This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Series — and the Nationwide Series, for that matter — head to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Darlington is one of the most historic and favorite tracks on the circuit, so much so that it’s garnered at least two nicknames over the years — the track “Too too tough to tame” and the “Lady in Black.” Whatever you prefer to call it, there’s no denying its mystique.
Considering its approximate mile-and-a-half length, Darlington wouldn’t be considered a superspeedway by any modern standard; that would make it more of an intermediate track. Really, it’s not even a mile-and-a-half; one-and-a-third miles is closer to the specific length. Still, Darlington Speedway is regarded as the first superspeeday in NASCAR. Maybe that’s because that distance was a super one in the early days of the sport, and Darlington began appearing on the NASCAR schedule pretty early on — 1950 as a matter-of-fact.
Despite its storied history, one doesn’t have to go back very far to find a history-making moment at one of NASCAR’s favorite tracks. Where were you when Ricky Craven barely beat Kurt Busch at Darlington in 2003? Okay, so maybe that race wasn’t one of those mainstream, historic, “where were you” moments. But it was a memborable moment, indeed, within NASCAR circles. That finish at Darlington is so memorable that the race is available on DVD. There are several DVDs out there that package highlights of memorable races, best races by specific drivers, etc., but you can get the entire 2003 race on DVD. It’s been awhile since I viewed that DVD, but it’s around here, somewhere.
Anyway, that race, and Craven and Busch, produced the closest finish since the implementation of electronic scoring in 1993. Craven crossed the line 0.002 seconds ahead of Busch to claim his final Cup win at Darlington in 2003. The finish was so close that, during the live TV broadcast, one commentator suggested that Craven may not have won the race if it hadn’t been for the kick-out on the nose of the Pontiac Grand Prix that was in NASCAR back then (Craven was in a Pontiac and Busch drove a Ford in those days). Craven, really and literally, “won by a nose.” That finish was a stark contrast to Ned Jarrett’s win by 15-laps in the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington.
That race in 2003 is one that Busch definitely hasn’t forgotten.
“The memory is vivid and the outcome is unfortunately the same,” Busch said. “I feel like each time I tell the story I am getting closer to winning it. “Two drivers putting it on the line and not wrecking each other. We gave it our all. Coming off turn four and being neck-and-neck with Craven was wild, crazy and fun – I loved every second of it. It’s a memory that will last forever.”
A lot has happened since 2003. Craven is no longer racing, and Busch has moved on from those days at Roush Fenway Racing to drive for Penske Racing, Phoenix Racing and now a Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing, but both drivers fondly remember being a part of NASCAR history at one of NASCAR’s most historic tracks just 10 years ago.
Like I mentioned before, NASCAR heads to Darlington this weekend. Stay tuned; you never know what might happen or what memories may be conjured up.
Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily (AutoRcngDaily) on Facebook. Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner.