COLUMBIA, S.C. —
Craven had rallied from fourth and drew even with Busch for the lead with two laps to go. The pair bumped each other throughout and both appeared headed into the wall during the final moments. Craven edged in front on the final turn, the two cars grinding into each other as they slid past the finish line.
While the margin of victory has since been equaled — Jimmie Johnson defeated Clint Bowyer by .002 seconds at Talladega in 2011 — Busch believes nothing will ever match the show he and Craven put on at Darlington.
“This day we had two winners it seemed like, and that’s what gave it such a unique twist at the end,” he said. “Or maybe I’m just telling myself that because I keep losing this race by .002 of a second, and I’m never going to accept that, but it was a great race.”
And one that helped NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway retain a place in Sprint Cup racing. The track had been on notice that year that its crumbling infrastructure and dwindling crowds made it a candidate for closure.
Instead, the dramatic finish showed drivers, fans and NASCAR leaders the thrills the egg-shaped oval could produce. Then Darlington president Andrew Gurtis remembers the excitement in the late Jim Hunter’s voice as the NASCAR vice president detailed the finish on the phone to longtime CEO, the late Bill France Jr.
“It went a long way in reminding people what Darlington was all about,” said Gurtis, now vice president of operations at Daytona International Speedway.