Three-Wide Ending at Atlanta Proves NASCAR Still Knows How to Nail a Finish

This year's Daytona 500 might have ended under a disappointing caution, but Sunday's race at Atlanta was a thriller.
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You don’t have to watch every NASCAR round to know that sometimes, races end under caution. That makes people upset. “Just let ’em race,” the hardnose fans lament, as was the case with the 2024 Daytona 500 where William Byron took the white flag just before a huge crash toward the back of the field, making him the winner. Well, if that left a bad taste in anyone’s mouth, then Sunday night’s three-wide finish at Atlanta was like a fresh rinse of Cool Mint Listerine.

Daniel Suarez in the No. 99 Chevy Camaro ZL1 narrowly won the contest, just .003 seconds ahead of Ryan Blaney in the No. 12 Ford Mustang Dark Horse and .007 seconds in front of Kyle Busch in the No. 8 Chevy. Twitter immediately lit up with references to the Disney Pixar movie Cars where Lightning McQueen stuck his tongue out to tie The King and Chick Hicks in the Dinoco 400. See the resemblance?

That’s Suarez on the inside there. The above photo shows a fraction of a second after crossing the finish line, where you can clearly see Suarez had the run on Blaney and Busch. Picking the correct lane seemingly made all the difference for Suarez, who took home his second career Cup Series victory.

“It was so close, man,” Suarez exclaimed at the end. “It was so close. It was good racing. Ryan Blaney there, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric also was doing a great job giving pushes. In the back straightaway he didn’t push me because he knew I was going to [screw] his teammate, but man, what a job.”

I can remember at least one other time when the far inside was the right call. Remember Ross Chastain’s wall ride? Of course you do.

Other drivers enjoyed Atlanta, too. Blaney said it “was a hell of a (expletive) race” while Stewart-Haas driver Chase Briscoe noted, “it was the most fun I’ve ever had here.” Several commented on the condition of the track, with RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski calling it “some of the best racing you’ll ever see.”

In a time where Formula 1 victories are measured by football fields instead of tenths of a second, races like Atlanta do a lot for NASCAR’s viewership cred. It isn’t perfect—far from it—but to see three cars within inches of each other at the finish is exciting. I don’t care who you are.

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