A Win at Darlington Can Define a Career, Just Ask Ricky Craven
When a driver hangs up his helmet knowing his or her racing career is complete, they often look back and remember that one defining moment that no one will forget. For someone like Dale Jarrett, it was his 1999 championship. Dale Earnhardt will forever be remembered for his seven titles, but most notably for his 1998 Daytona 500 triumph.
Ones such as Jimmie Johnson will be remembered for being a 5-time defending champion, while Trevor Bayne will never be forgotten for his underdog victory in 2011.
With this weekend's race happening at the infamous Darlington Raceway, many defining moments can be linked to this track. There's Bill Elliott winning the first ever Winston Million, then Jeff Gordon winning his bonus after an intense battle with Jeff Burton.
Regan Smith will forever remember his defining first career win came at the "Lady in Black."
But quite possibly, no defining moment has been replayed more often, no soundbite has been remembered more clearly, than the one that happened in 2003.
It was all about two cars, two drivers, and two laps. Kurt Busch, who was the strongest car all afternoon despite not having any power steering, was cruising in his No. 97 Sharpie Ford. The car making the move fast, and quick, through the field was Ricky Craven, his bright No. 32 Tide Pontiac slowly chipping away at the leader.
Two laps to go, Craven makes it to his bumper, and goes low, but neither give entering the first turn. Craven leads, then Busch punts him to get it back. Still, the desire burned...and Craven went for it.
White flag...Busch leads out of the first two corners, but Craven was closing fast. Entering turn 3, Craven gets there, and Busch gets loose. Craven goes low, Busch goes high, and the fight is on. The series of moments from the broadcast booth forever remembered as one of the defining calls NASCAR on FOX has ever given. Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip instantly went from broadcasters to fans.
LARRY: It's gonna be a drag race.
LARRY: They touch...they touch...
ALL THREE: Craven!! Craven got him!
DARRELL: Alright. What a finish!!
MIKE: Have you ever?
DARRELL: No I've never...
Not one fan wanted to leave. No one, except the broadcast team, knew who won the race when the cars came across the line. The fans simply couldn't believe what they had just witnessed.
That race, and that moment, put Ricky Craven on the map. He still calls winning that race the greatest moment in his career. What made it even better was that after the race was done, despite the agony of coming that close to victory, Busch went to victory lane, and gave Craven his due. The two smiled, shook hands, and enjoyed the moment.
It was then that Craven found out Busch had no power steering for the majority of the race. It went to show how much both drivers wanted that win.
No doubt, Craven gets chills talking about that victory as NASCAR returns to the historic egg-shaped track. With a reputation of being "Too Tough To Tame" every time the series comes to South Carolina, this victory will be brought up time and time again.
Craven's defining moment came at Darlington, and to this day stands as one of the greatest finishes NASCAR has ever witnessed.