2003 Food City 500
|Race 6 of 36 in the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series|
Map of the Bristol Motor Speedway
|Date||March 23, 2003|
|Location||Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee|
Permanent racing facility|
0.533 mi (0.858 km)
|Distance||500 laps, 266.5 mi (428.89 km)|
|Weather||Temperatures up to 62.6 °F (17.0 °C); wind speeds up to 1.96 miles per hour (3.15 km/h)|
|Average speed||76.185 miles per hour (122.608 km/h)|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports|
|No. 97||Kurt Busch||Roush Racing|
|Television in the United States|
|Network||Fox Broadcasting Company|
|Announcers||Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds|
The 2003 Food City 500 was the sixth stock car race of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. It was held on March 23, 2003, before a crowd of 160,000, in Bristol, Tennessee, at Bristol Motor Speedway, one of five short tracks to hold NASCAR races. The 500-lap race was won by Kurt Busch of the Roush Racing team after starting from ninth position. Matt Kenseth finished in second and Bobby Labonte came in third.
Although Ryan Newman won the pole position, he was immediately passed by Jeff Gordon at the start of the race. Twenty-eight laps later Rusty Wallace became the leader of the race. Gordon reclaimed the lead on lap 34 and led the most laps with 174. Jimmy Spencer passed Gordon for the lead on lap 161, and kept the position for a total of 139 laps. After the final pit stops, Busch became the leader of the race and maintained the position to lead a total of 116 laps, and to win his first race of the season. There were seventeen cautions and eleven lead changes among seven different drivers during the course of the race.
The race was Busch's first win in the 2003 season, as well as fifth of his career. The result advanced Busch to second in the Drivers' Championship, one hundred and thirty-eight points behind Kenseth, and nine ahead of Tony Stewart. Ford maintained its lead in the Manufacturers' Championship, eight ahead of Chevrolet, and eighteen ahead of Pontiac, who bumped Dodge to fourth place, with thirty races of the season remaining.
The Food City 500 was the sixth scheduled stock car race of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series, out of 36. It was held on March 23, 2003 in Bristol, Tennessee, at Bristol Motor Speedway, a short track that holds NASCAR races. The standard track at Bristol Motor Speedway is a four-turn short track oval that is 0.533 miles (0.858 km) long. The track's turns are banked from twenty-four to thirty degrees, while both the front stretch (the location of the finish line) and the back stretch are banked from six to ten degrees.
Before the race, Matt Kenseth led the Drivers' Championship with 760 points, with Tony Stewart in second place with 703 points. Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were third and fourth with 698 and 634 points respectively, with Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven were tied for fifth place with 617 points. Dave Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, Joe Nemechek and Johnny Benson Jr. rounded out the top ten. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Ford was leading with 36 points, five points ahead of their rivals Chevrolet. Pontiac, with 24 points, was five points ahead of Dodge in the battle for third place. Busch was the race's defending champion.
Ahead of the event, Speedway Motorsports unveiled an extended backstretch grandstand which added 43,826 to the track's capacity. Spectators at the track also planned a "patriotic rally" which showed support to troops serving in the Iraq War. This caused Speedway Motorsports to employ extra security during the event. NASCAR subsequently announced that a contingency plan was being prepared that included arrangements for travel and extra security for the next three races in the season. The United States Government gave its consent to NASCAR and the other professional sporting associations to resume with their normal schedules.
Practice and qualifying
Three practice sessions were held before the Sunday race—one on Friday and two on Saturday. The first session lasted 120 minutes, while the second and final sessions ran for 45 minutes. Jeff Gordon was fastest in the first practice session with a time of 15.149 seconds, ahead of Sterling Marlin in second and Ryan Newman in third. Ken Schrader (with a lap of 15.178) was fourth fastest, and Mike Skinner placed fifth. Busch, Kenny Wallace, Earnhardt, Jimmy Spencer and Nemechek rounded out the session's top-ten drivers. During the session, Jeff Green and Jamie McMurray both made contact with the wall, and both were required to switch to back-up cars for qualifying. Robby Gordon also hit the wall, after spinning sideways.
