2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400
|Race 5 of 36 in the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season|
|Date||March 16, 2003|
|Official name||Carolina Dodge Dealers 400|
|Location||Darlington Raceway, Darlington, South Carolina|
|Course||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)|
|Average speed||126.214 miles per hour (203.122 km/h)|
|Driver||Robert Yates Racing|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.|
|No. 32||Ricky Craven||PPI Motorsports|
|Television in the United States|
|Network||Fox Broadcasting Company|
|Announcers||Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds|
|Radio in the United States|
|Radio||Motor Racing Network|
|Booth Announcers||Joe Moore and Barney Hall|
|Turn Announcers||Dave Moody (1 & 2) and Mike Bagley (3 & 4)|
The 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 was the fifth stock car race of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. It was held on March 16, 2003, before a crowd of 55,000, in Darlington, South Carolina, at Darlington Raceway. The 293-lap race, the 100th NASCAR Cup Series event at Darlington Raceway, was won by PPI Motorsports driver Ricky Craven after he started from the thirty-second position. Kurt Busch of the Roush Racing team finished in second place and Dave Blaney took a third-position result for Jasper Motorsports.
Elliott Sadler won the pole position by recording the fastest lap in qualifying. He lost the lead to Ryan Newman on the first lap, and regained it with an overtake on Newman at the start of lap two. He continued to maintain the first position, until Dale Earnhardt Jr. assumed the lead on lap 17. Earnhardt went on to lead for 91 laps, more than any other driver. On lap 197, Jeff Gordon led at a rolling restart after a yellow caution flag, ahead of Sadler. His hold on first place was relinquished when Busch passed him on the 269th lap. Afterward, Busch had a power steering failure, which led to Craven gradually lowering his advantage at the front of the field. By lap 291, Craven drew close enough to challenge Busch; after two attempts at a pass failed, he succeeded on the final lap, and won by two-thousands of a second, the joint-closest finish in series history.
It was Craven's second (and final) win of his career. The result advanced him from sixteenth to fifth in the Drivers' Championship, 143 points behind Matt Kenseth, who maintained the championship lead from Tony Stewart with an eighth-place result. Ford maintained its lead in the Manufacturers' Championship, five points in front of their nearest rival Chevrolet in second. Pontiac overtook Dodge in a battle for the third position with thirty-one races remaining in the season.
The 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 was the fifth of thirty-six scheduled stock car races of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. It was held on March 16, 2003, in Darlington, South Carolina, at Darlington Raceway, (the 100th NASCAR Cup Series race at the track), an intermediate oval track which began hosting NASCAR races in the 1950 Grand National Series. The standard track is a four-turn 1.366 mi (2.198 km) egg-shaped superspeedway. Its first two turns are banked at 25 degrees, while the final two turns are banked two degrees lower at 23 degrees. The front stretch (the location of the finish line) and the back stretch are banked at three and two degrees, respectively.
Before the race, Matt Kenseth led the Drivers' Championship with 618 points, with Tony Stewart in second place with 569 points. Michael Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson were third and fourth with 543 and 519 points respectively, ahead of Bobby Labonte in fifth place on 510. Johnny Benson Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top ten. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Ford led with a total of 30 points, three points ahead of their rivals Chevrolet in second position. Dodge in second place with 16 points, were one point ahead of Pontiac in the battle for the third position. Sterling Marlin was the race's defending champion.
Darlington Raceway had an highly abrasive track surface, which was heavily used and altered the complex of racing there. Drivers were required to strenuously manage their tire degradation, and track position was the most important aspect due to the difficulty of on-circuit overtaking. Gordon, who arrived as a favourite to win at Darlington Raceway due to a record of six Cup Series career victories there, expressed a desire to continue his good form at the track, "We didn't win in Atlanta, but we led laps and battled hard for the win. That was our first good finish of the season – even though we've run well at each event – and I think that will give us some momentum this weekend."
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, and the second and third sessions 45 minutes. In the first practice session, which was held in cool and overcast weather conditions, Elliott Sadler was fastest with a lap of 29.125 seconds, followed by Labonte, Ryan Newman, Gordon, Kurt Busch, Kenny Wallace, Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Dave Blaney.
