off the dominant car of the day, Green, who led 141 laps that race.
Coming to the white flag, Green and Sauter bounced off each other as they were going into turn 3. LaJoie slipped by on the inside and took home the checkered flag for his final Xfinity win. LaJoie celebrated that win by being stuck in the drenched grass as he was trying to do burnouts.
3. 2001 BetOnUSA.com 150
If I could describe this race in one word, it would be “bizarre.” The ARCA Menards Series made a stop at Watkins Glen International for a 62-lap event in 2001.
The race came down to three contenders: John Finger, Blaise Alexander and Lyndon Amick. Alexander looked like he was going to win, but the car started spurting, allowing Finger to pass for the lead. In the final corner with only two laps to go, Robert Burroughs made a move on the leader to try to get his lap back. Burroughs spun, and Finger did a 360. Amick and Alexander were both involved as well.
Finger came out with the win as the only car on the lead lap. Alexander finished a lap short, as he spun out in turn 1. Amick finished three laps down against the wall in sixth position. Finger was the only driver who had led a lap that finished the race.
Only 12 of the 30 cars that started finished the race. This was the first and only race for ARCA at Watkins Glen.
4. 2002 Kroger 300
This Father’s Day special featured a driver earlier on this list: Bodine. The race was halted 10 laps short of halfway so that it wouldn’t become official. It then essentially became an unintentional doubleheader of 150-mile races at Kentucky Speedway, as the second half of this race was completed on following day.
After the racing resumed on Sunday, Bodine and Greg Biffle battled for the lead in the last 25 laps. This finish nearly happened under caution. On the final lap, there was a wreck off of turn 2 involving the No. 21 of Jay Sauter, but NASCAR did not throw a caution.
Biffle held the lead into turn 3, but Bodine got a run on the outside. Biffle got loose under Bodine and made contact coming off of turn 4. While Bodine won the race, Biffle slid to a second-place finish without wrecking the car.
This race finished similarly to the 2007 Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that saw Jeff Burton win and Kyle Busch wreck as he crossed the line.
5. 1992 New England Chevy Dealers 250
If you love clean racing, this race is your forgotten finish. Dale Earnhardt may be nicknamed “The Intimidator,” but Earnhardt did not wreck a driver for a win on this August afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt had the better car as he was trying to get around Joe Nemechek in the closing laps. Nemechek about lost the car coming to two laps to go in turn 4. Earnhardt and Nemechek were side-by-side for the last few laps of the race, until coming off the final corner heading toward the checkered flag. Nemechek prevailed by half of a car length with a run to the outside lane to score his second career Xfinity win.
Nemechek would go on to win the 1992 Xfinity championship. If Nemechek had wrecked in that race instead of winning, Bobby Labonte would’ve been the 1992 Xfinity champion. As Earnhardt understood that Nemechek was racing for a championship, that race became a forgotten finish, as Earnhardt was doing not doing what Earnhardt did best — rattle his competitors’ cages.