NASCAR: 'Lightning McQueen' comes up just short at Atlanta

The historic three-wide NASCAR Cup Series finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway looked almost identical to the iconic finish in the Cars movie.

Daniel Suarez, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, NASCAR
Daniel Suarez, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, NASCAR / Alex Slitz/GettyImages

The fifth NASCAR Cup Series race at the repaved and reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway was one for the ages, breaking the record for lead changes despite being 100 miles shorter than the race which had previously held the record.

But what has everybody talking -- and will probably continue to have everybody talking until the series returns to the four-turn, 1.54-mile (2.478) "superspeedway" oval in Hampton, Georgia for the start of the 2024 playoffs -- was the three-wide finish involving Team Penske's Ryan Blaney, Richard Childress Racing's Kyle Busch, and Trackhouse Racing Team's Daniel Suarez.

Blaney led lap 259 of 260, and Suarez began to charge at him on the high side coming down the back straightaway. Busch then made a move to the middle, and the three were side-by-side through turns three and four.

They maintained the same formation until taking the checkered flag, at which point nobody really knew who had won.

Upon further review, it was relatively evident that Busch came home in third place (though the NASCAR on Fox team stated that the initial reading was a 0.00-second margin between the top three).

It took a couple long, drawn-out seconds until after the checkered flag flew to determine that it was Suarez, whose charge continued on the high side, had come out ahead of Blaney. Additional review confirmed a 0.003-second margin, the third smallest in Cup Series history. The 0.007-second margin between the top three is believed to be the smallest ever.

NASCAR recreates the Dinoco 400, 19 years later

Not long after the results were confirmed, the references were made to the iconic three-way tie in the Cars (2006) movie, involving The King, Lightning McQueen, and Chick Hicks in the final race of the 2005 season at Motor Speedway of the South (a combination of real-life Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway).

The resemblance is insane, and though this one was confirmed to have not been a tie, the fact that NASCAR actually has several "tiebreakers" in place for Cars-like situations is impressive.

I'm not sure they ever thought fans would be asking, but they certainly were after Sunday night.

If only the No. 8 Chevrolet had a tongue, perhaps such tiebreakers would have been required.

Atlanta Motor Speedway is scheduled to open up the playoffs on Sunday, September 8 with the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart. USA Network is set to provide live coverage starting at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway is scheduled to host the next race on the schedule. The Pennzoil 400 is expected to be a far more "normal" race at a mile-and-a-half track, given the fact that this particular track is not considered a drafting track like Atlanta Motor Speedway is following its repave and reconfiguration.

Next. NASCAR: Kyle Busch achieves rare feat in first attempt since 2009. NASCAR: Kyle Busch achieves rare feat in first attempt since 2009. dark

The Pennzoil 400 is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET this Sunday, March 3. Start a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss any of the action!