43 drivers attempted to qualify; the maximum number allowed to race under NASCAR's qualifying procedure. Each driver was limited to two timed laps, with the starting order determined by the competitor's fastest times. In his 146th race start, Sadler was the 16th competitor to venture onto the track, and took the first pole position of his career with a lap of 28.902 seconds. He was joined on the grid's front row by Newman, who was 0.132 seconds slower, and stated he believed he could have bettered Sadler's effort had he not ran wide in the first and second turns. Jerry Nadeau qualified third, Jimmy Spencer started fourth, and Gordon took fifth. Busch had the pole position until Sadler's lap, and subsequent improvements from other competitors later in the session demoted him to sixth. Ward Burton took seventh in the final minutes of qualifying. Marlin altered the setup of his car to increase its handling stability and he took eighth. Waltrip and Todd Bodine completed the top ten starters. 37th to 43rd placed-qualifiers Jeff Burton, Joe Nemechek, Ricky Rudd, Kyle Petty, Tony Raines, Larry Foyt, and Brett Bodine used provisionals to enter the race. After qualifying Sadler said, "To get one this early and get it off our shoulders, you don't understand how big a relief this is and the weight that's been taken off my shoulders."
On Saturday morning Nadeau was quickest in the second practice session with a 29.496 seconds time ahead of Johnson, Bill Elliott, Stewart and Kenseth. Positions six to ten were occupied by Greg Biffle, Nemechek, Martin, Harvick, and Gordon. During the session, Busch's engine failed while he was on a slow lap; his team changed engines, which limited his on-track familiarisation. The car of Kenseth had smoke emitting from it due to an unsecured oil line, which was repaired by his mechanics. Later that day, Kenseth paced the final practice session with a lap of 29.379 seconds; Johnson duplicated his second-practice result in second and Gordon improved from tenth to third. Nemechek, Jeff Green, Newman, Marlin, Kenny Wallace, Martin and Stewart made up positions four to ten. Towards the conclusion of the session, the right side of Waltrip's vehicle struck an outside barrier at turn two due to a cut tire, and he switched to a back-up car.
Live television coverage of the race in the United States on Fox began at 12:30 Eastern Time (UTC−05:00). Around the start of the race, weather conditions were cool and overcast, with the air temperature 63 °F (17 °C). Harold King, a board member of Darlington Raceway, began pre-race ceremonies with an invocation. Ann Benson, president of music at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina, performed the national anthem, and Mark Sanford, the Governor of South Carolina, commanded the drivers to start their engines. During the pace laps, Busch moved to the rear of the field because he changed his engine, and Waltrip did the same after his switch to a back-up car. Grip was difficult to locate and any advantage that drivers gained was minimal.
When the race commenced from its rolling start, Newman moved past Sadler for the lead in the first turn, which he held until Sadler reclaimed the first position on the approach to the same corner at the beginning of lap two. On the third lap, Nadeau overtook Newman to progress to second. Three laps later, Nadeau lost control of his car heading into the first corner, and spun through 360 degrees. He avoided contact with a trackside wall and another car. Behind him, other drivers drove onto the apron to avoid a collision, as Jamie McMurray made contact with Kenseth, causing the latter to spin, and bringing out the first yellow caution flag. Some drivers who had tight handling cars elected to make pit stops for tires during the caution period. Sadler maintained the lead at the lap 10 restart, followed by Gordon. Four laps later, Jack Sprague spun through 360 degrees on the exit of turn four, prompting the second caution. Under caution conditions, those drivers who remained on the track during the first caution, including Sadler, made pit stops.
Spencer did not make a pit stop, and led at the restart on lap 17, followed by Earnhardt, Nadeau, John Andretti, and Green. On the following lap, Earnhardt's new tires enabled him pass Spencer for the race lead going into the third turn. Lap 23 saw the third caution: Johnson made contact with Marlin, who was sent veering into an outside barrier on the backstretch. A cut tire disabled the steering on Marlin's vehicle on the run to turn one, and he crashed against a wall. This caused a chain-reaction accident that involved Labonte, Sprague, Todd Bodine, Harvick, Robby Gordon, and Raines. The latter three drivers continued driving with aerodynamic deficiencies to their cars. Every driver, except for Jarrett and Jeff Gordon, made pit stops during the caution. Jarrett led the field back to racing speed at the lap 29 restart. On the 32nd lap, Earnhardt overtook Gordon and then Jarrett to return to the lead. The fourth caution was necessitated on lap 33 when Jeff Burton in ninth position had an engine failure, which obscured Stewart's vision, and caused the latter to ram into his car. Jarrett and Jeff Gordon made pit stops for tires under caution.
