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.
Darlington made it through NASCAR's realignment, gaining at niche on Mother's Day weekend. Strong crowds the past eight years have turned around the track's once uncertain future.
"I'm not nearly bold enough to say that that one race was a turning point," Craven said. "But I am realistic enough to say that at the end of the day, people buy into a product because they want value or they want an experience, they want something that sticks with them."
Craven said anyone who attended or has seen the Darlington finish from 2003 won't ever forget it.
Darlington still provides thrills — many of them coming after the race. Kevin Harvick confronted Kurt's brother, Kyle, on the track driving toward the garage after the 2011 Southern 500. Last year, it was Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and their teams scuffling after the race.
There were plenty, including Craven, who expected the fiery Kurt Busch to come out swinging after the race 10 years ago. Instead, Busch went to Victory Lane and celebrated with the winning team.
"I think that day it was just something special and it was two men that gave everything they were worth," Busch said. "If there was a loser, it was fine, because I gave it everything I had."