|Race 2 of 36 in the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series|
Layout of North Carolina Speedway
|Date||February 23, 2003|
|Location||North Carolina Speedway, Rockingham, North Carolina|
Permanent racing facility|
1.017 mi (1.637 km)
|Distance||393 laps, 399.681 mi (643.224 km)|
|Average speed||117.852 mph (189.664 km/h)|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Rusty Wallace||Penske Racing South|
|No. 88||Dale Jarrett||Robert Yates Racing|
|Television in the United States|
|Network||Fox Broadcasting Company|
|Announcers||Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds|
The 2003 Subway 400 was the second stock car race of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. It was held on February 23, 2003, in Rockingham, North Carolina, at North Carolina Speedway (today Rockingham Speedway), before a crowd of 40,000 people. Robert Yates Racing driver Dale Jarrett won the 393-lap race after he started from the ninth position. Kurt Busch of Roush Racing finished in second, and his teammate Matt Kenseth came in third.
Dave Blaney won the first pole position of his career by posting the fastest lap in qualifying. He led the first eight laps before Mark Martin passed him on lap nine. Ricky Craven took over the lead eight laps later, only to lose it to Rusty Wallace on lap 27. Wallace led four times for a total of 182 laps, more than any other driver. On lap 220, Busch became the leader, holding the position for a total of 150 laps. He was passed by Jarrett in slower traffic for the lead on the 384th lap, but retook it five laps later. Jarrett pressured Busch and reclaimed first place on lap 390. He maintained it for the rest of the race to win. There were seven yellow caution flags and twenty lead changes among eleven different drivers.
It was Jarrett's second victory at North Carolina Speedway, and the 31st of his career. The result advanced him from tenth to second in the Drivers' Championship, 31 points behind Busch (who gained the points lead after Michael Waltrip finished in 19th place; this caused Waltrip to fall to fifth, fifteen points behind Martin.) The lead of the Manufacturers' Championship changed from Chevrolet to Ford (with 15 points) while Pontiac moved ahead of Dodge for third with thirty-four races left in the season.
The 2003 Subway 400 was the second of 36 scheduled stock car races of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. It was held on February 23, 2003, in Rockingham, North Carolina, at North Carolina Speedway (now called Rockingham Speedway). The Winston Cup Series (today the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) first came to North Carolina Speedway late in the 1965 season. It continued to host at least one race on the series calendar every year until its closure from declining attendances in February 2004. The standard track at North Carolina Speedway is a 1.017 mi (1.637 km) four-turn D-shaped oval. Its turns are banked between 22 and 25 degrees; both the front stretch (the location of the start-finish line) and the back stretch are banked at eight degrees.
Before the race, Michael Waltrip led the Drivers' Championship with 185 points, with Kurt Busch in second place on 170 points. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick were third and fourth with 170 and 160 points respectively, and Mark Martin was fifth on 155 points. Rounding out the top ten were Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Jeremy Mayfield, Mike Wallace, and Dale Jarrett. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Chevrolet was leading with nine points, three points ahead of their rivals Ford in the second position. Third-placed Dodge, with four points, was one point ahead of Pontiac in fourth. Matt Kenseth was the race's defending champion.
Entering the event, the first of the 2003 season to be held without restrictor plates being mandated by NASCAR, Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace were the only two drivers to have won more than once at North Carolina Speedway in the Winston Cup Series in the previous ten years; the past nine races at the track had been won by nine different competitors. Qualifying was considered important at North Carolina Speedway as 79% of the winners in the 75 races held at the track were won by a driver who qualified in the top ten starting positions but rarely by the one who led the most laps. The track had a high amount of tire abasement because a large coating of sand was blown onto the asphalt surface from localized gusts, and this often changed the event's complexion.
