Three thrilling finishes came to pass at Talladega Superspeedway during the Aaron’s Dream Weekend, thanks to three thrilling passes.
The weekend was highlighted by the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, which featured a record-tying 88 passes as well as an amazing four-wide finish involving a pack of eight cars.
It took video replays to conclude that Jimmie Johnson had nipped Clint Bowyer for the victory by 0.002 seconds, matching the closest margin of victory since NASCAR began using electronic timing.
“When you’re four wide coming across the finish line, that’s a pretty good race,” Johnson said. “There was just so much going on at the end of that thing coming to the stripe.
Employing the two-car tandems that have become popular this year in restrictor-plate racing, the final lap appeared to be a showdown between Bowyer, who was being pushed by Kevin Harvick, and Jeff Gordon, who was being pushed by Mark Martin.
But as that group came out of turn four and entered the trioval, Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. dipped down to the low side and barely squeezed past the Gordon-Martin combo. Meanwhile, just before the pack reached the finish line, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle got into the mix on the high side near the wall, and all eight cars roared across the line within a fraction of a second of each other.
“If you didn’t like that finish, you’re crazy,” Bowyer said. “That was an unbelievable finish. I hope people enjoyed it, because it looked pretty wild through the windshield.”
Kyle Busch had a wild view through his windshield the day before, as he capped a pass-happy race in the Aaron’s 312 with a tight squeeze through a pack of cars to emerge with his 47th career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory.
Busch motored to the lead on the final lap by using a strong push from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano to create a new lane down the middle of the backstretch, cutting between cars on either side and barely squeezing through the narrow gap.
“I saw daylight, and I said if I can see daylight I’m shooting for it,” Busch said. “I knew that was it, that it was the only opportunity I’d have. Somehow we made it through there.
“I didn’t think it was wide enough for a car to fit through, but I certainly made it wide enough. I closed my eyes and held my foot to the floor and prayed for the best.”
There were 56 lead changes among 18 drivers in the race, smashing the old record of 36 for the most passes in a Nationwide race.
“It was definitely intense,” said 47-year-old Joe Nemechek, who finished third. “My heart is still beating fast and my head is really spinning. But it was really fun. I had a blast.”
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards began the weekend’s racing action Saturday morning with the 3 Amigos 250. That race set the tone for the weekend by also having a daring last-lap pass for the victory.
This time it was 19-year-old Ty Dillon who made the winning move. Dillon stayed tucked behind ARCA veteran Frank Kimmel at the bottom of the track throughout most of the final lap, but at the last possible moment he shot to the high side and used an old-fashioned slingshot move to slip past Kimmel at the finish line.
“That looked like a classic Dale Earnhardt move on the last lap at the right time,” said Dillon’s grandfather, Richard Childress, who was Earnhardt’s longtime car owner. “You can have a good car, but you have to know what to do with it, and he does. He puts a lot of work and effort into it.”
Dillon said the victory, which was his third in only five career ARCA starts, was special because it occurred at Talladega Superspeedway.
“This is awesome,” Dillon said. “I always went to Talladega as a kid. I’ve always loved to see how they race, the big packs and the wild finishes. To have my own wild finish and to win at Talladega is really cool.”