Forty-five drivers were entered in the qualifier on Friday afternoon; according to NASCAR's qualifying procedure, forty-three were allowed to race. Ryan Newman clinched his second pole position of the season, with a time of 14.908. The time made a new track record, and became the first lap set under 15 seconds in the Winston Cup Series. He was joined on the grid's front row by Jeff Gordon. Schrader qualified third, Rusty Wallace took fourth, and Bill Elliott started fifth. Skinner, Spencer, Earnhardt, Busch and Stewart completed the top ten positions. The two drivers who failed to qualify for the race were Larry Foyt and Hermie Sadler. After the qualifier Newman said, "That's the most amazed I've ever been after a qualifying run to go that fast and not anctipate it. We picked up over a quarter of a second from practice, and that's just unheard of at Bristol."
On Saturday morning, Kenseth was fastest in the second practice session with a lap of 15.683 seconds, ahead of Newman in second and Ward Burton in third. Busch was fourth quickest, and Rusty Wallace took fifth. Jeff Burton managed sixth. Kyle Petty, Mark Martin, Jack Sprague and Nemechek followed in the top ten. During the final practice session, Busch was fastest with a time of 15.701. Stewart and Jeff Gordon followed in second and third with times of 15.722 and 15.723. Dave Blaney was fourth fastest, ahead of Earnhardt and Craven. Kenseth was seventh fastest, Martin eighth, Jerry Nadeau ninth, and Ward Burton tenth. The session was temporarily suspended when Marlin spun on the track, but managed to not to collide with the barriers.
|1||12||Ryan Newman||Penske Racing||Dodge||14.908||128.709|
|2||24||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||15.068||127.343|
|3||49||Ken Schrader||BAM Racing||Dodge||15.094||127.123|
|4||2||Rusty Wallace||Penske Racing||Dodge||15.106||127.022|
|5||9||Bill Elliott||Evernham Motorsport||Dodge||15.108||127.006|
|6||4||Mike Skinner||Morgan-McClure Motorsports||Pontiac||15.135||126.779|
|7||7||Jimmy Spencer||Ultra Motorsports||Dodge||15.158||126.587|
|8||8||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||15.160||126.570|
|9||97||Kurt Busch||Roush Racing||Ford||15.161||126.562|
|10||20||Tony Stewart||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||15.175||126.445|
|11||22||Ward Burton||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||15.181||126.395|
|12||18||Bobby Labonte||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||15.188||126.337|
|13||01||Jerry Nadeau||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||15.200||126.237|
|14||32||Ricky Craven||PPI Motorsports||Pontiac||15.226||126.021|
|15||16||Greg Biffle||Roush Racing||Ford||15.228||126.005|
|16||40||Sterling Marlin||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||15.234||125.955|
|17||5||Terry Labonte||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||15.237||125.930|
|18||19||Jeremy Mayfield||Evernham Motorsports||Dodge||15.240||125.906|
|19||6||Mark Martin||Roush Racing||Ford||15.251||125.815|
|20||10||Johnny Benson Jr.||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||15.254||125.790|
|21||30||Jeff Green||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||15.254||125.790|
|22||74||Tony Raines||BACE Motorsports||Chevrolet||15.260||125.741|
|23||48||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||15.262||125.724|
|24||37||Derrike Cope||Quest Motor Racing||Chevrolet||15.265||125.699|
|25||25||Joe Nemechek||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||15.270||125.658|
|26||42||Jamie McMurray||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||15.283||125.5511|
|27||29||Kevin Harvick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||15.289||125.502|
|28||15||Michael Waltrip||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||15.297||125.436|
|29||99||Jeff Burton||Roush Racing||Ford||15.303||125.387|
|30||38||Elliott Sadler||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||15.304||125.379|
|31||77||Dave Blaney||Jasper Motorsports||Ford||15.314||125.297|
|32||45||Kyle Petty||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||15.317||125.273|
|33||11||Brett Bodine||Brett Bodine Racing||Ford||15.317||125.573|
|34||21||Ricky Rudd||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||15.341||125.077|
|35||1||Steve Park||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||15.348||125.020|
|36||31||Robby Gordon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||15.354||124.971|
|37||17||Matt Kenseth||Roush Racing||Ford||15.447||124.218|
|38||88||Dale Jarrett||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||15.435||124.315|
|39||41||Casey Mears||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||15.418||124.452|
|40||23||Kenny Wallace||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||15.383||124.735|
|41||54||Todd Bodine||BelCar Racing||Ford||15.514||123.682|
|42||0||Jack Sprague||Haas CNC Racing||Pontiac||15.600||123.000|
|43||43||John Andretti||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||15.448||124.210|
Failed to qualify
|44||14||Larry Foyt||A. J. Foyt Enterprises||Ford||15.598||123.016|
|45||02||Hermie Sadler||SCORE Motorsports||Pontiac||15.481||123.946|
1 Moved to the back of the field for changing engines
The race, the sixth of a total of thirty-six in the 2003 season, and the 2,000th in the Winston Cup Series, began at 1:00pm EST and was televised live in the United States on Fox. At the start of the race, weather conditions were sunny. Reverend Mike Rife, of the Vansant Church of Christ in Vansant, Virginia, began pre-race ceremonies with an invocation. Country music singer Rebecca Lynn Howard performed the national anthem, and representatives of the United States Armed Forces commanded the drivers to start their engines. During the pace laps, McMurray had to move to the rear of the grid because of him changing his engine.