Practice and qualifying
Three practice sessions were scheduled before the Sunday race—one on Friday and two on Saturday. The first session lasted 120 minutes, and the second was due to run for 45 minutes. The final session was due to last 45 minutes. The Saturday morning practice sessions were cancelled due to rain, as well as a wind and tornado watch. In the first practice session, Ryan Newman was fastest with a lap of 23.525 seconds, placing ahead of Ken Schrader in second and Joe Nemechek in third. Martin was fourth fastest, and Busch came fifth. Jerry Nadeau, Mike Skinner, Ward Burton, Mayfield and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top ten fastest drivers. There was a forecast of rain later on Friday, causing teams to concentrate on race setup during practice.
43 drivers attempted to qualify; the maximum number allowed to race under NASCAR's qualifying procedure. Each driver was limited to two timed laps, with the starting order determined by the competitor's fastest times. Qualifying was delayed for an hour and 15 minutes; because teams were focused on the race, it resulted in a mixed starting order. In his 113th race, Dave Blaney clinched his first career pole position, with a time of 23.669 seconds, and his team Jasper Motorsports' first. He was joined on the grid's front row by Johnny Benson Jr. who recorded a lap one-hundredth of a second slower. Martin qualified third, Sterling Marlin took fourth, and Bill Elliott started fifth. Ricky Craven, McMurray, Wallace, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte rounded out the top ten qualifiers. During the session, a fuel line detached from Newman's carburetor on his first lap. Nadeau lost control of his car during his second lap, but he avoided contact with the wall beside the circuit. Jeff Burton pirouetted after he spun his rear tires, and he used a provisional to qualify. Once qualifying had concluded, Blaney said, "This was a new type of car and we hadn't done any testing with it. We didn't know what to expect. But it was really good from the start. Winning the pole only made it better."
The 393-lap race commenced at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (UTC−05:00), and was televised live in the United States on Fox. Around the start of the race, weather conditions were sunny but cold and blustery winds, with the ambient temperature between 54–55 °F (12–13 °C) and the track temperature at 78 °F (26 °C). This created changeable asphalt conditions. Jim Ritter, pastor of the Marston Baptist Church in Marston, North Carolina, began pre-race ceremonies with an invocation. Members of the ECU and the Carolina Marching Band performed the national anthem, and South Carolina fireman and the race's sponsor spokesman Clay Henry commanded the drivers to start their engines. Jet dryers were employed to clean the track and remove paper debris. NASCAR announced that a competition caution would take place on lap 45, meaning drivers would be required to make mandatory pit stops to assess the performance of their cars.
Blaney led the opening eight laps before Martin passed him on the ninth lap. Jeff Gordon made contact with the rear of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car on the 12th lap, pushing a small chunk of sheet metal into Earnhardt's left-rear tire, and causing it to rub onto it. On lap 17, Craven passed Martin on his right to take the lead. McMurray and Nemechek made contact with each other around the 23rd lap, causing McMurray's right front fender to detach. Martin lost the first position to Rusty Wallace on the 27th lap. Seven laps later, Tony Raines hit a wall beside the track, and cut a tire; series officials did not wave the yellow caution flag. It was later necessitated on the 45th lap as Earnhardt's left-rear tire burst. During the caution, Earnhardt made five pit stops since his vehicle had a rubber strip lodged in its front left rotor and possibly the suspension. Additionally, Gordon was forced into the wall at his pit box by another driver, damaging the right-front corner of his car. Rusty Wallace continued to lead the field at the lap 55 restart. Todd Bodine cut his right front tire on lap 88, and collided with a barrier heavily exiting turn two, bringing out the second caution.
The caution remained out for five laps. as the field (including Rusty Wallace) made pit stops. Kyle Petty and Martin staggered their pit stops, leading one and two laps, respectively. Rusty Wallace led the field back to racing speeds at the restart on the 93rd lap. On lap 107, Jack Sprague hit the rear of Kenny Wallace's vehicle leaving the second turn. Kenny Wallace spun towards the right-hand side pit road wall, and heavily damaged the right front of his car, prompting the third caution. The seven-lap caution had Rusty Wallace retaining the first position; he continued to pace the field as Earnhardt, on lap 122, hit the left rear of Nadeau's vehicle. Nadeau was sent spinning out of control, but he did not make contact with the wall or other cars. Mayfield slowed in response and John Andretti rammed into his car, triggering a fourth caution. After another round of pit stops, green flag racing resumed on the 127th lap with Rusty Wallace leading and he maintained it for the next 46 laps. A fifth caution came out when Earnhardt spun on lap 173 but did not damage his car. Stewart rammed the rear of Petty's slower car, causing damage to both of Stewart's front fenders.
