The closest Daytona 500 finishes

From the beginning, the Daytona 500 has delivered exciting finishes.

(ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

Johnny Beauchamp and Lee Petty crossed the finish line nose to nose in the inaugural 1959 race, with Beauchamp declared the winner in the days before live TV and instant replays. But after a protest and three days reviewing photos and newsreel footage, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. gave the win to Petty by an official measurement of two feet.

About a third of the races since then have been decided by less than a second, and the advent of electronic scoring in 1993 has allowed officials to post margins of victory down to the millisecond. Here are the closest finishes according to the clock:


(Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The sprint for the checkered flag began after a caution period ended with four laps to go and a dozen or so cars in contention. Tony Stewart took control early and led the pack into the final lap, but Ryan Newman got a helpful push from his teammate Kurt Busch to grab the lead and win by .092 seconds, giving team owner Roger Penske his first 1-2 finish in the NASCAR Cup series.


(Gregg Ellman/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images))

Mark Martin was one turn away from the checkered flag when his car got loose and opened the door for Kevin Harvick to pull alongside and drag race past him to a .02 second win as most of the field got caught up in a “big one” behind them.


(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Toyota had five cars working together at the front of the pack entering the last lap, and then it was every man for himself. Matt Kenseth was looking like the man to beat until Denny Hamlin picked up steam on the back stretch, slipped by an out-of-control Kenseth and beat Martin Truex Jr. across the line by just .01 seconds.


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