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Woody: Ricky Craven Re-Lives Hiccup Finish

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 27 2011

Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch still c0-hold the record for the closest recorded finish in a Cup race and Craven still holds vivid memories of that day in Darlington. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Nashville, Tenn. – It was a micro-second that would define Ricky Craven’s 25-year racing career.

In a 2003 race at Darlington, Craven nipped Kurt Busch by 0.002 seconds, the closest finish ever recorded in a NASCAR race since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993.

A couple of weeks ago at Talladega, that record was tied by Jimmie Johnson when he squeezed out an identical 0.002-second victory over Clint Bowyer.

Coverage of that record-tying finish resurrected Craven’s past triumph.

“There’s been a lot of talk about it since Talladega,” said Craven, now an ESPN racing commentator. “Wherever I go people want to talk about it. That finish became my legacy.”

Craven, at Nashville Superspeedway to work the Nationwide Series race over the weekend, is in his fourth season with ESPN, calling a limited number of races.

He suffered post-concussion syndrome after a crash at Texas Speedway and ran his

Ricky Craven's racing career is defined by 0.002 seconds. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

final  race in 2005.

“You have a window of opportunity and I’m thankful for the opportunities I had,” he said. “I knew it was time to step away. The tank was empty.”

Craven said he enjoys his second career as a racing commentator.

“I spent 25 years behind the wheel and I can bring the viewer inside the race car,” he said. “I’ve also been on both sides of the mic (microphone). As a former driver I know when it’s a good time to approach a driver to talk to him. If a driver is busy, let him finish what he’s doing, or come back another time. Sometimes folks don’t seem to understand that.’

Craven, 44, maintains a house in his home state of Maine but his primary residence is in Concord, N.C.

He can clearly recall the frantic finish at Darlington that made him famous.

“It had actually started about three laps before,” he said. “Kurt and I had been banging on each other and when I finally took the lead I thought, ‘I’ve this thing.’ But I underestimated Kurt. He came right back on me, and we were banging side-by-side as he headed to the finish line. When we flashed across the line I had no idea who’d won.”

Video of that furious finish is in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, along with Craven’s car.

“At the time I really didn’t think much about it – other than the fact that I’d won a big race on a famous track,” Craven said. “But as the years went by and the finish stood as a record, it became a bigger deal.”

Now the record no longer stands alone. Craven shares it with Jimmie Johnson.

“That’s OK, I’ve still got a piece of it,” Craven said with a smile. “It’s something I’ll always remember — and maybe be remembered for.”

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 27 2011
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • LJBurgess says:

    Mr. Craven was always a favorite of mine from his Busch Series days.

    He is soon to become one of the best media commentators on the sport that we’ve had in decades. I always seem to focus more on the subject when he is at the mic… much less yakking, more insight.

    One of the very few NASCAR diecast that I own is a replica of his 2003 seat. If only they had made a Darlington raced/win version!

  • melz says:

    That is one classy guy as well as , in my opinion, the best NASCAR commentator on TV. He also had another very exciting victory over Dale Jarret at Martinsville, which is often overlooked because of the Darlington win. I crave for some of the other TV people too watch and learn from his exceptional commentary, intelligent, articulate,and of course humble. DW, are you listening?