DENVER, Colo. – “The memory is vivid and the outcome is unfortunately the same,” said Kurt Busch, 10 years after his historic loss to former NASCAR stalwart Ricky Craven at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, site of Saturday night’s Southern 500.
Craven’s margin of victory over Busch at the 2003 Darlington spring race was by two-thousandths of a second, the closest margin since the inception of electronic timing and scoring in1993.
With the 10-year anniversary of the classic Sprint Cup race approaching, Busch has been asked many times to describe the fender-to-fender, paint-peeling finish at the daunting 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval.
“I feel like each time I tell the story I am getting closer to winning it,” stated Busch. “Two drivers putting it on the line and not wrecking each other. We gave it our all. Coming off turn four and being neck-and-neck with Craven was wild, crazy and fun – I loved every second of it. It’s a memory that will last forever.”
Busch, who drives the No. 78 Furniture Row/Serta Chevrolet SS doesn’t take losing lightly. But when recalling the classic Darlington finish, the pain of losing is easily bridged to a positive feel for the 2004 NASCAR champion.
“We put on a battle for those last five to 10 laps and it was an epic feeling when we were doing it,” said Busch. “No matter if we won or lost it was a show that will last in the fans’ mind for a lifetime.”
At that 2003 Darlington race, which took place on March 16, Busch was driving the No. 97 Ford for Roush Racing while Craven was driving the No. 32 Pontiac for PPI Motorsports.
“Ricky and I are good friends and we have a lot of fun reminiscing about that race,” said Busch.
After seeing a win slip away at Darlington, Busch wants nothing more than to claim a victory at one of the crown jewel races on the Sprint Cup circuit.
“It’s the Southern 500, one of the most prestigious races on the NASCAR schedule,” explained Busch. “It’s a grueling track and a tough 500 miles. You have to dance with “The Lady in Black” all day and she’ll wear you out if you’re not careful.”
Busch added more thoughts about the Darlington track, “Each year the asphalt gets a little older and the track seems to age faster than most. It can chew up the tires really bad. You have to carry your speed off turn two, which is the fastest end of the track. But turn four – if you’re good in turn four then those are the guys usually hoisting the trophy at the end of the day.”