Earnhardt remained the leader from Nadeau and Spencer at the restart on lap 40. Two laps later, Stewart struck a trackside barrier; he continued without major damage to his car. Earnhardt led Nadeau by five seconds by the 50th lap, as Martin and his Roush Racing teammate Busch had advanced to third and fourth places. On lap 68, the fifth caution came out after Newman and Ward Burton raced each other in turn two. Burton drifted into the side of Newman's car and both cars spun without a collision against a barrier. Track officials used dry blowers to remove debris. During the caution, some drivers made pit stops for tires. Earnhardt retained the lead from Martin and Nadeau at the restart on lap 75. Twelve laps later, a fractured oil casing forced Nadeau to enter pit road and dropped out of contention for a strong result. Earnhardt established a lengthy advantage over Martin until slower traffic impeded him and allowed Martin to execute a pass for the first position on the 117th lap.
Green flag pit stops commenced on lap 121. Busch attempted to enter pit road eight laps later; he missed the entrance and completed one extra lap on the circuit as he remained on the same lap as the leader. On the same lap, Gordon passed Earnhardt for second place. Martin made his pit stop on the 132nd lap. He relinquished the lead to Gordon for a single lap. After the pit stops, Martin regained the race lead, with Gordon four seconds behind in second, and Kenseth third. By lap 169, Sadler had overtaken Kenseth and Gordon to advance to second position. The second round of green flag pit stops commenced on lap 185. Drivers who made pit stops in anticipation of an advancement in race position did not come to fruition because a sixth caution was waved on lap 191. The right front corner of Spencer's vehicle came into contact with Andretti's left-rear wheel, causing the latter to sustain a flat tire. Andretti veered towards an inside barrier on the frontstretch and sustained heavy damage to his car. Andretti was uninjured.
Some drivers, including Martin, made pit stops during the caution. Gordon led the field at the lap 197 restart. Martin made a brisk getaway to overtake Sadler and reclaim the second position. As pit stop strategy was about to factor into the final result of the race, the seventh (and final) caution was prompted on lap 237 because officials noticed debris between the third and fourth turns. Several teams called their drivers into the pit lane for their final scheduled pit stops. Gordon exited pit road in first place, as a mechanic for Martin's car dropped a left front lug nut, which required Martin to stop again. He fell to eleventh position. The race restarted on the 242nd lap, with Gordon ahead of Sadler, Busch, Craven, and Blaney. Busch, whose power steering began to cut out from lap 243, passed Sadler for second place shortly after, and he began to duel Gordon for the lead. Sadler subsequently got involved to make it three drivers competing for the race lead. Craven and Blaney used the three-car battle to draw closer to the front of the pack.
On lap 269, Gordon grazed the wall at turn two, which allowed Sadler to challenge him; his momentum was disrupted as he and Gordon went onto the backstretch. Busch drew alongside the pair, and he steered to the outside lane at the bottom of the track in turn three to move into the first position. On lap 273, Gordon and Sadler made contact with a trackside wall, allowing Craven to pass the duo and move into second five laps later. Sadler and Gordon then slowed with damage to their vehicle's toes. Craven, who had conserved the wear on his tires, had his crew chief Scott Miller read him his lap times and learnt he was faster than Busch, notwithstanding the former slowing in turn four to avoid rear tire burnout. Afterward, Busch's spotter informed him over the radio of Craven lowering his lead of three seconds, as it appeared that he would win the race comfortably. On the 283rd lap, Gordon drifted up the track, and hit a wall. Kenny Wallace made contact with Gordon's car, prompting the latter to drive down pit road to retire from the event.
With ten laps to go, Busch's power steering failed, depriving his arms and body of a physical sensation, reducing his stamina, and making his car more difficult to handle. On lap 289, Craven began to systematically close the gap to Busch, with Blaney drafting him. He caught Busch on the 291st lap; Craven steered to the inside of the track to attempt a pass on the approach to the first turn one lap later, which Busch responded to with a blocking manoevure popularised by Dale Earnhardt in that corner, something the former had anticipated. Busch maintained the lead on the backstretch, as Craven's car got loose because he could not remove his hands from the steering wheel and drive towards the barrier. Craven followed Busch in turns three and four, and went to the inside of him at the beginning of lap 292. The two made contact going into turn one; Craven slowed as Busch steered to the inside lane in turn two, after he was put towards a wall, and used his car's front bumper in a bump and run manoevure on Craven to regain the lead.
