What Happens If There Is A Tie In NASCAR?

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Regardless of the sport, there is a set of rules that dictates what will occur in the event of a tie, and NASCAR is no different. While it is very unlikely that a race or championship will get so close, you may wonder what happens if there is a tie in NASCAR. 

If there is a tie in NASCAR, the winner of the race is the driver that led the most laps. There are also procedures for breaking ties in qualifying and for the championship. Ties in NASCAR are rare, although there have been some close finishes, with the smallest gap being just 0.002 seconds. 

Below, we will reveal what happens if there is a tie in NASCAR qualifying, and we will also talk about NASCAR’s procedures if there is a tie for the championship. 

What Happens If There Is A Tie In NASCAR Qualifying?

In NASCAR, any time a tie occurs in qualifying, as was the case between Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr back in 2016, the driver with more owner points will take the higher spot, and the driver with fewer points will take the lower spot. It’s rare, but it does sometimes happen.

Although the qualifying format has changed over the years, tiebreakers have not. One reason is that ties in qualifying rarely happen, since qualifying lap times (and speeds) are measured to three decimal places. So, it is easy to guess that it is hard for two drivers to log the same exact number of seconds and decimal places, although it does happen. 

Under the qualifying format, which features two rounds worth of qualifying, the same tie-breaking procedures apply to advance from Round 1 to Round 2. So, on an oval track, if two drivers from Group A qualify for the fifth-best time in the group, the driver with a higher number of owner points will advance to the Final Round, where they can compete for the pole. 

What Happens If There Is A Tie In A NASCAR Race?

If there is a tie in a NASCAR race, the win would go to the driver that led the most laps in the race. If they led the same number of laps, NASCAR would look at which driver was in second for the highest number of laps. The procedure continues until they determine a winner. 

So, if both drivers tie for first, both having spent 50 laps in second, but Driver A spent 25 laps in third while Driver B was there for 35 laps, then Driver B wins the race. However, if they ran in second for the same number of laps, it would go to who ran the most laps in third place, and so on until there is a tiebreaker. This applies to lower positions too.


• While very rare, it is possible for there to be a tie in NASCAR qualifying or in a race

• In qualifying, the tie-breaker rule involves whoever has scored the most owner points

• In a race, the win goes to whoever spent the most laps in the highest position

What Happens If Two Drivers Tie For The NASCAR Championship?

The NASCAR Cup Series Championship has a playoff system that gives the top 16 drivers a chance to win. But with 26 regular season races and only 16 playoff slots, it is more than possible that up to 26 drivers can win one race apiece. While this would be an ultra-rare occurrence, it is theoretically possible. 

So just like with qualifying and winning, NASCAR has a procedure in place to ensure only 16 drivers make it into the playoffs. To break the tie, it goes down to the drivers who accumulated the highest number of points during the regular season. 

The same holds true for a scenario if fewer than 16 drivers won races. Suppose just 15 drivers won, which means the 16th and final driver to enter the playoffs would not have won a race. The 16th driver would simply be the driver that finished highest in the points standings without a win.

Elimination Rounds

Once the 16 playoff seeds are set, the elimination rounds begin, starting with the Round of 16. After three races, four drivers are eliminated, and the Round of 12 begins. After three more races, the Round of 8 begins, and after another three, the Championship Four – NASCAR’s version of the Final Four – will occur for the final race at Phoenix.

The only way there can be a tie in the Championship Four Round would be if the top two drivers in contention place in the same exact spot. At this point, the NASCAR Cup Championship would go to the driver who raced for the most laps in the highest overall position. So, if Driver A spent 50 laps in second place, but Driver B spent only 35, then Driver A wins the championship. 

If two drivers have accumulated the same number of points following the elimination races, then the tie would be broken by wins. So, if drivers C and D tied for fourth with the same number of points, but Driver W won a race during that playoff round, they would advance to the next round

If neither driver recorded a win, then the driver with the higher finish in the final race at the end of each round would advance to the next round.

Has There Ever Been A Tie In NASCAR?

There has been one officially recorded tie in NASCAR, and it occurred at the Firecracker 400 at Daytona in 1974. Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker crossed the line at the same time, both classified as finishing in third place. There has never been a tie for the race win in NASCAR. 

While ties are rare given electronic scoring, NASCAR used to use handheld stopwatches to score drivers’ lap times as they crossed the start-finish line, and fully electronic timing wasn’t introduced until 1993. This led to disputes as to who actually won the race, which was the case between Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp in the 1959 Daytona 500 (Petty was declared the winner 3 days later).

In these cases, NASCAR would honor the dispute by using video evidence to determine the winner. But there was at least one instance where a tie did occur, during the 1974 Firecracker 400 when Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker tied for third place, which NASCAR scored as a dead heat

The 5 Closest NASCAR Finishes

1. 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 (0.002 Seconds)

It was a close one between Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington. And for much of the race, it looked as though Busch had this one won until two laps to go, when Busch and Craven started trading paint, knocking one another loose. Ultimately, Craven pulled ahead on the last lap and won the race in dramatic fashion. 

2. 2011 Aaron’s 499 (0.002 Seconds)

Arguably the wildest finish in NASCAR history, as Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, and Jimmie Johnson ran three-wide prior to reaching the checkered flag. Tied for the closest race in NASCAR history, NASCAR gave Johnson the win while Bowyer took second and Gordon took third. Interestingly, Johnson was third heading into the final turn before edging out Bowyer and Gordon. 

3. 1993 DieHard 500 (0.005 Seconds)

This one was close, but the broadcast was the first to realize Dale Earnhardt edged out Ernie Irvan for the win. The entire final lap saw Irvan on the inside and Earnhardt on the outside and, for most of the lap, it looked as though Irvan edged out Earnhardt. But the Intimidator made one last push and edged out Irvan. 

4. 2007 Pepsi 400 (0.005 Seconds)

This one involved Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch battling it out at Daytona for the final 32 laps. This was a special win for McMurray, who had not won a race since 2002 when he was just a part-time driver subbing for an injured Sterling Marlin. The win broke McMurray’s 166-race winless streak. 

5. 2001 Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 (0.006 Seconds)

Taking place just three weeks after the death of Dale Earnhardt, this one saw Kevin Harvick, Earnhardt’s replacement driver, win his first race. With five laps remaining, Harvick took the lead, but Jeff Gordon steamrolled on and caught up with Harvick. Gordon, however, could not complete the comeback, allowing Harvick to score one of the closest wins in NASCAR history. 

Final Thoughts

When there is a tie in NASCAR, the driver who ran the most laps in the highest position longer will earn the win. So, if Driver A led the most laps as opposed to Driver B, Driver A wins. If they led the same number of laps, then it would go to who ran the highest number of laps in second place.