Ranking the Most Exciting Chase Finishes in NASCAR History
As another season in NASCAR comes to an end, the history of the Chase continues to grow. The Chase has seen plenty of excitement, and out of all the races in the postseason, these 10 have had the most exciting finishes in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.
From typical big wrecks at tracks like Talladega to other races that showed off a driver’s skill, the Chase had been putting drivers in all different situations for years now, and in return, we’ve seen NASCAR’s top talent put on spectacular finishes.
Not all the finishes on this list, though, involve drivers who were in the Chase. Others have managed to play spoiler in the postseason while putting on a show.
When it comes to the Chase, you’re either a fan of it or you wish NASCAR would go back to the good ol’ days.
And while there are still flaws with NASCAR’s newer postseason setup, it’s still managed to give us several exciting finishes.
These 10 have been the best.
10. Kansas, 2004
The Banquet 400 Presented by ConAgra Foods at Kansas during the 2004 Chase came down to a battle between two non-Chase drivers: Joe Nemechek and Ricky Rudd.
With only a couple of laps left, Rudd caught up to Nemechek, and the two began to battle for the lead.
Rudd would go low but couldn’t quite complete the pass on Nemechek, and as the last lap began to come to an end, Nemechek held off Rudd just enough to get the win.
Even though neither of these drivers was in the Chase, they put on a fantastic performance during the last lap at Kansas.
9. UAW-GM Quality, 2005
The UAW-GM Quality 500 in 2005 took place at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and was run at a time when NASCAR was having major tire issues.
The race itself had been delayed, and when it finally started, NASCAR used competition cautions to help with the tire issues. As the race started to come to a close, Jimmie Johnson found himself out in front with two laps to go after a late race caution.
As he maintained his lead on Kurt Busch, sparks were flying from underneath Johnson’s car as he tried to find the delicate balance between going fast enough to stay away from Busch but not so fast that he could potentially blow out his tires.
When the sparks stopped flying, Johnson found himself in Victory Lane and had also created one of the more exciting finishes to a Chase race.
8. New Hampshire, 2011
Tony Stewart came alive during the 2011 Chase. He started the postseason that year by winning the first two races.
Out of the first two races, though, New Hampshire had the better finish.
Drivers like Denny Hamlin began to run out of gas as the final laps of the race approached, and while Clint Bowyer led the race, Stewart was right behind him. Eventually, Smoke passed Bowyer as he ran out of gas and started losing a lot of positions.
Fuel mileage races are never fun to watch, except when teams have to take a huge gamble on how much fuel they have left.
The finish turned out to be exciting, as drivers stumbled as they ran out of fuel.
Smoke himself managed to coast to victory on what seemed like just fumes.
7. Talladega, 2011
Looking to see a great example of restrictor-plate racing?
Look no further than Talladega in 2011.
During the Chase race, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer (teammates at the time) would separate themselves from the rest of the field with only one lap to go.
Bowyer, who was pushing Burton, would slide to the bottom and make a charge forward. The two drivers made a little contact, but Bowyer ended up getting the best of Burton.
This was a great example of restrictor-plate racing because the teammates used the draft to get a big lead without causing a wreck.
And when they were out in front, they raced each other hard to compete for the win. Bowyer could have easily dumped Burton, but he raced his teammate clean.
Their finish was close, but Bowyer got the win by what seemed like inches.
These two put on one of the best examples of how to finish a restrictor-plate race and also had one of the closest finishes in the Chase.
6. Charlotte, 2013
The race at Charlotte was one of the worst in the Chase this season.
The ending, though, displayed some of the best racing we’ve seen in the Chase.
After the last restart of the night, Kasey Kahne would be the leader and battled his teammate Jeff Gordon for the lead. Kahne held off Gordon, but Brad Keselowski emerged as the real challenge for Kahne.
These two drivers battled during the last laps of the race, racing each other hard but clean. Keselowski eventually got out in front and won his first race of the season while playing spoiler to the drivers in the Chase.
Keselowski and Kahne racing each other during the last laps of Charlotte showed off two of NASCAR’s younger drivers and how fearless they can be.
They also managed to put on one of the best finishes seen in a Chase race.
5. Talladega, 2006
Talladega has made for exciting Chase race finishes, and in 2006, the Superspeedway delivered another one.
Brian Vickers, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. separated themselves from the rest of the pack as the final laps of the race came to an end.
As the three raced each other for the lead, though, Johnson would collide with Dale Jr., and both went spinning into the infield dirt.
The caution flag would come out as Brian Vickers crossed the finish line. Vickers won the race, but more importantly, he put on one of the best finishes seen in the Chase and proved that he can compete with the sport’s top drivers.
4. Phoenix, 2012
The Phoenix race during last year’s Chase was one of the wildest postseason races we’ve seen since NASCAR implemented its playoff system.
While the race itself is known for the massive fight between the No. 15 crew of Clint Bowyer and the No. 24 crew of Jeff Gordon, Phoenix also had an exciting finish.
With only a couple laps left, the race would restart with Kevin Harvick leading Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
Danica Patrick would get hit from behind, and as drivers came down the final stretch, her car left a trail of smoke.
Kevin Harvick took home the victory, but as he crossed the finish line, drivers began to wreck behind him. Phoenix turned out to be an important race for Brad Keselowski, as he managed to dodge all the wrecking that happened during the last lap and skidded past the finish line in sixth place. It would play a big part in helping him win the championship that season.
The Phoenix race in 2012 might be remembered for the big fight, but its finish was one of the most exciting in the Chase.
3. Homestead, 2004
There was a lot of excitement going into Homestead during the 2004 Chase. Not only would it conclude NASCAR’s first Chase season, but several drivers also had a chance to win the championship.
As the race started to come to a close, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle were on the starting row with two laps to go.
Biffle passed Smoke and went on to win, but what made this Homestead race so exciting were the drivers who were battling for position right behind Biffle.
Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch were all racing hard as the race came to a finish.
And while Kurt Busch went on to win the championship, it was one of the better Chase moments to see these top drivers all competing against each other.
2. Talladega, 2012
The last-lap crash at Talladega in 2012 was the biggest wreck we’ve seen in the Chase.
As Tony Stewart tried to come down and block Michael Waltrip from passing him, Smoke misjudged how much room he had and triggered a massive wreck.
And as cars were flipping and spinning, Matt Kenseth managed to sneak by and cross the finish line just as the caution flag came out.
Kenseth went on to win the race, but the real story was the massive wreck that Smoke caused. Drivers like Jimmie Johnson were taken out at the finish, and Dale Jr. ended up suffering from a concussion as a result of the crash.
The Talladega last-lap wreck was all over the news the next day and made for one of the most exciting finishes in the Chase.
1. Homestead, 2011
It all came down to Homestead in 2011.
Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards went into Homestead with one task ahead of them:
Win the race.
Edwards would lead at one point, but Tony Stewart eventually caught up and passed him. As the laps wound down, Smoke stayed out in front, pushing drastically to keep his first-place position as he entered lapped traffic.
As laps continued to disappear, Edwards drastically tried to catch Stewart and only needed Smoke to make one mistake.
The last moments at Homestead were the best we’ve seen in the Chase. Would Smoke make a mistake?Would Edwards be able to catch him?
We all know how it finished; Smoke continued to race flawlessly and won the race, along with the championship.
Both drivers put on a fantastic finish to the postseason, and it’s one of the best we’ve seen in the Chase.
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