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Reliving some of NASCAR’s most dramatic finishes

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The Minnesota Vikings’ win against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday marked the first time in NFL history that a playoff game ended with a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock.

NASCAR has had its share of dramatic finishes through the years. While it’s easy to debate which dramatic finishes rank among the all-time best, here’s a look at some of the most dramatic (and surprising) wins in NASCAR.

The first selection comes from what is now the Xfinity Series. It was the 2012 season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. Kurt Busch led with Kyle Busch pushing him as they entered Turn 3. Behind them were Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart, Elliott SadlerRicky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne, Cole Whitt and Brad Keselowski.

None of them won the race. 

James Buescher, who was 11th in Turn 4 won for his only Xfinity victory in 91 career starts. 

 

Carl Edwards had won the Xfinity race the day at Atlanta but had yet to win in 16 previous Cup starts before he cranked the engine at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 2005. Edwards came from behind to beat Jimmie Johnson at the line in among the closest finishes in NASCAR.

 

Dale Earnhardt’s incredible ride from 18th to first in the final five laps in 2000 at Talladega Superspeedway is memorable for that alone but it also was his 76th and final Cup victory. When the video clip below starts, you don’t even see Earnhardt but he’s there lurking and works his way up the field. With two laps left, announcer Jerry Punch exclaims: “The Intimidator is scraped and beaten on the right side, but he will not be denied! “Mr. Restrictor Plate knows there are two laps to go! Earnhardt drives to the high side of Bobby Labonte. Wow.”

 

As they took the white flag at Watkins Glen International in 2012, Kyle Busch led, Brad Keselowski was second and Marcos Ambrose was third.

What followed was a chaotic final lap that ended with Ambrose winning. It led broadcaster Dale Jarrett to say about the beating, banging and battling: “A year’s worth of excitement in 2.45 miles. Incredible.”

 

Ricky Craven tried to make his move by Kurt Busch with two laps to go at Darlington Raceway in 2003 but slid up and made contact with Busch and lost his momentum. That allowed Busch to dive underneath and take the lead back. Craven persisted. As they came off the final corner, Craven went underneath Busch for a door-slamming drag race to the checkered flag, nipping Busch by 0.002 seconds to win.

Of course, one can’t include such a list without one of the sport’s most famous finishes. Donnie Allison led Cale Yarborough on the last lap of the 1979 Daytona 500. Yarborough dived low on the backstretch to pass Allison, who blocked. They hit, bounced off each other and hit again before crashing in Turn 3. Richard Petty drove by several seconds later to take the lead and go on to win the event. As Petty celebrated, Allison, Yarborough and Bobby Allison, who had stopped to check on his brother, fought.

 

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Cody Coughlin joins ThortSport Racing in Truck Series

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ThorSport Racing has added 21-year-old Cody Coughlin to its Camping World Truck Series lineup for 2017, joining long-time veteran Matt Crafton.

Coughlin, who has 12 Truck Series starts, will drive the No. 13 JEGS/RIDE TV Toyota in his rookie season. He competed in 10 races last year for Kyle Busch Motorsports. His best result was 12th in the June race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Coughlin is a native of Delaware, Ohio, where the family-owned JEGS Automotive is based, 85 miles north of ThorSport’s shop in Sandusky, Ohio.

“ThorSport Racing is a great team, one I’ve always admired at the race track,” Coughlin said in a press release. “Their professionalism, the speed they display, and their record, speaks for itself. Considering the team and I are both based in Ohio, it makes for a great fit, and I’m proud to be part of this championship-caliber organization.

Earlier this month is was revealed Rico Abreu and Cameron Hayley would not return full-time to ThorSport.

Crafton, a two-time champion, enters his 17th season in the Truck Series.

“Matt Crafton and I became good friends last year,” Coughlin continued. “His insight and help with driving these Toyota Tundra’s at all of the different tracks has been a valuable asset, and to be his teammate this year, takes it to the next level.”

Michael Shelton will serve as Coughlin’s crew chief after most recently working with John Wes Townley. Shelton led James Buescher to his Truck Series title in 2012.

Last year, Coughlin became the first driver to win the ACRA/CRA Super Series and JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Championship in the same season.

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A young man’s championship: Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick vie for Truck title

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While the Camping World Truck Series came into existence in 1995, Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick wouldn’t for another year.

Now, both 19-year-old drivers are 134 laps from making NASCAR history.

Barring a series of unforeseen events in tonight’s Truck series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jones or Reddick will be the youngest champion in the series’ history.

The average age of the last five drivers to win a Truck title, based off the year they won it, was 35.8. Matt Crafton, the two-time defending champion, was 38 last year.

“To be able to put ourselves in this position to have a great shot to go and get it, that’s just a big accomplishment in itself,” Jones said Tuesday in a teleconference with Reddick. “I’d be really, really happy if we can bring that (championship) back to (Kyle Busch Motorsports). For everything they’ve done for me, and for everything Kyle has done for me. To be the youngest to do it would be a bonus for me.”

Despite winning 45 races in its five seasons in the Truck series, Kyle Busch Motorsports has yet win a driver’s title. That could change with the Ford EcoBoost 200 with Jones, who enters the race with three wins and 11 top-five finishes.

Brad Keselowski Racing has eight wins in 206 races since 2008 and also doesn’t have a driver’s title.

Reddick takes to the 1.5-mile track with two wins and 13 top fives. The first win – also the first of his career after 17 prior starts – came in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. It took Jones nine races to get his first win of 2015.

“Being the youngest would be a bonus as well,” Reddick said. “But aside from that and the bigger picture, obviously this is a big deal to everyone at Brad Keselowski Racing. It’s a really big deal to Brad too. He’s really been wanting a championship for his team and everyone else back at the shop has been working hard at it.”

Two years removed from their first NASCAR national starts, Jones and Reddick are separated by 19 points entering tonight’s race. It’s the closest gap between first and second entering the final race since 2012 when James Buescher and Timothy Peters were separated by 11 points.

Reddick has one advantage over Jones. Both will be making their 40th truck starts Friday, but Jones will be making his first at the 1.5-mile track. Reddick started fourth and finished sixth at this track last year.

“Fortunately last year there we had a good bit of speed and we were fast, so we just go in and continue to work on the things we did when we were last there, I think we’ll be fast,” Reddick said. “Obviously, the situation we’re in, we’re going to have to run very good.”

Jones isn’t inexperienced at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Busch gave Jones practice laps there last year and the No. 4 team tested there earlier this season.

“We saved a test for him to be able to have a test here,” Busch said during media day for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship race. “I don’t think he was necessarily ready when they unloaded, but he learned a lot and did a really good job. I’m optimistic that he’ll have a good day.”

With a 19-point cushion over Reddick, Jones knows he doesn’t necessarily have to race for a win or take the risks that would come with a smaller point differential. He won’t feel forced to run in the top five or even the top 10.

“I think it’s going to be somewhat conservative of an approach, but I don’t think we need to change our approach by a whole lot,” Jones said. “Obviously, Homestead and the big risk for anybody is getting up into the fence the way you get around that place. But I think most of the day we’ll just concentrate on not ever really getting up by the wall. We don’t need to make that kind of time.”

But just within range will be Reddick. The California native will be looking for any opening after finishing in fifth in each of the last four races.

“Obviously racing hard for first or second is totally different than racing hard for 10th,” said Reddick, who has leaned on the experiences of Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Alex Tagliani during his first full season. “Going into the next year (that) is something that I’ve definitely picked up on and put in the bank for next year and all the races yet to come. Trying to race really hard and end up wrecking for 10th is a lot different than for the win.”

But a win is what it might take to make history.