THROWBACK: Ricky Craven Wins the Closest Ever NASCAR Race in History at the Darlington Raceway

Published 09/03/2021, 3:47 AM EDT
Sep 5, 2020; Darlington, South Carolina, USA; NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Ross Chastain (10) and Chase Briscoe (98) lead the field to restart during the VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports


In NASCAR, there have been many occasions where drivers fought for race wins right on the line. At the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, Kurt Busch battled with Ricky Craven for the win at the Darlington Raceway. At that time, Busch drove the #97  Ford for Roush Racing, and Craven was in the #32 Pontiac for PPI Motorsports.

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In the final lap, Busch led, while Craven hunted him down steadily. Soon enough, Ricky Craven managed to sneak up alongside Busch and they went wheel-to-wheel. It got to a point where they were literally trading paint jobs and crossed the line in unison. In the end, replays showed that Craven was inches ahead of Busch at the line, so he got the win.

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Afterwards, the two drivers congratulated each other for the dogfight. Without a doubt, the two of them thoroughly enjoyed the battle. They even hugged it out and acknowledged that they each did a great job. In the end, the veteran Craven defeated the up-and-coming star, Kurt Busch. Speaking of Busch, he has since gone on to win the Cup Series championship in the 2004 Cup Series season.

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Will there be another classic at the Darlington Raceway?

To be perfectly honest, it is quite difficult to say, because races can be unpredictable. However, the Darlington Raceway is well known as the ‘Track Too Tough to Tame.’ This is because, no matter how well a driver knows the track or bangs in perfect laps, it will catch them out eventually. On an interesting note, the most successful driver at the track is David Pearson, with 10 wins to his credit.

May 9, 2021; Darlington, South Carolina, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (18) and Denny Hamlin (11) race in front of William Bryon (24) during the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The race is considered a pseudo-initiation ceremony because when a driver brushes the wall, they ‘earn their stripe’. It is interesting to note that the Darlington track is shaped like an egg. This makes it a fairly unique design for a speedway, and a challenge for the drivers. However, despite its notoriety, the racers still love it and enjoy racing on the track to try and conquer it for good.

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Dhruv George

11993 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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