Jeff Gordon accelerated faster than Newman off the line, getting ahead of him by the first turn. Rusty Wallace passed Newman for the second position one lap later. On lap 3, the first caution was given when Robby Gordon made contact with Petty, forcing him to spin sideways. Kenny Wallace also made contact with Ricky Rudd, but escaped with minor damage. None of the drivers made pit stops during the caution. Jeff Gordon led the field back up to speed at the restart. Jeremy Mayfield made contact with the wall on lap nine, and suffered a flat front right tire. Five laps later, a collision involving Dave Blaney, Michael Waltrip and Dale Jarrett prompted the second caution. Waltrip's car suffered heavy damage to the rear end of his car.
Almost immediately after the lap 20 restart, a collision between Casey Mears and John Andretti which collected Todd Bodine caused the third caution. Andretti's car sustained major damage to the front end. The race restarted on lap 29, with Rusty Wallace claiming the lead. One lap later, Busch and Stewart passed Schrader for seventh and eighth respectively. Earnhardt moved into third after passing Skinner on lap 33. One lap later, Jeff Gordon reclaimed the first position. On the 42nd lap, Earnhardt passed Rusty Wallace for second. Twelve laps later, Tony Raines stopped on track due to an engine failure, and the fourth caution was given as a result. All of the leaders elected to make pit stops during the caution.
Jeff Gordon maintained his lead at the restart, followed by Terry Labonte and Green. Stewart made contact with Newman, and collected Craven which prompted the fifth caution on lap 68. Behind the trio, Steve Park hit the rear of Johnson, causing the latter to spin sideways. Most drivers stayed on track during the caution, allowing Jeff Gordon to remain the leader on the restart. Skinner fell to eighth after being passed by Busch and Earnhardt on the 75th lap. Five laps later, Earnhardt passed Busch to claim sixth. On lap 85, Skinner fell from eighth to twelfth position. Kenseth, who started the race in thirty-seventh, had moved up thirty-four positions to third by lap 91. By the 111th lap, Jeff Gordon had maintained a half second lead over Terry Labonte. Thirteen laps later, Spencer and Stewart passed Kenseth for fourth and fifth respectively.
The pace car came out for the sixth caution on lap 136, after Skinner collided with the wall and his car caught fire. During the caution, all of the leaders elected to make pit stops. Jeff Gordon led on the restart, followed by Nemechek and Spencer. On the 150th lap, the seventh caution came out, after Sprague spun 180 degrees when he attempted to pass Benson and the two made contact. Jeff Gordon led on the restart, although he was passed by Skinner on lap 161. After starting the race in twenty-eighth, Kevin Harvick moved to sixth position by lap 169. Eleven laps later, Sprague spun sideways, prompting the eighth caution. During the caution, some of the leaders chose to make pit stops. Jeff Gordon led on the restart.
On the 198th lap, Jeff Burton made contact with Earnhardt, collecting Johnson, with all three cars escaping with minor damage. The ninth caution was prompted on the next lap, after Martin was sent spinning sideways from contact with Bill Elliott. Mears spun sideways before the caution was given. During the caution, some of the leaders elected to make pit stops. Harvick was the leader at the restart, followed by Spencer and Terry Labonte. Robby Gordon collided with the wall on lap 210, damaging his car and fell to twelfth position. Four laps later, Sadler passed Marlin for eighth. Spencer passed Harvick to reclaim the lead on the 217th lap. Nadeau spun sideways, prompting the tenth caution one lap later. Spencer maintained his lead at the lap 224 restart. On lap 226, Rudd and Bobby Labonte spun sideways, causing the eleventh caution.
