Photographer Captures Unique Shot of a Legendary NASCAR Photo Finish

A NASCAR official in the foreground waves the checkered flag as Daniel Suárez beats Kyle Bush and Ryan Blaney across the finish line.
Hampton, Georgia — February 25, 2024: Daniel Suárez, driver of the #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, crosses the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Zero Sugar Ford, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. | Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

The second race of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season was an absolute thrill, with a trio of cars crossing the finish line side-by-side, creating a “photo finish” and one of the most incredible endings to a race ever. Photographer Alex Slitz was at the finish line next to the NASCAR official waving the checkered flag, capturing one of the best photos ever of a photo finish.

On the final lap of the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, February 25, Kyle Busch (#8), Ryan Blaney (#12), and Daniel Suárez (#99) battled their way around the 1.54-mile qual-oval track, neck and neck until the checked flag.

Ultimately, as Slitz saw first-hand and brilliantly captured, Suárez piloted his #99 Chevrolet across the line first by a mere 0.003 seconds. You can see Slitz wearing a gray bicycle helmet in the video above.

While it wasn’t the closest finish ever — a pair of two-car battles were separated by just 0.002 seconds in 2003 and 2011 — Suárez’s nail-biting victory is the closest three-car battle in NASCAR Cup Series history and a remarkable sporting moment.

How Photojournalist Alex Slitz Captured One of the ‘Most Exciting’ Shots of His Career

“This image has to be one of the most exciting of my career,” Slitz tells PetaPixel over email of his finish line capture. “I shot this handheld standing next to the flagman. Photographers with Getty Images are the only ones in the stand, so it’s a truly unique shot.”

 Photographer Alex Slitz next to a NASCAR official during the three-way photo finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024.
Getty Images motorsports photographer Christopher Graythan captured this image of Alex Slitz at work during the start of the race. He shot from the same position for the race’s finish. | © Christopher Graythen / Getty Images

Slitz took the finish line photo using a Canon EOS R3 mirrorless camera and a Canon 15mm fisheye lens.

Although the fantastic shot makes it easy to believe that Slitz is a seasoned motorsports vet, he says he’s very new to NASCAR and motorsports photography. It was only his third race weekend as a photographer.

“For most of my career, I was a staff photographer at various newspapers with an emphasis on sports,” Slitz explains. “My first race was the Bank of America Roval 400 in 2022, which was a road course when I was a staff photographer at the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina. By the end of the day, I was hooked as a photographer and as a fan of the sport.”

“My first race with Getty Images was the Quaker State 400 in 2023, and unfortunately, that was cut short due to rain. Although I have covered Xfinity and truck series races this was my first complete Cup Series race on a standard track. I have never seen a finish like this. The closest thing that comes to mind is Ross Chastain’s wall-ride at Martinsville in 2023 and if you haven’t seen that look it up, it’s mind-blowing.”

One of the most exciting parts of a race weekend is not simply the race; it’s the surrounding festivities, the air of excitement, and all the fans.

“I think the images of cars on the track are only a fraction of the story surrounding a race. Each sport has a culture that comes along with it and it’s our job to show it,” the photographer says.

Group of NASCAR race cars take a corner at Atlanta Motor Speedway at dusk.
Hampton, Georgia — February 25, 2024: A general view of racing during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. | Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

Slitz recalls that when he was in college, he heard a talk from photographer Sam Abell, who imparted wisdom concerning the importance of “providing context, emotion, and detail when trying to tell a story.”

“That’s always in my mind when I’m on assignment.”

The Speed and Intensity of Motorsports Photography Pushes a Photographer’s Skills

As for how working a motorsports assignment compares to other sports, Slitz says motorsports is among the most challenging.

“Logistically, it’s a huge undertaking,” he says. “Getty Images photographers work as a team when covering larger events like this and assignments are planned out in advance for complete coverage. My assignment for the race was flag stand at the start and finish, and the outside of the track. I usually stuck to turns one and two and the roof. With the size of the track and my given assignment on the day, I have to plan my shots and be prepared when I’m in place. This definitely pushes me creatively.”

“One of the things I’ve found at NASCAR compared to, say, football or basketball is how fast things can happen. I spent years covering University of Kentucky basketball which will always hold my favorite spot. With basketball, if a player puts up 30 points on any given night, I can spend my time shooting them. In instances like Sunday’s race, Daniel Suárez took the lead at the very end, and I had a matter of seconds to make my images.”

More Sports Photography

More of Alex Slitz’s photography is featured on Instagram and his website. The photojournalist is also active on X (Twitter).

Image credits: Photos courtesy of Alex Slitz / Getty Images