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How Kyle Larson won the closest finish in NASCAR history

Kyle Larson took to Victory Lane for the second time in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series with a thrilling win

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Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher‘s sprint to the AdventHealth 400 finish ended in a dead heat so close that NASCAR‘s scoring monitors could not properly display the margin between them. Once the timing system finally got its bearings together, Larson had Buescher beat by just 0.001 of a second. Just one one-thousandths of a second.

The previous record of 0.002s stood for over two decades when Ricky Craven edged out Kurt Busch to win the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington, then equalled eight years later when Jimmie Johnson beat Clint Bowyer to the line in a four-wide finish at Talladega’s 2011 Aaron’s 499. Kansas Speedway, however, is a traditional 1.5-mile oval that does not rely on the draft like at Talladega nor is it a quirky oval like Darlington.

Larson was struggling to chase down Buescher in the closing stages until Kyle Busch spun with five laps remaining to set up overtime.

“We got lucky that a caution came out,” Larson admitted. “I could tell my right front was beat up, and I was just trying to survive to get to the chequered flag.

“Then I saw Kyle blew a right rear and was hoping they were going to throw a caution so we could pit for some tyres. We left pit road in third, and I was happy with that because I wanted to choose second row inside and was able to do that.

“Kind of had a plan from before I chose the bottom that I was going to try if I was close enough to split the leader to the middle and then maybe race it out from there.”

Kyle Larson pipped Chris Buescher in the closest ever NASCAR finish at the 2024 AdventHealth 400 in Kansas | NASCAR
Kyle Larson pipped Chris Buescher in the closest ever NASCAR finish at the 2024 AdventHealth 400 in Kansas | NASCAR

Restarting on the inside line, Larson spent the first lap of overtime chasing down Buescher. He finally found his stride halfway through the final lap, attempting to pass Buescher on the outside only to be squeezed along the wall. The two collided as they exited Turn 4, forcing Buescher down to the apron.

With Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. applying pressure, Larson stayed on the track while Buescher tried to beat him along the apron.

“I tucked in the hole that was there hoping that Chase could get a run to push me, to get a run to get next to him before we got to [Turn] 3, but that didn’t happen,” Larson explained.

“Made kind of a bad misjudgement. We were going hard and peeled off to the bottom of three. That was wrong, and then had to chase and find some clean air.

“I thought I was done. We came to the white [flag] and I figured I’ll try and run up the race track in 1 and 2 and build a run, and my run was better than I was expecting.

“He got kind of looking in the mirror and he entered a little bit lower into 3, and I was able to have that momentum with some clean air to get to his right side. I got pretty loose there in the centre of 3 and 4 next to him, just kind of in an awkward aero spot there and figured I would smash the wall off of 4.

“But somehow it gripped up really good. We touched a little bit off of 4. I noticed that he was going to have the run back, so I hung a left and just tried to kill his momentum. I’ve seen so many times in NASCAR where if the guy has got a run you can just door him and it kind of stops it. That’s what happened, and I got to the start/finish line, had no clue if I won or not.”

Larson ultimately beat Buescher to the line for his second win of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season. Scoring initially deemed Buescher the winner before confirming Larson was victorious.

How the win was determined

Given how close the margin was, many including Buescher and his RFK Racing expressed surprise at the win being flipped to Larson in the end. RFK‘s social media posted a photo of the start/finish line shortly to point out that the paint along the track extended further than on the apron where Buescher had crossed the line, insinuating Larson may have only won because he reached the paint first.

Although certainly one for the conspiracy theorists, it is important to note that the results are not determined by the physical line on the track, especially as paint gradually wears off over time. Instead, NASCAR utilises a high-speed camera that is slightly deeper into the line, and the first car to cross that line has the advantage.

The camera and its software, known as FinishLynx, are designed by Lynx System Developers and have been used in a variety of racing series including IndyCar, MotoGP, and even the Tour de France and Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. Coincidentally, the lattermost’s Kentucky Derby the day before the AdventHealth 400 also ended in a photo finish.

One of Lynx System’s models, the EtherLynx Vision PRO, is capable of capturing up to 20,000 frames per second for accurate timing, which is translated into scoring results via Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags in each car’s transponder. In Sunday’s case, however, the finish was so close that it fell within the system’s margin of error, causing Buescher to be listed as the winner.

“I just can’t see it in that picture,” Buescher commented when he looked at images of the finish. “That sucks to be that close.”

Justin Nguyen
Justin Nguyen
Justin Nguyen is Total-Motorsport.com's resident NASCAR aficionado and is also the off-road reporter for The Checkered Flag.
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