Rusty Wallace retained the lead after the resumption of racing on lap 178. He continued to lead until Busch passed him on the 220th lap. Rusty Wallace later reported that he had unrectifiable handling problems. Tire wear became a factor, as some drivers attempted to conserve their existing compounds, while other competitors chose to race for track position and planned for more caution periods. The difference between unused tires and worn compounds was almost two seconds per lap. During laps 240 and 252, several teams elected to make green flag pit stops, with Busch retaining the lead. Busch made his pit stop on lap 255, handing the lead to Kenseth for the next two laps until his own stop. Marlin led laps 258 and 260 before Busch returned to the front of the field. On lap 274, the sixth caution came out; Earnhardt spun again but avoided damaging his car. Mayfield was possibly hit by Jeff Burton and stalled after contact with a wall. Kurt Busch continued to maintain the first position at the lap 292 restart, and the following seven laps.
On lap 298, Gordon ran into the rear of Earnhardt's car, sending him spinning into the frontstretch grass, and causing the seventh (and final) caution. The majority of the field (including Kurt Busch) chose to make pit stops for tires and fuel during the caution. Labonte elected to stay on the track and led the field at the restart on the 303rd lap. Jeff Burton passed Labonte to assume the lead on the next lap. Six laps later, Busch got ahead of Jeff Burton to retake the first position. During the last 30 laps, Busch and second-placed Jarrett negotiated slower traffic, as Busch led for much of that period in time and Jarrett was close by him. On lap 383, Jarrett drew alongside Busch. and provided him with little space between his car and the wall on the backstretch. Subsequent contact caused Busch to temporarily lose control of his car, and Jarrett moved to the lead at the start of the following lap. Jarrett was delayed by Sprague's lapped car on lap 387. That allowed Busch to overtake Jarrett to the right two laps later.
Jarrett then put pressure on Busch, and successfully got back the lead on lap 390, making the pass on the approach to turn four. Busch was unable to continue the challenge for the victory because he had worn out his rear tires in the process. Jarrett thus held the first position through more slower traffic during the remaining four laps to claim his second win at North Carolina Speedway, and the 31st of his career. This extended Jarrett's run of winning at least one race every year to eleven, more than all active drivers at the time. Busch finished second, Kenseth took third, Craven came fourth, and McMurray fifth. Rusty Wallace, Martin, Johnson, Elliott Sadler rounded out the top ten finishers. There were a total of seven yellow caution flags, lasting a cumulative total of 46 laps, and there were 20 lead changes among 11 different drivers during the course of the race. Rusty Wallace's 182 laps led was the most of any competitor. Jarrett led twice for a total of nine laps.
Jarrett appeared in Victory Lane to celebrate his 31st career win in front of the crowd of 40,000 people; the win earned him $167,050. He credited his teammate Sadler for providing him with a suspension setup that enabled him to win. Sadler and Jarrett's crew chief Brad Parrott said the close collaboration between the two would help Robert Yates Racing achieve more success during the year. Jarrett also dedicated the victory to the "older generation", "Those [young] guys are really talented and are getting some well-deserved attention. But [the veterans are] giving them a race, and I think that we can. I'm 46 years old but I don't think my age has anything to do with anything on the racetrack. I can hang with them." Busch spoke of his disappointment of finishing second at North Carolina Speedway for the second straight year, "This one is much more difficult to swallow than the [Daytona] race. We had a great run today. I'm just real upset we didn't win. I would have loved to have gotten off to victory lane so early in the year." Third-placed Kenseth said he was proud of his team and hailed his car's performance, "I'm real happy finishing third. I think we had a car that definitely could have contended for the win, we were just a little too far behind on the last restart and was a little too loose that last run to be able to get up there, but it was a great day for us."
