Phony photo finishes?
So far the 2016 NASCAR season has produced two amazing finishes. The season opener in Daytona set a new Sprint Cup record for the closest finish in history when Denny Hamlin edged out Martin Truex Jr. by one one hundredth of a second. All sports channels and news outlets showed the finish over and over with comments like, “once in a lifetime finish” and “we will never see that again”.
It truly was a finish for the ages that racing fans were prepared to relish in for the rest of the season. That is until this past Sunday when the finish was duplicated in Phoenix. Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards had a “Days of Thunder” style finish at the short track in the desert. The two traded paint from the final turn all the way to the finish line with Harvick claiming the win by one one hundredth of a second.
Now before I dive into this, let me make it clear I am not one of those NASCAR fans who is never pleased and complains about everything. I just think we owe it to ourselves as fans to dissect these record breaking finishes.
One reason so many people tune in to the Daytona 500 is because it’s a restrictor plate race which means the cars run in tight packs. So let’s be real, the chances of a photo finish at the World Center of Racing are highly increased because of that type of racing. Now while we are being honest, the move Hamlin made to charge to the front was something that was not predicted by anyone. So restrictor plate racing or not, that finish was remarkable.
Now flash forward to Phoenix. Harvick seemed to have the race well in hand as the final laps ticked away. However a late race caution stacked the field back up. Carl Edwards pitted for fresh tires which should have given him the advantage for the green, white, checkered battle to the finish. True without the caution Edwards wouldn’t have been in position to challenge Harvick. Maybe more remarkable than the separation at the finish line was Harvick’s ability to hold Edwards at bay. That is what made the finish tremendous.
One could argue that neither of these finishes were authentic because the restrictor plate played a major role in Daytona and without the late race caution in Phoenix, the final lap would have been anything but climatic.
Sure if circumstances had been different for these races, the finishes would have changed. But that’s true in every race. Bottom line, we’ve witnessed true history twice in four weeks. As race fans, we endure the hours of laps in hopes of seeing finishes like these. No matter how we get there, I hope we reach that destination a few more times this season.