Busch opened up an advantage of about four-tenths of a second as he and Craven began the final lap. Craven followed Busch through the first and second corner as part of a plan to challenge Busch at the exit of the final turn. While Busch perceived this as the ideal situation, he had no plan for taking the victory; Craven on the outside was faster than Busch through turns three and four due to the latter having to fight to regain control of his car. Between turns three and four, Busch spun his tires lightly, and could not steer to block Craven on the inside, who opted for that approach into the frontstretch. There, Craven drew alongside Busch at the exit of turn four; both drivers got loose without slowing, and clattered into each other several times in the final , with smoke emitting from their tires.300 yd (270 m)
Ultimately, Craven won against Busch to earn his second (and final) career win by two-thousands of a second (about 4 in (0.33 ft)), the joint-closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history since the introduction of electronic scoring in the 1993 season.[N 1] Blaney took his best career result in third. Martin, Waltrip, Earnhardt, Sadler, Kenseth, Eliott, and Stewart completed the top ten finishers. There were seven yellow flag cautions, and fifteen lead changes amongst eleven different drivers during the race. Earnhardt's 91 laps led was the most of any driver. Craven led once for a single lap. It took 3 hours, 10 minutes, and 16 second to complete the event, and Craven's average winning speed was 126.214 mph (203.122 km/h).
After crossing the start/finish line, Craven corrected his car, and on the way back to pit road, asked his crew (who were ecstatic over his victory) who had won the race. Leaving turn two, he glanced to his left to read the scoring pylon informing drivers and spectators of the finishing positions, and learnt he had succeed. He ventured to victory lane, to celebrate his victory in front of a crowd of 55,000 spectators; the win earned him $172,150. Busch, known as "a fiery competitor", went to shake Craven's hand in an act of sportsmanship.
Craven said of his achievement, "It's the most fun I've ever had in my life. This is exactly what you dream of. It will probably never happen again, but it's the perfect way to win a race at the perfect track. I have always wanted to win a race here", and, "This is exactly what you dream of. It will probably never happen again, but it's the perfect way to win a race at the perfect track." Busch was complimentary of the finish, "I can't wait to go see him. That was the coolest finish I've ever seen, and I'm glad I got to be a part of it. This is something where we'll slap high-fives and drink a couple beers to later on." Blaney spoke of the potential significance over his third-place result, "It's huge. I felt like I could race with these guys, it's just tough to get everything put together. I feel like we've got a team that's running well. Everything is flowing pretty good. We're not changing much with these cars. They're fast off the truck and Bootie [Barker, Blaney's crew chief] has the whole team energized and doing a great job."
After the race, Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus were ordered to report to meet Cup Series director John Darby in an office in NASCAR's hauler to explain the collision with Marlin early on. Marlin said a slower car required him to reduce his pace, and did not believe neither he nor Johnson were responsible for causing the accident, "It was just racing. I've never seen so many people racing this hard so early, like there were just 10 laps left, especially at a place like this where you need to be patient." Johnson later admitted he was responsible for causing the accident, "We just had a conversation with John Darby and looked at some videos. We discussed it (and) we all agreed that it was just a racing incident.I just lost some traction off of Turn 4 and ran out of race track and pinched the No. 40 (Marlin) into the wall and crashed him and myself. It was just a racing mistake on my part."
Earnhardt, who finished sixth and led more laps than any other driver (91), explained an error with the installation of a lug nut prevented him from challenging for the victory, "This [Darlington] has really been an Achilles heel for us in the past. I feel real confident about this run today. I'm pretty happy. This is a tough track and it's hard to like. You know what I mean? It's like you can't live with it and you can't live without it, I'll tell you that." After his eighth-place finish, Kenseth spoke of his relief the collision with McMurray on lap six had not damaged his car's toe-in, "Eighth was great for us today - even if we weren't as beat up as we are. As bad as we ran the last couple times here, finishing eighth is really good." Gordon admitted he was fault for the collision on lap 273 that led to a reduction of his car's performance, and Sadler said he had committed "a stupid driving mistake" by following and heavily pressuring the former, and making the same driver error simultaneously.
