Editor’s Note. Hope all of you have had a GREAT Mother’s Day, and also enjoyed the throwback days at Darlington Raceway here’s mine and PTR’s contribution to the Throwback weekend. Like me, many of our readers here at Pure Thunder Racing miss our dear friend and colleague PattyKey Lilley. Without her invaluable help this site wouldn’t be here today. With Love to Her family and friends. //B
I bid you welcome gentle readers. Today we bring you another throwback with The Lady in Black. This one, believe it or not, was actually requested, and Michele, this one’s for you Hon! You asked for one on The Lady in Black, so I found you a double… The Lady in Black AT The Lady in Black. The race is the Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington, run on March 16, 2003. For those not familiar with the nicknames tossed out by the Lady in Black, or those of us with failing memories, you may click here to view the actual race stats courtesy of racing-reference.info. I hope everyone enjoys the Lady’s touch on what remains one of, if not the best finish in NASCAR Cup history… and the irony of the final remark.
Welcome, gentle readers, to my little corner of the world. Did you enjoy the race Sunday at Darlington? I’d have to think that any fan with a pulse loved that finish. I know this one did! Of course, we had our very own reporter there, the irascible Lady in Black, and she’s here to give you the real story of what happened at Darlington.
Please remember, she’s intended to be funny. Any drivers not insulted in her rundown must not have done anything worth noting. Ladies and gentlemen, the Lady in Black:
Good day race fans. This is your raving reporter, The Lady in Black, coming to you from Darlington Raceway, the track they named after me. Did everyone see that race? By golly, that one was so good I’m tempted to jump right to the end, but like all good reporters, I’ll tell you exactly what happened, from the beginning.
Only seven laps after the Boogity flag waved, Jerry Nay-do took a moment to entertain us with his interpretation of a pirouette. That would have been a “no harm, no foul” situation, but out back Matt Kantsee forgot to check his side view mirror and drove his tool wagon straight down into the car with the star. Nineteen of the gladiators brought their cars in for a bit of refreshments, but they needn’t have worried. There’d be plenty of opportunities coming. On lap 14, the Zero Hero took his turn at a solo spin when he got loose under the 01 of Nay-do. Grateful for a Bud break, even this early, the rest of the field headed for the pits with the exception of the Elephant Man who said he didn’t need “no stinkin’ tires.”
At lap 24, it was the Darlington version of the big one, when Junior Johnson dealt a Lowe blow to the Silver Bullet, which in turn hit the wall, bounced off and hit it again, with a vengeance. Behind this, all Hades was breaking loose and when the smoke cleared, the garage filled up with the cars of Tarnished Sterling, Bobby the Bounty Hunter, the Zero Hero, Kevin Havoc, Tony the Rain Man and Toad Bodine. What happened to Johnson? He just drove off smiling and saying something to his crew chief about payback being sweet. Mafia Mike Helton issued an invitation to the Big Red Trailer to both the driver and crew chief of the #48.
They barely got that mess cleaned up and the combatants back on the racetrack when Jeff Burnin’ became the designated Roush smoke stack for the second week in a row, and once more, it was Cit-go no-go. I’ve heard they’re looking for a new theme song in that camp. Either “Another One Bites the Dust” or “Smoke gets in Your Eyes” would seem appropriate to me.
After that trip to the watering hole, they actually ran about 30 laps before Wawd the Marblemouth allowed his Cat to scratch the New Man’s pretty blue car, sending both cars around, to the delight of about three people, none of whom were over 12-years old. That prompted another refreshing Bud break for the gang, and the Bud beer wagon was fittingly in the lead.
Around lap 86, we were treated to a smoke show from the 01 of Nay-do, who certainly did his part in providing us with entertainment all day. That turned out to be a broken fitting on the oil line that goes to the gauge. The cost of those repairs was eight laps on the track. Lap 117 saw Viagra move to the front and soon after that, green flag pit stops began, with the most amusing being that of the Busch League kid, who managed to miss pit road entirely on his first try. Seems to me we’ve seen that movie! About that same time, Kodak Mike skinned the rear of the #7 Dodge, putting it ever so gently into the wall. Old Jimmy got so mad that only a couple of laps later, he saw a car with yellow on it and gave Mario’s nephew a Sirius push that resulted in splattering Cheerios all over the outside and inside walls. Now, John is used to hitting things, and it would have been OK, but several cars had already made green flag stops and were caught with their knickers at their knees when the yellow waved. During this recess, Dale the Lesser had to repit for that painful condition known as “loose nuts” and Joe Upchuck got a speeding ticket that sent him way out back on the restart. More fortunate were the Flaming car, the rolling candy store and the Viagra sample, which got to start up front. (Well, up front except for a bunch of those early pitters that stayed out on the track.)
Around lap 205, it was The Big Brown Truck bangin’ hard on the Flames, trying to keep his lap, but eventually losing the battle. I’m sorry, but the radio conversation from that truck to the pits is rated for mature audiences only and I can’t put it in print but it was colorful, to say the least.
At lap 237, NASCAR threw a caution for debris on the track, although I don’t recall ever seeing any. In the ASA (American Speed Association), they call that a “competition caution”, for the purpose of bunching up the warriors and letting them bang on each other some more. NASCAR just isn’t that honest.
At lap 263, Busch League announced that his power steering was anything but Sharpie, but I have to tell you, that boy must be stronger than he looks. Up front, the battle had been hot and heavy between Flameboy and the Baloney Burger kid in the candy machine, and they must have used up a lot of rubber. With 19 laps to go, that Sharpie Ford just shot around both of them, and moved out to his own zip code for a bit. With 17 to go, Sad Sack put candy kisses on the wall and the Flames were flickering and dying like last night’s campfire. At lap 284 Flameboy hit the wall hard enough to take the car in for a bandage, but at lap 290 the flames went out for good, to finish 33rd.
Now, back up front things were starting to take shape. We saw the Tide machine streak around Dave Blarney and set sail for that Sharpie car. Blarney must have caught a draft, because the three of them left everyone else in the dust. With two laps to go, it was obvious that Ricky was Cravin’ the win, and he did some serious Busch-Whackin’, but power steering or not, Busch whacked him right back. They traded places several times, just frammin’ and bammin’ on each other, until turn four of the last lap, when Ricky turned the Tide down under Kurt, and they ran nose to nose, fender to fender and eye to eye, all the way to the finish line, somehow managing not to wreck either car. Still no one knew who won. The official difference in their finishing times was .002 seconds, and I guess you can credit that GM kick-out on the nose for giving the win to the #32 over the #97.
Fans, it was the best race this Lady has seen in many years, and it will go down as one of the best ever, when the history books have been written. We just aren’t treated to that kind of racing much these days. So what does NASCAR have on the drawing board for next year? Why, taking this race away from Darlington and giving it to a dang cookie-cutter somewhere, of course. Something to do with money, I hear. What a shame. I really thought they had enough.
(Editor’s note: This story is published with the permission from the author! It was originally published on RaceFansForever; )
Photo credit (cover): How a Minnow Pond Turned Darlington Raceway Into a NASCAR Jewel (autoweek.com)