Rusty Wallace, who led the most laps of any other driver (182) but fell to sixth because of handling difficulties, described his car as "a damn bullet" when he was leading, "It was just flying. The motor ran great, the thing was handling perfect. About three-quarters of the way through the race, I could see the track getting real black. I had the thing really turning good. It just got too free on me. It got so loose you could hardly touch the throttle." Earnhardt finished three laps behind Jarrett in 33rd place. He acknowledged the contact with Jeff Gordon's was unintentional and described his car's handling afterward, "It wasn't a hard hit, but it was enough to damage the tire. Once the tire began rubbing and then blew out, the damage was done. The car would just get loose, really loose. It would just snap out from under me, and that's why I spun a couple of times. It felt to me like it was going to crash or spin out on every lap." McMurray said he believed his fifth-place result increased his confidence, "I had to work with three crew chiefs last year. Coming in I didn't even know Donnie (Wingo). I was a little bit nervous about that, and (journalists) would just tear me up if I didn't do well."
The result promoted Busch to the lead of the Drivers' Championship with 345 points. Jarrett's victory advanced him from tenth to second as he had a total of 314 points. Johnson maintained the third position with 312 points, while Martin moved to fourth with 306 points. Waltrip dropped to fifth, while Kenseth stood in sixth place. Burton, Craven, Stewart and Harvick completed the top ten drivers. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Ford assumed the lead with 15 points, three points ahead of their nearest rivals Chevrolet in the second position. Pontiac, with nine points, was one point in front of Dodge in fourth place with thirty-four races left in the season. The race took three hours, 23 minutes and 19 seconds to complete, and the margin of victory was 0.966 seconds.
|1||77||Dave Blaney||Jasper Motorsports||Ford||23.669||154.683|
|2||10||Johnny Benson Jr.||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||23.689||154.553|
|3||6||Mark Martin||Roush Racing||Ford||23.708||154.429|
|4||40||Sterling Marlin||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||23.709||154.422|
|5||9||Bill Elliott||Evernham Motorsports||Dodge||23.710||154.416|
|6||32||Ricky Craven||PPI Motorsports||Pontiac||23.716||154.377|
|7||42||Jamie McMurray||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||23.731||154.279|
|8||2||Rusty Wallace||Penske Racing South||Dodge||23.743||152.201|
|9||88||Dale Jarrett||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||23.746||154.182|
|10||18||Bobby Labonte||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||23.767||154.046|
|11||38||Elliott Sadler||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||23.768||154.039|
|12||8||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||23.769||154.033|
|13||16||Greg Biffle||Roush Racing||Ford||23.787||153.916|
|14||25||Joe Nemechek||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||23.792||153.884|
|15||22||Ward Burton||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||23.802||153.819|
|16||41||Casey Mears||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||23.821||153.696|
|17||23||Kenny Wallace||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||23.823||153.683|
|18||17||Matt Kenseth||Roush Racing||Ford||23.845||153.542|
|19||31||Robby Gordon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||23.850||153.509|
|20||4||Mike Skinner||Morgan-McClure Motorsports||Pontiac||23.856||153.471|
|21||12||Ryan Newman||Penske Racing South||Dodge||23.861||153.439|
|22||15||Michael Waltrip||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||23.877||153.336|
|23||24||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||23.881||153.310|
|24||01||Jerry Nadeau||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||23.924||153.035|
|25||1||Steve Park||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevroet||23.926||153.022|
|26||29||Kevin Harvick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||23.936||152.958|
|27||97||Kurt Busch||Roush Racing||Ford||23.940||152.932|
|28||21||Ricky Rudd||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||23.959||152.811|
|29||19||Jeremy Mayfield||Evernham Motorsports||Dodge||23.961||152.798|
