2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400

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2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400
Race details
Race 5 of 36 in the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
The photo finish between Craven and Busch
The photo finish between Craven and Busch
Date March 16, 2003 (2003-March-16)
Location Darlington Raceway (Darlington, South Carolina)
Course Permanent racing facility
1.366 mi (2.198 km)
Distance 293 laps, 400.238 mi (644.014 km)
Weather Temperatures reaching up to 64.4 °F (18.0 °C); wind speeds up to 11.1 miles per hour (17.9 km/h)[1]
Average speed 126.214 miles per hour (203.122 km/h)
Pole position
Driver Elliott Sadler Yates Racing
Most laps led
Driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Laps 91
No. 32
Ricky Craven
Cal Wells
Television in the United States
Network FOX
Announcers Mike Joy
Darrell Waltrip
Larry McReynolds

The 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 was held on March 16, 2003, at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina and was the fifth race of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. According to the members of the official NASCAR media website, this event has been declared to be one of the best races of the 2000s decade.[2]


The race was remembered for the finish as Ricky Craven won the race in a stunning, side panel rubbing battle to the checkers with Kurt Busch; at the start/finish line Craven edged out Busch by .002 thousands of a second.[3]

It was the closest finish in NASCAR Winston Cup Series history, although that mark his since been tied by Jimmie Johnson's finish over Clint Bowyer in the 2011 Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. In general, it is not the closest in history among the three major series, in the 1995 Total Petroleum 200, Butch Miller beat Mike Skinner by .001 in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Colorado. Earlier in the race, Busch missed entering pit road while green flag pit stops were occurring. Elliott Sadler won the pole for the race, his first of the season. It was also the final NASCAR win for Pontiac as they left the series at the end of the season and it was Dave Blaney's first top 5 finish with a third place effort.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. led the most laps of the race with 91 out of the 293-lap distance. Early in the race, Jerry Nadeau was running in second until he spun all by himself in turn one which brought out the first caution. The championship leader, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray made contact to avoid Nadeau and Kenseth spun, entering turn two. Just a few laps later, Jack Sprague got loose in turn four and spun around without any serious damage. Ryan Newman, who started second in this race and Ward Burton were running side by side until both of them were around in turn two. Soon after that, Sterling Marlin and Jimmie Johnson were running side-by-side, and both ran out of room sending Marlin in to the wall. A corner later, he would hit the wall again and collected Bobby Labonte, Tony Raines, Kevin Harvick and Sprague.

Closing laps[edit]

With 24 laps to go, polesitter Elliott Sadler was trying to take the lead from Jeff Gordon. His tentative bid for the lead in Turn 2 was unsuccessful, and 3rd place Kurt Busch was perfectly positioned to pass Sadler and Gordon on the backstretch without his momentum being disturbed. By 15 laps to go Busch had a 3 second lead over new 2nd place runner Ricky Craven, despite losing power steering in his Roush Racing Ford. By this time, Gordon had fallen nearly half a lap behind Busch after brushing the wall and damaging the toe in the right front. On Lap 284 he brushed the wall again in Turn 3, and was subsequently hit by Kenny Wallace right behind him, but the race continued under green.

As Gordon struggled with multiple pit stops, the battle for the lead was heating up. With 2 laps to go, Craven had caught Busch. He made his bid for the lead on the inside at Turn 1 after they were at a virtual dead heat at the start-finish line. They made light contact in Turn 1, making both cars slide up to the wall, with Craven's car leaning on Busch's. However, Craven pushed as soon as he cleared Busch, allowing the Vegas native to execute the bump n' run to reclaim the lead. Busch ran away down the backstretch, but Craven's car was clearly faster in Turns 3 & 4, and they were bumper to bumper at the white flag. This time, Craven made no attempt to pass Busch in Turns 1 & 2. Busch entered Turn 3 somewhat low and Craven high, but Busch slid high as Craven managed to cut to the bottom groove to draw even with Busch at the exit of Turn 4. At that moment Busch and Craven each got loose and corrected into each other (Busch up high, Craven down low), and the ill-handling cars continued to slam into one another as they sped towards the checkered flag, with Craven narrowly defeating Busch by a record margin of victory.