Media reaction to the race was positive. Robin Miller of ESPN called the final two laps a sample of "what auto racing is all about. Two guys gassing, gouging and grinding to the checkered flag – damn the consequences" and the duel of Craven and Busch reminded him of a battle between Rick Mears and Gordon Johncock for the win in the last ten laps of the 1982 Indianapolis 500. Writing for the Daily Press, Al Pearce spoke of "a marvelous stock car race", The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Rick Minter declared "the racing gods smiled on the old track" after Darlington Raceway was under threat of removal from the NASCAR Cup Series, and David Poole of The Charlotte Observer stated it was "electrifying" and the conclusion was "the kind of finish people will be talking about for years." In December 2009, the event was voted "the top NASCAR race of the decade" by the media.
The race result kept Kenseth with 703 points in the lead of the Drivers' Championship, ahead of Stewart in second, who had 703. Waltrip remained in third with 698 points. Earnhardt gained six positions to progress to fourth place, and Craven's victory elevated him from sixteenth to fifth. Busch advanced to sixth position, and Blaney took over seventh place. Johnson, Nemechek and Sadler rounded out the top ten drivers. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Ford maintained the lead with 36 points. Chevrolet remained in second position with 31 points, ahead of Pontiac and Dodge with 24 and 19 points, respectively, with thirty-one races left in the season.
|1||38||Elliott Sadler||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||28.902||170.147|
|2||12||Ryan Newman||Penske Racing||Dodge||29.034||169.374|
|3||1||Jerry Nadeau||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||29.069||169.170|
|4||7||Jimmy Spencer||Ultra Motorsports||Dodge||29.083||169.089|
|5||24||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||29.086||169.071|
|6||97||Kurt Busch||Roush Racing||Ford||29.101||168.984|
|7||22||Ward Burton||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||29.111||168.926|
|8||40||Sterling Marlin||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||29.130||168.816|
|9||15||Michael Waltrip||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||29.138||168.769|
|10||54||Todd Bodine||BelCar Motorsports||Ford||29.139||168.764|
|11||19||Jeremy Mayfield||Evernham Motorsports||Dodge||29.153||168.682|
|12||17||Matt Kenseth||Roush Racing||Ford||29.156||168.665|
|13||2||Rusty Wallace||Penske Racing||Dodge||29.178||168.538|
|14||48||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||29.190||168.469|
|15||49||Ken Schrader||BAM Racing||Dodge||29.226||168.261|
|16||8||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||29.241||168.175|
|17||16||Greg Biffle||Roush Racing||Ford||29.246||168.146|
|18||77||Dave Blaney||Jasper Motorsports||Ford||29.255||168.094|
|19||42||Jamie McMurray||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||29.260||168.066|
|20||18||Bobby Labonte||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||29.264||168.043|
|21||23||Kenny Wallace||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||29.267||168.025|
|22||10||Johnny Benson Jr.||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||29.275||167.980|
|23||4||Mike Skinner||Morgan–McClure Motorsports||Pontiac||29.280||167.951|
|24||41||Casey Mears||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||29.293||167.876|
|25||9||Bill Elliott||Evernham Motorsports||Dodge||29.309||167.785|
|26||43||John Andretti||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||29.312||167.768|
|27||6||Mark Martin||Roush Racing||Ford||29.330||167.665|
|28||20||Tony Stewart||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||29.338||167.619|
|29||5||Terry Labonte||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||29.382||167.368|
|30||31||Robby Gordon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||29.423||167.135|
|31||32||Ricky Craven||PPI Motorsports||Pontiac||29.425||167.123|
|32||30||Jeff Green||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||29.462||166.913|
|33||29||Kevin Harvick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||29.463||166.908|
|34||0||Jack Sprague||Haas CNC Racing||Pontiac||29.484||166.789|
|35||1||Steve Park||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||29.498||166.710|
|36||88||Dale Jarrett||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||29.554||166.394|
|37||99||Jeff Burton||Roush Racing||Ford||29.637||165.928|
|38||25||Joe Nemechek||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||29.758||165.253|
|39||21||Ricky Rudd||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||29.592||166.292|
|40||45||Kyle Petty||Petty Enterprises||Ford||29.643||165.894|
|41||74||Tony Raines||BACE Motorsports||Chevrolet||29.819||164.915|
|42||14||Larry Foyt||A. J. Foyt Racing||Dodge||29.931||164.298|
|43||57||Brett Bodine||CLR Racing||Ford||29.657||165.816|
|1||31||32||Ricky Craven||PPI Motorsports||Pontiac||293||1801|
|2||6||97||Kurt Busch||Roush Racing||Ford||293||1751|
|3||18||77||Dave Blaney||Jasper Motorsports||Ford||293||165|
|4||27||6||Mark Martin||Roush Racing||Ford||293||1651|
|5||9||15||Michael Waltrip||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||293||155|