The race restarted on lap 241. Two laps later, a multi-car collision occurred at turn 1 when Brett Bodine made contact with Terry Labonte, collecting Kenny Wallace, Robby Gordon, Petty, and Schrader; this would prompt the twelfth caution. Spencer remained the leader at the restart. On lap 256, McMurray spun sideways after contact with Robby Gordon and Ward Burton, causing the thirteenth caution. Stewart also made contact with Rudd, while Bobby Labonte spun sideways and managed to keep off the barriers. The race restarted on lap 263. On lap 265, Earnhardt lost two positions after being passed by Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kenseth. Eighteen laps later, Kenseth passed Jeff Gordon for the fifth position. By the 300th lap, Kenseth passed Johnson for third. On lap 315, Busch moved into the fifth position after passing Jeff Gordon.
Green flag pit stops began on lap 327 when Harvick made a pit stop. Kenseth passed Spencer to claim the first position on the 341st lap. Spencer lost another position to Busch four laps later. On lap 348, Bobby Labonte moved into fifth position after passing Johnson. Eleven laps later, Busch passed Kenseth to claim the lead. On the 367th lap, Earnhardt began to run out of fuel and made a pit stop one lap later. Bobby Labonte claimed the first position off Busch eleven laps later. On lap 390, the fourteenth caution was prompted, after Jarrett collided with the wall. Schrader spun before the caution came out and damaged the front end of his car. The race restarted on lap 404, with Busch reclaiming the first position. On lap 407, the fifteenth caution was given, after Petty spun sideways. Busch remained the leader at the restart, ahead of Bobby Labonte and Rudd. Kenseth passed Biffle for fifth on lap 420.
Five laps later, the sixteenth caution was prompted, when Ward Burton made contact with Robby Gordon coming off turn four and collected Petty who spun into the barriers at turn one. Busch led the field back up to speed on the lap 439 restart. On the 456th lap, Kenseth passed Rudd to claim third position. Nine laps later, Biffle passed Rudd for fourth position. Martin was spun in front of the race leaders on lap 470, but managed to continue. Three laps later, the pace car came out for the seventeenth and final caution, which was caused by Nemechek making contact with Stewart, (who just before made contact with Andretti) because of reduced visibility as Martin spun on track. Busch remained the leader at the lap 482 restart. Two laps later, Bobby Labonte was passed by Kenseth for second. On the 488th lap, Rudd reclaimed fourth position off Biffle. Busch crossed the finish line on lap 500 to win his first race of the 2003 season. Kenseth finished second, ahead of Bobby Labonte in third, Rudd in fourth, and Biffle in fifth.
Busch, speaking after the race.
Busch appeared in victory lane to celebrate his first win of the season in front of 160,000 people who attended the race. Busch also earned $162,790 in race winnings. Afterward, his crew chief Jimmy Fennig praised his performance, "Kurt Busch is awesome, so awesome. He gets up on the wheel and drives the hell out of that race car, and he made a call today that won him the race." Kenseth was happy with his second-place finish, commenting, "I feel lucky. Started provisional here at Bristol and coming home second. So, it was a great race. Me and Bobby had to go there a little at the end, and I got my fender knocked in there a little. I was hoping I could make a run at Kurt before that happened. But, it was a good race. It's always physical out there, and we didn't have a scratch on the car there until right at the end, so it was pretty good."
Bobby Labonte was happy with finishing third, commenting, "I got spun out twice and finished third. "It's a great day. How much greater could you want it to get?" Spencer, who led 139 laps of the race, was candid about his performance, "It should have been a first, but the Sirius Dodge boys are doing a good job. I wouldn't trade 'em. We made some mistakes, but we'll get better." Mears, who was involved in the lap 20 collision with Andretti and Todd Bodine, commented, "I don't know what happened. I was just going through the gears taking my time and it looked like somebody up front may have missed a shift or somebody may have got into somebody else." Terry Labonte, who was part of the race's biggest crash when Bodine made contact with him on lap 243, said that, "Any time you're in a race with a Bodine, you're liable to get in a wreck, and I did."
