March 16, 2003: Too Close to Call at the Track "Too Tough to Tame"


DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 16, 2008) – Darlington Raceway has long been known as the track “Too Tough to Tame” and the track that produces the most competitive and exciting racing on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit. The close competition and excitement was never more evident than on March 16, 2003 during the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400.

An exciting race from the drop of the green-flag, it came down to a late race battle between veteran driver Ricky Craven and relative new comer Kurt Busch.

Both drivers started near the rear of the field, Craven qualified 31st while Busch qualified 6th but had to drop to the rear due to an engine change, and both had their work cut out for them. Craven and Busch battled a tough field all day but their persistence paid off with both drivers making their way to the front of the field and Busch taking the lead for the first time on lap 269.

Although Busch had taken the lead, Craven would not be discouraged, he caught Busch in the closing laps of the race and was challenging for the race lead.

After taking the white flag Craven nearly passed Busch twice before preparing for a final run at victory lane, coming out of turn 4 and the two drivers banged together several times as they charged towards the checkered flag with Craven snatching the victory by inches, literally.

Craven’s margin of victory, a mere two thousandths of a second, setting a record for the closest finish in NASCAR history, a record that still stands today, five years later.

“Winning at Darlington is what was important,” Craven said.  “As the years have gone on, it has been about the event and the spectacular finish, but, as a racer, it was always about winning at Darlington.”

Although he came within inches of capturing that elusive Darlington victory, Busch still has fond memories of that day.

“Craven and I were both in the same state of mind in that we both wanted to win, but neither of us was going to wreck the other guy,” Busch said. “It was the ultimate example of two guys racing as hard as they could to win. If that same situation played out again a hundred times, 99 of them would probably end with a big crash before they got to the finish line. To this day, every time I think back about that race I have to say that it was pretty incredible.”

Don’t miss your chance to see another incredible finish at Darlington Raceway when the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series take on the track “Too Tough to Tame” in the Dodge Challenger 500 on May 10, 2008. The racing action kicks off with the NASCAR Nationwide Series Diamond Hill Plywood 200 on May 9th. Order your tickets now by calling 1-866-459-RACE or logging onto

Related Topics

History, Kurt Busch, Ricky Craven

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