Race results[edit]

Pos No. Driver Manufacture Team Sponsor
1 32 Ricky Craven Pontiac PPI Motorsports Tide
2 97 Kurt Busch Ford Roush Racing Rubbermaid
3 77 Dave Blaney Ford Jasper Motorsports Jasper Engines & Transmissions
4 6 Mark Martin Ford Roush Racing Viagra
5 15 Michael Waltrip Chevrolet Dale Earnhardt Inc. NAPA Auto Parts
6 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Dale Earnhardt Inc. Budweiser
7 38 Elliott Sadler Ford Robert Yates Racing M&M's
8 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Roush Racing DeWalt Tools
9 9 Bill Elliott Dodge Evernham Motorsports Dodge Dealers/UAW
10 20 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Joe Gibbs Racing The Home Depot
11 4 Mike Skinner Pontiac Morgan-McClure Motorsports Kodak Max Film
12 16 Greg Biffle Ford Roush Racing Grainger
13 25 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Hendrick Motorsports UAW-Delphi
14 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Penske Racing Alltel
15 21 Ricky Rudd Ford Wood Brothers Racing Motorcraft
16 2 Rusty Wallace Dodge Penke Racing Miller Lite
17 49 Ken Schrader Dodge BAM Racing 1-800-CALL-ATT
18 88 Dale Jarrett Ford Robert Yates Racing UPS
19 30 Jeff Green Chevrolet Richard Childress Racing American Online
20 1 Steve Park Chevrolet Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Pennzoil
21 7 Jimmy Spencer Dodge Jim Smith Racing Sirius Satellite Radio
22 42 Jamie McMurray Dodge Chip Ganassi Racing Havoline
23 23 Kenny Wallace Dodge Bill Davis Racing Stacker 2
24 5 Terry Labonte Chevrolet Hendricks Motorsports Kellogg's
25 10 Johnny Benson, Jr. Pontiac MBV Motorsports Valvoline
26 45 Kyle Petty Dodge Petty Enterprises Georgia Pacific / Brawny
27 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Hendricks Motorsports Lowe's
28 31 Robby Gordon Chevrolet Richard Childress Racing Cingular Wireless
29 22 Ward Burton Dodge Bill Davis Racing Caterpillar
30 19 Jeremy Mayfield Dodge Evernham Motorpsorts Dodge Dealers / UAW
31 57 Brett Bodine Ford Team CLR CLR
32 14 Larry Foyt Dodge A.J. Foyt Racing Harrah's
33 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Hendrick Motorsports DuPont
34 41 Casey Mears Dodge Chip Ganassi Racing Target
35 01 Jerry Nadeau Pontiac MB2 Motorsports U.S. Army
36 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Richard Childress Racing GM Goodwrench
37 18 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet Joe Gibbs Racing Interstate Batteries
38 43 John Andretti Dodge Petty Enterprises Cheerios
39 40 Sterling Marlin Dodge Chip Ganassi Racing Coors Light
40 0 Jack Sprague Pontiac Haas CNC Racing NetZero
41 74 Tony Raines Chevrolet BACE Motorsports BACE Motorsports
42 99 Jeff Burton Ford Roush Racing Citgo
43 54 Todd Bodine Ford BelCar Racing U.S. National Guard

Standings after the race[edit]

Matt Kenseth (seen in 2009) led the points standings after the race
Pos Driver Points
1 Matt Kenseth 760
2 Tony Stewart 703
3 Michael Waltrip 698
4 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 634
5 Kurt Busch 617
6 Ricky Craven 617
7 Dave Blaney 603
8 Jimmie Johnson 601
9 Joe Nemechek 601
10 Johnny Benson, Jr. 575


  1. ^ Weather information for the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at The Old Farmers' Almanac
  2. ^ 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Voted Best NASCAR Race of the Decade at Darlington Raceway
  3. ^ 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400
  4. ^ "2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 - Racing Reference.info". 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
2003 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500
NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Succeeded by
2003 Food City 500