2003 Aaron's 499

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2003 Aaron's 499
Race details
Race 8 of 36 in the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season
Date April 6, 2003 (2003-April-06)
Official name Aaron's 499
Location Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Alabama
Course Permanent racing facility
2.66 mi (4.28 km)
Distance 188 laps, 500.08 mi (804.8 km)
Weather Temperatures up to 78.1 °F (25.6 °C); wind speeds reaching up to 12 miles per hour (19 km/h)[1]
Average speed 144.625 miles per hour (232.751 km/h)
Pole position
Driver Evernham Motorsports
Time 51.349
Most laps led
Driver Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports
Laps 65
No. 8 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Television in the United States
Network Fox Broadcasting Company
Announcers Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds

The 2003 Aaron's 499 was held on April 6, 2003, at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. It was the 8th race of 36 in the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. Jeremy Mayfield was the polesitter.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the race, his first win of the season and fourth consecutive at Talladega, while Kevin Harvick finished second and Elliott Sadler finished third. This was also the fifth consecutive restrictor plate race win for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. stretching back to the previous year's spring Talladega race. There were six cautions, 16 different leaders and 43 lead changes. The Big One did not take long, collecting 27 cars on the fourth lap — the largest crash in a Cup race in the modern era.

The Big One[edit]

On lap 4, as the field entered turn 1, Ryan Newman (who already had a violent blowover at the rain shortened Daytona 500 in February) blew a tire, smashed hard into the turn 1 wall, and almost turned on his side. Mayhem ensued as cars behind him checked up trying to avoid Newman, who spun across the middle of the track and collected an additional 26 cars. One of Newman's tires came off, got struck by Ricky Rudd's hood, and bounced right over the catch fence, landing in a restricted access area.

A total of 27 cars were involved, making it the largest recorded crash in the history of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. It was also the second largest-crash overall in modern NASCAR, behind a 30 car crash on the back straightaway in Talladega's Busch race the year before. Damage to the cars involved ranged from no damage to severe damage: Hermie Sadler, Casey Mears, Johnny Benson, and some others were out immediately. Rusty Wallace and Jerry Nadeau returned but retired after making a limited number of laps following repairs. Matt Kenseth and race winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also had damage - Kenseth finished inside the Top 10 on the lead lap. After the wreck, there were only 16 cars that had no damage. The previous day, the "Big One" occurred during the Busch race in turn four on lap 10, when Johnny Sauter blew a tire in the middle of the pack, collecting 22 cars.

Cars involved in the crash[edit]

  1. 0- Jack Sprague
  2. 01- Jerry Nadeau
  3. 02- Hermie Sadler
  4. 09- Mike Wallace
  5. 1- Steve Park
  6. 2- Rusty Wallace
  7. 4- Mike Skinner
  8. 6- Mark Martin
  9. 7- Jimmy Spencer
  10. 8- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (eventual winner)
  11. 10- Johnny Benson
  12. 12- Ryan Newman
  13. 16- Greg Biffle
  14. 17- Matt Kenseth (championship leader)
  15. 18- Bobby Labonte
  16. 20- Tony Stewart
  17. 21- Ricky Rudd
  18. 25- Joe Nemechek
  19. 30- Jeff Green
  20. 41- Casey Mears
  21. 42- Jamie McMurray
  22. 43- John Andretti
  23. 45- Kyle Petty
  24. 49- Ken Schrader
  25. 54- Todd Bodine
  26. 77- Dave Blaney
  27. 99- Jeff Burton

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s comeback[edit]

Perhaps the most well noted one involved was Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who started in 43rd place because of an engine change after qualifying. In the crash, Earnhardt, Jr. went off the banking and down into the grass, making contact with Jeff Green's car that damaged his fender. He struggled for most of the race, at times going close to a half-lap down, until late in the race when he took the lead away from Matt Kenseth, who was also involved earlier, and won his fourth straight race at Talladega. Earnhardt, Jr. swept the weekend, having won the Busch Series race the previous day. Jimmie Johnson led the most laps of the race, but had a 15th-place finish when he spun out right before the white flag. By coincidence, the Big Ones that unfolded in both the weekend's Cup and Busch races were the result of a car blowing a tire in the middle of the track (Ryan Newman in turn 1 in the Cup race, Johnny Sauter in turn 4 in the Busch race).

Double yellow line controversy[edit]

Earnhardt, Jr. was involved in a controversial decision at the end of the race where it appeared he went below the yellow line in an attempt to improve position. As the cars were racing down the back straightaway, leader Matt Kenseth made a lane change, going to the outside to block Jimmie Johnson. Earnhardt Jr. was on the inside and was drafting with Elliott Sadler when Kenseth started moving low in an attempt to block Earnhardt; Earnhardt stormed well below the line entering the turn three apron as he passed Kenseth. NASCAR ruled that Earnhardt was forced below the line as his car's nose had already passed Kenseth's nose by the time Kenseth made the block, making it a clean pass in their opinion, this even though Earnhardt was nowhere close to clearing Kenseth when he hit the apron — what the rule was ostensibly intended to prevent. Some sanctioning bodies, such as the Indy Racing League, would have called Kenseth for violating the blocking rule — a driver is not allowed to make two lane changes on a straightaway, which is a penalty; the ethic against blocking, however, holds no weight in NASCAR given the fendered nature of the cars. The yellow line rule's absurdity belatedly led to discussion in the sanctioning body in January 2010 to possibly rescind it, though it was decided to maintain the rule "for the time being," according to NASCAR official Robin Pemberton.

In the years to come, the yellow lines would provide several controversial moments, such as Regan Smith being penalized by passing Tony Stewart below the yellow line in the fall race in 2008. NASCAR decided to put another yellow line for the next year, in both Daytona and Talladega.

Race results[edit]

Top Ten Finishers
Pos. Car No. Driver Sponsor Make Team
1 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Budweiser Chevrolet Dale Earnhardt Inc.
2 29 Kevin Harvick GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Richard Childress Racing
3 38 Elliott Sadler M&Ms Ford Robert Yates Racing
4 32 Ricky Craven Tide Pontiac PPI Motorsports
5 5 Terry Labonte Kellogg's/got milk? Chevrolet Hendrick Motorsports
6 40 Sterling Marlin Coors Light Dodge Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
7 22 Ward Burton Caterpillar Dodge Bill Davis Racing
8 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet Hendrick Motorsports
9 17 Matt Kenseth DeWalt Power Tools Ford Roush Racing
10 31 Robby Gordon Cingular Wireless Chevrolet Richard Childress Racing

Failed to Qualify[edit]

Race Facts[edit]

  • Average Speed: 144.625 mph
  • Margin of Victory: .125 seconds
  • Time of Race: 03:27:28
  • Lead Changes: 43
  • Cautions: (6) 5-13, 37-40, 64-67, 84-89, 91-94, 133-137[2]

Points Standings after Race[edit]

See also[edit]