TO finish first, first you have to finish. We salute those who achieve this by any means necessary.
1. Clint Bowyer – 2007 Daytona 500
This could really only have been bettered had Clint been first to the chequered flag. Unfortunately he only registered 13th place, but crossing the line at the Daytona 500 on your roof, on fire, has to earn you an instant entry into the Hall of Fame.
As the field headed up the front stretch towards the line on the last lap, around a dozen drivers thought they were in with a genuine shot. Race leaders Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin were trading paint but in the background, all hell suddenly let loose.
Clint Bowyer's #07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet, ended up skimming across the line on its roof, before sliding to the infield and popping itself right-way up again.
2. Jack Brabham – Sebring 1959
Sir Jack Brabham won his first Formula 1 world championship on foot. In the 1959 season ender at Sebring, Brabham was vying with Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks for the title. Qualifying ended with the trio on the front row of the grid.
Moss retired after five laps and Brooks was rammed by Ferrari team-mate von Trips, leaving Brabham with a clean shot at the title. Two turns from the finish, his Cooper-Climax started to sputter and then rolled to a halt 400m from the finish line.
The rules stated that Brabham needed to finish without external assistance, so he exhorted race marshals to stay away from the vehicle as he pushed it across the line to fourth place, winning Australia’s first ever driver’s world championship in the process.
So here it is. Officially the closest finish ever in a car race. Gomez pipped Lloyd in this Indy Pro Series round by an official 0.0005 of a second, or five ten-thousandths of a second. At 302.5km/h that’s a 42mm margin of victory.
Fortunately, the IRL added a fourth decimal point to its timing and scoring system in 2001, becoming the only motorsports sanctioning body in the world to score to ten-thousandths of a second, otherwise the pair would have been dead-heated.
4. Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch - Nascar Darlington 2003
This was like trying to part a pair of rooting cats. After overcorrecting into one another and locking wheels in the run to the flag, it was only the big nose of Ricky Craven’s Pontiac that broke the beam 0.002 ahead of Kurt Busch’s Ford in NASCAR's closest finish since it went to electronic timing in 1993.
5. Tommi Mäkinen - Rally GB 1998
The final round of the 1998 World Rally Championship was one for the ages. On stage 6 at the Millbrook proving ground, defending champ Tommi Mäkinen, a contender for the title with Carlos Sainz, struck a concrete block, collapsing the right rear wheel and suspension unit of his Mitsubishi Evo.
Undeterred, the Finn continued, the wheel eventually flying off. He crossed the line on the event with three wheels but then had to drive the car on public roads to service. The local plod took a rather dim view of this, pulled him over and he was disqualified from the rally.
Carlos Sainz looked a shoo-in for the title, but unfortunately his Corolla blew up on the final special stage, leading to his famously frustrated helmet through rear window moment.
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