|30||45||Kyle Petty||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||23.962||152.792|
|31||5||Terry Labonte||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||23.968||152.754|
|32||43||John Andretti||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||23.972||152.728|
|33||20||Tony Stewart||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||23.974||152.715|
|34||0||Jack Sprague||Haas CNC Racing||Chevrolet||23.990||152.614|
|35||49||Ken Schrader||BAM Racing||Dodge||23.991||152.602|
|36||7||Jimmy Spencer||Ultra Motorsports||Dodge||23.999||152.556|
|37||48||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||Provisional|
|38||99||Jeff Burton||Roush Racing||Ford||Provisional|
|39||30||Jeff Green||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||Provisional|
|40||54||Todd Bodine||BelCar Motorsports||Ford||Provisional|
|41||14||Larry Foyt||A. J. Foyt Racing||Dodge||Provisional|
|42||74||Tony Raines||BACE Motorsports||Chevrolet||Provisional|
|43||37||Derrike Cope||Quest Motor Racing||Chevrolet||Provisional|
|1||9||88||Dale Jarrett||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||393||1801|
|2||27||97||Kurt Busch||Roush Racing||Ford||393||1751|
|3||18||17||Matt Kenseth||Roush Racing||Ford||393||1701|
|4||6||32||Ricky Craven||PPI Motorsports||Pontiac||393||1651|
|5||7||42||Jamie McMuray||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||393||155|
|6||8||2||Rusty Wallace||Penske Racing South||Dodge||393||1602|
|7||3||6||Mark Martin||Roush Racing||Ford||393||1511|
|8||37||48||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||393||142|
|9||11||38||Elliott Sadler||Robert Yates Racing||Ford||393||138|
|10||1||77||Dave Blaney||Jasper Motorsports||Ford||393||1391|
|11||28||21||Ricky Rudd||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||393||130|
|12||38||99||Jeff Burton||Roush Racing||Ford||392||1321|
|13||2||10||Johnny Benson Jr.||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||392||124|
|14||21||12||Ryan Newman||Penske Racing South||Dodge||392||121|
|15||23||24||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||392||118|
|16||10||18||Bobby Labonte||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||392||1201|
|17||20||4||Mike Skinner||Morgan-McClure Motorsports||Pontiac||392||112|
|18||15||22||Ward Burton||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||392||109|
|19||22||15||Michael Waltrip||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||392||106|
|20||33||20||Tony Stewart||Joe Gibbs Racing||Chevrolet||392||103|
|21||25||1||Steve Park||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||392||100|
|22||13||16||Greg Biffle||Roush Racing||Ford||392||97|
|23||14||25||Joe Nemechek||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||392||94|
|24||35||49||Ken Schrader||BAM Racing||Dodge||392||91|
|25||26||29||Kevin Harvick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||391||88|
|26||24||01||Jerry Nadeau||MB2 Motorsports||Pontiac||391||85|
|27||31||5||Terry Labonte||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||391||82|
|28||36||7||Jimmy Spencer||Ultra Motorsports||Dodge||391||79|
|29||19||31||Robby Gordon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||391||76|
|30||16||41||Casey Mears||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||390||73|
|31||39||30||Jeff Green||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||390||70|
|32||5||9||Bill Elliott||Evernham Motorsports||Dodge||390||67|
|33||12||8||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet||390||64|
|34||34||0||Jack Sprague||Haas CNC Racing||Pontiac||390||61|
|35||30||45||Kyle Petty||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||389||631|
|36||41||14||Larry Foyt||A. J. Foyt Racing||Dodge||388||55|
|37||42||74||Tony Raines||BACE Motorsports||Chevrolet||387||52|
|38||17||23||Kenny Wallace||Bill Davis Racing||Dodge||386||49|
|39||32||43||John Andretti||Petty Enterprises||Dodge||347||46|
|40||4||40||Sterling Marlin||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dodge||319||481|
|41||29||19||Jeremy Mayfield||Evernham Motorsports||Dodge||271||40|
|42||40||54||Todd Bodine||BelCar Motorsports||Ford||85||37|
|43||43||37||Derrike Cope||Quest Motor Racing||Chevrolet||34||34|
1 Includes five bonus points for leading a lap
2 Includes ten bonus points for leading the most laps
Standings after the race
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2003 Daytona 500
|Winston Cup Series
2003 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400