During the race, Jerry Nadeau and Ryan Newman were involved in a battle for position that resulted in the two colliding on the 219th lap. Once Nadeau returned to pit road, he was talking out of anger to Newman's team personnel about the incident. Once the argument ended, Nadeau commented, "It's a shame. It was a great car for us, the U.S. Army Pontiac. Damn lapped-car can't use his head. I don't know what Ryan (Newman) was thinking. He just kept coming down, kept coming down." Newman argued, "It looked to me like the 11 (Bodine) got into the back of the 01 (Nadeau) on that one deal." Kyle Petty, who was involved in the crash on lap 425, was taken to the circuit's infield medical center, and later taken for a precautionary visit at the Bristol Regional Medical Center to undergo medical evaluations. Petty's crash was measured at 80G, and he suffered injuries to his ribs and abdomen. Petty was replaced by former CART driver Christian Fittipaldi for the next round, the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway.
The race result left Kenseth leading the Drivers' Championship with 935 points. Busch, who finished first, moved to second on 797, nine points ahead of Stewart and eleven ahead of Waltrip. Earnhardt Jr. fell to fifth with 749 points. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Ford maintained the lead with 45 points. Chevrolet remained second on 37 points. Pontiac followed with 27 points, four points ahead of Dodge in fourth. Having increased his points lead, Kenseth said that he was happy and he would not change his driving style because of this change. He also added that his team would "have another six to eight months" before they would start to worry about their rivals making a challenge for the championship. The race took three hours, twenty-five minutes and twenty-two seconds to complete, and the margin of victory was .39th of a second.
|1||9||97||Kurt Busch||Roush Racing||Ford||500||1801|
|2||37||17||Matt Kenseth||Roush Racing||Ford||500||1751|
|3||12||18||Bobby Labonte||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||500||1701|
|4||34||21||Ricky Rudd||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||500||160|
|5||15||16||Greg Biffle||Roush Racing||Ford||500||155|
|6||16||40||Sterling Marlin||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||500||150|
|7||27||29||Kevin Harvick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||499||1511|
|8||23||48||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||499||142|
|9||2||24||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||499||1382|
|10||40||23||Kenny Wallace||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||499||134|
|11||26||42||Jamie McMurray||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||499||130|
|12||7||7||Jimmy Spencer||Ultra Motorsports||Dodge||498||1321|
|13||29||99||Jeff Burton||Roush Racing||Ford||498||124|
|14||4||2||Rusty Wallace||Penske Racing||Dodge||498||1261|
|15||14||32||Ricky Craven||PPI Motorsports||Pontiac||498||118|
|16||8||8||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||498||115|
|17||36||31||Robby Gordon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||498||112|
|18||5||9||Bill Elliott||Evernham Motorsport||Dodge||497||109|
|19||20||10||Johnny Benson Jr.||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||497||106|
|20||21||30||Jeff Green||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||497||103|
|21||30||38||Elliott Sadler||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||497||100|
|22||1||12||Ryan Newman||Penske Racing||Dodge||496||97|
|23||18||19||Jeremy Mayfield||Evernham Motorsports||Dodge||494||94|
|24||33||11||Brett Bodine||Brett Bodine Racing||Ford||494||91|
|25||28||15||Michael Waltrip||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||488||88|
|26||10||20||Tony Stewart||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||487||85|
|27||25||25||Joe Nemechek||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||469||82|
|28||13||01||Jerry Nadeau||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||456||79|
|29||19||6||Mark Martin||Roush Racing||Ford||451||76|
|30||35||1||Steve Park||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||446||73|
|31||43||43||John Andretti||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||440||70|
|32||39||41||Casey Mears||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||423||67|
|33||11||22||Ward Burton||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||422||64|
|34||32||45||Kyle Petty||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||422||61|
|35||42||0||Jack Sprague||Haas CNC Racing||Pontiac||409||58|
|36||38||88||Dale Jarrett||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||397||55|
|37||3||49||Ken Schrader||BAM Racing||Dodge||385||52|
|38||31||77||Dave Blaney||Jasper Motorsports||Ford||371||49|
|39||17||5||Terry Labonte||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||349||46|
|40||41||54||Todd Bodine||BelCar Racing||Ford||342||43|
|41||6||4||Mike Skinner||Morgan-McClure Motorsports||Pontiac||310||40|
|42||22||74||Tony Raines||BACE Motorsports||Chevrolet||52||37|
|43||24||37||Derrike Cope||Quest Motor Racing||Chevrolet||31||34|
1 Includes five bonus points for leading a lap
2 Includes ten bonus points for leading the most laps
Standings after the race
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2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400
|Winston Cup Series
2003 Samsung/Radio Shack 500