There's the old saying that "stats don't lie," and holding that maxim true, it appears that Sunday's Aaron's 499 produced such a tight finish to the naked eye and modern computer.
In fact, it was tied for the closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup history, when just eight years ago, Ricky Craven beat Kurt Busch to the stripe to win the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington by just 0.002 seconds - try blinking that fast.
On Sunday, five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson pulled a bit of Willie Mosconi on the final lap, snookering fall race winner Clint Bowyer by only 0.002 seconds.
Sunday's Aaron's 499 was reminiscent of the 1981 Talladega 500, in which Ron Bouchard ducked to the inside and defeated Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte to win an epic at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
This time, the stage pitted six Chevrolet racers, with the Hendrick quartet of Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. duking it out with the Richard Childress duo of Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.
Looking to play spoiler with an all Chevrolet top-five finish were theRoush-Fenway Fords of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, who continued the Blue Ovals' strong performances at the plate tracks.
Harvick, who was the defending race champion, just didn't have enough car to duplicate his feat from 2010, although his fifth place finish had to ease last week's mediocre 20th at Texas.
As for Johnson, it was just an unbelievable finish, with his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet having the power to pull out and pass his two teammates on the inside of the dogleg towards the stripe.
"We were just the lucky guy at the end with a good run," Johnson said per AP National Writer Paul Newberry's race recap. "We had some big mo (momentum) on our side, and off we went."
Part of that momentum came from teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who helped Johnson to the lead by bump-drafting him on the frontstretch, essentially sacrificing his shot at victory.
"I can't thank Junior enough," Johnson said. "He made the decision that my car was faster leading. And the way these things are finishing up, the lead car's going to get the win.
"In some respects, he was more worried about the team having a good performance more than anything."
Heading to the dogleg, Gordon (on the inside lane) and Bowyer (on the outside) were in a dogfight for the lead, with Martin and Harvick pushing their teammates to the stripe.
Behind Martin and Harvick were the machines of Johnson and Earnhardt Jr., who rocketed their way past the front quartet, scooting their way down to the inside lane.
Their strong run forced Gordon and Martin to to the middle lane, pitting Johnson against two of the best plate racers in the sport for the win.
At the line, Johnson's car just made its way to the start/finish line barely over Bowyer.
Despite losing the race in about the closest fashion possible, the Emporia, KS native wasn't too upset.
"If you didn't like that finish and forgot about the race, there's something wrong with you," Bowyer said. "It always seems to fix itself at the end of these restrictor-plate races. We always have a hell of a finish."
Even third place finisher Gordon was appreciative of the race, despite losing a shot at his second victory of 2011 faster than you can say the "No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet Impala."
"With as crazy as it gets in these closing laps, sometimes a third is almost like a victory at these types of race tracks," Gordon said.
Here's a look at the top 10 finishers of Sunday's Aaron's 499, with their manufacturer/team listed in the following:
- Jimmie Johnson (Chevy/Hendrick)
- Clint Bowyer (Chevy/Childress)
- Jeff Gordon (Chevy/Hendrick)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Chevy/Hendrick)
- Kevin Harvick (Chevy/Childress)
- Carl Edwards (Ford/Roush-Fenway)
- Greg Biffle (Ford/Roush-Fenway)
- Mark Martin (Chevy/Hendrick)
- David Gilliland (Ford/Front Row)
- Joey Logano (Toyota/Gibbs)
The finish was reminiscent of many classic Talladega races, such as the '93DieHard 500, the '99 Touchstone Energy 300 for the Nationwide Series, and last year's spring duel.
Unlike last April's instant classic, the 88 lead changes were reflective of the careful planning by the competitors to pair up, reminiscent of the racing seen in February's Daytona 500.
Drivers realized their cars performed better when hooked up in a two car shuffle, essentially turning the event into an Alabama version of "Dancing With The Stars," or drivers in stock cars, so it seemed.
Like the show itself, there's sometimes that Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy moment, where even the most planned out routines run into some embarrassing results.
Such was the case for Kurt Busch, who sent Landon Cassill into a lap 28 crash with Brian Vickers while using the bump-drafting tactic.
Additionally, he clipped teammate Brad Keselowski, whose car appeared to slow down, causing a five car melee that collected Texas pole sitter DavidRagan, Marcus Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, and Daytona 500 champ Trevor Bayne.
Even last weekend's race winner Matt Kenseth was collected in one of the race's multi-car accidents, when Kyle Busch was spun by his teammate Joey Logano, which left the '03 series champion fuming.
"So much is out of your hands here," Kenseth said, citing how drafting and the two car shuffles seem to be the norm for plate racing. "It's a frustrating type of racing, to say the least.
"It would be nice to able to see and control your own destiny a little more."
Kenseth and his 42 competitors will be able to control their destiny more next weekend, as the Sprint Cup Series has the Easter Sunday bye-week before their April 30th date at Richmond International Raceway.
From the fast superspeedway of Talladega to the 3/4th mile short track inHenrico County, VA, it's back to a game of patience, brakes, and the chrome horn.
Kyle Busch looks to defend his Crown Royal 400 victory, having won this event for the past two seasons. Hot in his trails and among some of thepre-race favorites include Harvick, Johnson, Gordon, and Bowyer, who hvea good handle with "The Action Track."
FOX Sports will provide live coverage of the Crown Royal presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400, Saturday, April 30th at 7:30 PM ET.
Heading into the bye-week, here's a look at the top 10 Sprint Cup points standings:
- Carl Edwards (295 points)
- Jimmie Johnson (1 win, 290 points)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (276 points)
- Kevin Harvick (2 wins, 268 points)
- Kurt Busch (267 points)
- Kyle Busch (1 win, 257 points)
- Ryan Newman (253 points)
- Matt Kenseth (1 win, 252 points)
- Juan Pablo Montoya (246 points)
- Clint Bowyer (245 points)