|6||16||8||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||293||1602|
|7||1||38||Elliott Sadler||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||293||1511|
|8||12||17||Matt Kenseth||Roush Racing||Ford||293||142|
|9||25||9||Bill Elliott||Evernham Motorsports||Dodge||293||138|
|10||28||20||Tony Stewart||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||293||134|
|11||23||4||Mike Skinner||Morgan–McClure Motorsports||Pontiac||292||130|
|12||17||16||Greg Biffle||Roush Racing||Ford||292||127|
|13||38||25||Joe Nemechek||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||292||1291|
|14||2||12||Ryan Nemwan||Penske Racing||Dodge||292||1261|
|15||39||21||Ricky Rudd||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||292||118|
|16||13||2||Rusty Wallace||Penske Racing||Dodge||291||115|
|17||15||49||Ken Schrader||BAM Racing||Dodge||291||112|
|18||36||88||Dale Jarrett||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||291||1141|
|19||32||30||Jeff Green||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||291||106|
|20||35||1||Steve Park||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||291||103|
|21||4||7||Jimmy Spencer||Ultra Motorsports||Dodge||291||1051|
|22||19||42||Jamie McMurray||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||291||97|
|23||21||23||Kenny Wallace||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||291||94|
|24||29||5||Terry Labonte||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||291||91|
|25||22||10||Johnny Benson Jr.||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||291||88|
|26||40||45||Kyle Petty||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||291||85|
|27||14||48||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||291||82|
|28||30||31||Robby Gordon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||291||841|
|29||7||22||Ward Burton||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||290||76|
|30||11||19||Jeremy Mayfield||Evernham Motorsports||Dodge||289||73|
|31||43||57||Brett Bodine||CLR Racing||Ford||288||—|
|32||42||14||Larry Foyt||A. J. Foyt Racing||Dodge||288||67|
|33||5||24||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||286||691|
|34||24||41||Casey Mears||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||286||61|
|35||3||1||Jerry Nadeau||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||286||58|
|36||33||29||Kevin Harvick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||283||55|
|37||20||18||Bobby Labonte||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||240||52|
|38||26||43||John Andretti||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||187||49|
|39||8||40||Sterling Marlin||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||145||46|
|40||34||0||Jack Sprague||Haas CNC Racing||Pontiac||144||43|
|41||41||74||Tony Raines||BACE Motorsports||Chevrolet||60||40|
|42||37||99||Jeff Burton||Roush Racing||Ford||32||37|
|43||10||54||Todd Bodine||BelCar Motorsports||Ford||22||34|
1 Includes five bonus points for leading a lap
2 Includes ten bonus points for leading the most laps
Standings after the race
- "The Race: Carolina Dodge Dealers 400". Jayski's Silly Season Site. Archived from the original on June 18, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- "2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400". Racing-Reference. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- "Weather Information for Darlington, South Carolina". Old Farmer's Almanac. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- "2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series TV Ratings". Jayski's Silly Season Site. Archived from the original on February 7, 2005. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- Ballard, Steve (March 14, 2003). "Darlington's 100th race may be its last in spring". Indianapolis Star. Archived from the original on March 14, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- Robinson, Matthew (January 15, 2005). The Greatest NASCAR Tracks. New York City, United States: Rosen Publishing. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-4042-1400-2. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- "Darlington Raceway". ESPN. Archived from the original on June 28, 2017. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
- "Drivers' Championship Classification After Atlanta". Jayski's Silly Season Site. Archived from the original on March 7, 2005. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- "Manufacturers' Championship Classification". Jayski's Silly Season Site. Archived from the original on February 4, 2005. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- Austin, Chad (March 13, 2003). "'Still too tough to tame': Gordon looks to maintain momentum at Darlington". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on April 22, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- Massaro, Mike (March 13, 2003). "Difficult Darlington full of history". ESPN. Archived from the original on June 28, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- Behrendt, Todd (March 12, 2003). "Fox Watch: Five who thrive at Darlington". Fox Sports. Archived from the original on April 28, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- Poole, David (March 14, 2003). "Elliott Sadler wins pole for Sunday's main event". The Charlotte Observer. Archived from the original on March 6, 2004. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- "Practice 1 Speeds: Carolina Dodge Dealers 400". NASCAR. March 2003. Archived from the original on March 20, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- "Entry List: Carolina Dodge Dealers 400". NASCAR. March 2003. Archived from the original on March 15, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- McLaurin, Jim (March 15, 2003). "Uncomfortable, but fast; Sadler claims pole for Sunday's race by winning the game of inches at Darlington". The State. Archived from the original on February 25, 2004. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- "Sadler claims maiden pole". Crash. March 14, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- Sims, Neal (March 16, 2003). "Eighth is enough". The Birmingham News. Archived from the original on April 22, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- "Practice 2 Speeds: Carolina Dodge Dealers 400". NASCAR. March 2003. Archived from the original on March 20, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- Ryan, Nate (March 16, 2003). "NASCAR Notes". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Archived from the original on April 1, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- Albert, Zack (March 15, 2018). "Too Tough to Forget" (page 1, page 2). NASCAR. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- "RR Troubles II: Kenseth Cured, Busch Blown" (Press release). Ford Racing. March 15, 2003. Archived from the original on April 13, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- "Practice 3 Speeds: Carolina Dodge Dealers 400". NASCAR. March 2003. Archived from the original on March 20, 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
- Pearce, Al (March 17, 2003). "A finish to remember: Craven beats Busch by 0.002 seconds". Daily Press. Archived from the original on April 2, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Joy, Mike; Waltrip, Darrell; McReynolds, Larry (March 16, 2003). NASCAR on Fox (Television production). Darlington, South Carolina: Fox Broadcasting Company.
- Cady, Matthew (March 17, 2003). "Craven wins Dodge Dealers 400". SpeedwayMedia. Archived from the original on April 1, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Poole, David (March 16, 2003). "Craven slips past Busch at Darlington". Charlotte Observer. Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. p. K6276. Retrieved September 11, 2019 – via Gale General OneFile.
- Ames, Vanessa (March 16, 2003). "I thought Bristol was next week – A detailed Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 recap". Frontstrech. Archived from the original on May 16, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Minter, Rick (March 16, 2003). "Craven wins by inches over Busch". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on April 11, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Blake, Ben (March 16, 2003). "One of the Best: Craven Beats Busch in Thriller". Speed. Archived from the original on April 13, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Kelly, Goodwin (March 17, 2003). "No denying Craven: No. 32 bumps off Busch at line". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Archived from the original on June 26, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Smith, Marty (May 10, 2013). "Darlington 2003 finish still resonates". ESPN. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- "Craven wins wild finish at Darlington". motorsport.com. March 16, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Long, Dustin (March 17, 2003). "Craven bumps, grinds to narrowest of wins". The Roanoke Times. Archived from the original on April 22, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Ryan, Nate (March 17, 2003). "Picture this: Craven wins in photo finish He holds off Busch in last-lap shootout". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Archived from the original on April 13, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- Vincent, Amanda (March 16, 2018). "NASCAR's Busch and Craven Recall Darlington Finish 15 Years Later". The Drive. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
- Rodman, Dave (March 19, 2003). "Johnson admits fault for crash at Darlington". NASCAR. Archived from the original on August 14, 2003. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
- Smith, Marty (March 17, 2003). "Kenseth brings wounded car home eighth". NASCAR. Archived from the original on April 1, 2003. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
- Long, Dustin (March 18, 2003). "Gordon's Mistakes Shows He's Fallable". News & Record. p. C1. Retrieved September 13, 2019 – via Gale OneFile: News.
- Miller, Robin (March 17, 2003). "Craven, Busch duel a classic". ESPN. Archived from the original on April 3, 2003. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
- "Ricky Craven's win at Darlington named NASCAR's top race of the decade". Los Angeles Times. December 21, 2009. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- "Race Lineup: Carolina Dodge Dealers 400". NASCAR. March 2003. Archived from the original on March 20, 2003. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
2003 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500
|Winston Cup Series
2003 Food City 500