HomeSportsNascarDarlington Throwback: Ricky Craven, Kurt Busch duel in closest finish in NASCAR history

Darlington Throwback: Ricky Craven, Kurt Busch duel in closest finish in NASCAR history

by Jonathan Howard
Kurt Busch Ricky Craven finish
(Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

With it being Throwback Weekend, we thought we’d get this Kurt Busch throwback out in the closest finish in NASCAR history. It was 2003 at Darlington. At the time, it was dubbed the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, and a 24-year-old Busch was trying to fight off a veteran in Ricky Craven.

Darlington has been home to some of the most terrifying wrecks and exhilarating finishes in NASCAR history. However, Ricky Craven edging out Kurt Busch in 2003 is the ultimate close finish. The difference? Well, the Pontiac Grand Prix had a longer front bumper on it.

Heading into this race, Busch had finished P2 at Daytona and Carolina while suffering P38 and P40 results at Las Vegas and Atlanta. It was a mixed bag for Busch and his Roush Racing team.

Meanwhile, Craven was suiting up for PPI Motorsports. He had finishes of P26, P4, P36, and P12 leading up to Darlington. Up until this race, Craven only had one win to his name after a decade of Cup Series racing.

Craven was in that great Tide scheme while Busch rocked the classic Rubbermaid look. If only that Ford Taurus had a front end like the Grand Prix.

The call by the guys in the booth is just as iconic as the finish. “Have you ever?” “No, I’ve never!” There’s nothing else you can really say about watching that finish than that.

After this race, Kurt Busch went on to win at Bristol the next week. He would win three more times that season, including the second race at Bristol, and finished 11th in a tough Cup Series field. This would be Craven’s final victory and his final full season in the Cup Series. He finished 27th in the standings in 2003.

Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven are honorary starters for Darlington

To honor the 20th anniversary of the Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven finish, NASCAR is bringing both to the Goodyear 400. Busch and Craven will serve next to one another as honorary starters. Of course, Ricky will start a little bit ahead of Busch…

NASCAR has a lot of history and with this being the 75th anniversary, it is no wonder that they are highlighting so many great moments. Having Busch and Craven side by side one more time for this start is going to be awesome.

The two former NASCAR drivers will also serve as Grand Marshals for the Darlington Throwback Parade. It is going to be a party at The Lady in Black and these two are the guests of honor it would appear.

Of course, Kurt Busch will be cheering for his 23XI Racing team while at the track. I guess Ricky Craven will hope that no one upstages his win from 20 years ago. Not that they could, that is.