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The narrowest winning margins in Motorsport: Part 2
Laura Leslie investigates the closest finishes in Motorsport history.
Sep 10, 2021 at 4:00 PM
by: Laura Leslie

Often in racing there are few things more thrilling than a close finish and not knowing who will win a race until the very last second. Here are some of the closest finishes from various disciplines across motorsport history.

IndyCar – 0.024s

It was a battle of the American ‘Jrs’ at Chicagoland in 2002 which produced the IndyCar Series closest ever finish.

Sam Hornish Jr of Penske was defending from IndyCar legend Al Unser Jr in the closing laps of the Delphi Indy 300 by the narrowest of margins. The pair were side-by-side, Hornish having a tiny power advantage on the straighaways which allowed him to cross the line just 0.024s ahead of Unser Jr. Even today the finish gives viewers goosebumps. Hornish Jr went on to win the IndyCar Series title the same year.

Indianapolis 500 – 0.043s

Often hailed as ‘the greatest spectacle in racing’, it would be foolish not to give the Indy 500 its own entry.

Once again Al Unser Jr was involved, only this time his rival was Scott Goodyear and Unser Jr came out the winner. Prior to this duos battle, it had been Michael Andretti who had dominated the race and was a lap ahead of the whole field with just 11 laps to go.

Cruelly a fuel pump failure robber Andretti the chance to emulate his Father Mario and win America’s most famous motor race. What had been a scrap for second, suddenly became a scrap to  win the Borg Warner trophy.

Goodyear tried to haul Unser Jr in and went for the overtake on the final lap. He would miss out on victory by just 0.043s. Unser Jr went on to add another Indy 500 win to his tally in 1994 while Goodyear, well, let’s not mention 1995 and THAT pace car incident.

Indy Lights – 0.0005s

The main IndyCar Series may have had its fair share of close finishes, however it is the feeder Indy Lights series which has the Guinness World Record for closest margin of victory in motorsport.

Sam Schmidt Motorsport pair Alex Lloyd and Logan Gomez were locked in combat in the 2007 Chicagoland Indy Pro, Gomez holding a small advantage going into the final lap. Lloyd then made his move around the outside, briefly banging wheels with Gomez. Perhaps this touch broke some of Lloyd’s momentum, for Gomez hung on to claim victory by 0.0005s. It was Gomez’s first win in Indy Lights.

NASCAR Cup Series – 0.002s

A photo finish in the NASCAR Cup Series isn’t exactly a rarity. Frequently fans are treated to a grandstand finish following a late yellow or a bump-draft spectacular. Therefore it seems appropriate that it’s not one, but two races which share the record for closest ever winning margin in the series history.

Ricky Craven would hunt down leader Kurt Busch in final laps of a race in 2003. Craven had started down in 31st and with both drivers giving it their all, the pair ultimately crossed the line as one and it was impossible to tell with the naked eye who had the advantage. The timing screens would eventually announce Craven the winner by the smallest of margins.

It was another photo-finish at Talladega in 2011, with a battle of four two-car drafts commencing the final lap with Jeff Gordon in the lead.

Going into Turn 3 Jimmie Johnson attempted to make a move up the inside but initially could not make it through. Gordon then attempted to side-draft Clint Bowyer, leaving the opportunity there for team-mate and protégé Johnson to get past for the win.