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via Imago

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Kyle Larson just squeaked past Chris Buescher in what turned out to be the tightest finish NASCAR’s ever seen. The finish was a nail-biter—so close that the initial scores showed Buescher as the winner. Even Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr believed that he was the winner, so much so that even Buescher kept replaying the shorts after getting out of the car. His transponder, the gizmo NASCAR uses to track timing and scoring, had him just ahead of Larson. But after the NASCAR bigwigs reviewed the high-speed camera footage at the finish line, they declared Larson the winner by a whisker—officially, by 0.001 seconds, or “roughly 1 inch.”

And as usual, the drama didn’t stop there. Fans kicked up a fuss when they noticed the finish line on the track was wonky, not straight like it should be. Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr weren’t thrilled either. They both called out the Kansas Speedway folks, pointing out the obvious: the line should have been straight.

Who according to Hamlin and Junior, is responsible for the 0.001 gap? 

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The finish line debacle was clear for all to see in the photos NASCAR released post-race. The line was not just crooked; it was also painted too far back on the apron of the track, right where Buescher was racing as he crossed it. The slip-up didn’t just catch the eye of fans—it had pros like Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr shaking their heads too.

On his “Actions Detrimental” podcast, Denny Hamlin didn’t mince words about the botched job, saying, Listen, you never know what’s going on with these tracks, but it’s…That is one basic thing that we probably should pay a little more attention to…Paint the f*cking line straight, Travis…It looks like Molly painted it.  Echoing the frustration, a let-down Dale Earnhardt Jr pointed out, Somebody painted a little extra Finish Line and then there was the original Finish Line.”

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Dale Jr couldn’t help but crack a joke about the messy finish line in Kansas, comparing it to those homes with an ugly, tacked-on addition. He quipped, Will we ever come down to a finish like this again maybe not but if we do let’s make sure that the start Finish Line doesn’t look like this right? Because yes NASCAR is going to get it right there’s not going to be any debate about the winter. But the Optics of the start-finish line being painted funky is not good right? So, shame on you Kansas! Shame on you, Kansas most Speedway.”

Despite the mix-up, Dale did give props to the media for their cool handling of the situation. They explained the whole mess without stirring up more drama. What was it that Jeff Gluck managed to clarify better than NASCAR itself?

Jeff Gluck has shed some light on the whole finish line kerfuffle at Kansas

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Jeff Gluck clarified that the actual finish line isn’t just a stripe of paint on the track. According to NASCAR reporter Jeff Gluck, the real deal involves high-tech stuff. They set up a high-speed line-scan photo-finish camera and software system called FinishLynx near the pit that zaps a “laser” across the finish line. The laser-marked line is what really counts. Bob Pockrass from Fox Sports also added that these cameras snap pictures at a blistering rate of 6,000–8,000 frames per second anytime a car zooms past.

Interestingly, this isn’t some newfangled tech—they use the same kind of laser technology at the Kentucky Derby. The photo that clinched the deal for Larson’s win clearly showed his #5 Chevy car nosing ahead of Buescher’s #17 Ford.

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Scott Graves, who’s the crew chief for Buescher’s team, cleared up any remaining doubts, saying, They showed us the picture they create using the lasers. We were just wondering if they were using the painted line or not – they don’tIt’s actually they have a photosystem that is a lot more accurate than that. They showed us the picture of it, and it is what it is.”