CICERO, Ill. -- Newly minted 16-year-old drivers run out of gas every day but not on national television and certainly not with a $45,000 pot of gold virtually in hand. That was the substantial subplot to Saturday's Sears Craftsman 175 at...
CICERO, Ill. -- Newly minted 16-year-old drivers run out of gas every day but not on national television and certainly not with a $45,000 pot of gold virtually in hand.
That was the substantial subplot to Saturday's Sears Craftsman 175 at Chicago Motor Speedway, a race that saw Kyle Busch bid to become NASCAR's youngest national touring winner. Busch, starting just his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at age 16 years three months, inherited the lead on the 147th of 175 laps when the remaining lead lap trucks pitted under the race's fourth caution.
Busch was able to hold off Scott Riggs' charge with competition resumed four laps later, before yellow again waved when Larry Gunselman slammed the fourth turn wall at lap 156. Just as the field was about to get the one to go signal at the conclusion of lap 163, Busch's fuel tank went dry. He lost five laps to a tow-in and finished 17th.
"We miscalculated a little bit on the fuel mileage," said Busch who attempted to squeeze 107 miles out of his Roush Racing Eldon Ford but got just 94. The rookie added that he had no voice in the call to protect track position.
"I don't know enough about these engines to make that call. If they tell me I can make it all the way, I don't question that. That's what these guys do for a living and I just get paid to drive. According to the calculations, we should have made it 10 laps over."
As it was, Busch became the youngest driver to lead a NCTS race, erasing -- guess who? -- older brother Kurt Busch from the record book. The elder Busch, now 23 and guiding Roush's Sharpie Ford on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, was 21 years seven months old when he led the March 26, 2000 race at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif.
Meanwhile, Busch goes back to Las Vegas (Nev.) Durango High School where he's beginning his junior year. Expect to see him back at the wheel of the No. 99 F-150 before season's end. "Hopefully, I gained the respect of these guys and we're really looking forward to running Richmond" on Sept. 6, he concluded.
When the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship lead changed for the fourth time in as many races, the move (from Joe Ruttman to Scott Riggs) matched the tour's record for a second time. The mark was set in 1995 and equaled in 1999. Both competitors who figured in those fourth swaps -- Mike Skinner in 1995 and Jack Sprague in 1999 -- went on to win the championship.
Inclement weather in the Chicago area delayed the start of the Sears Craftsman 175 approximately 25 minutes. It was the seventh time in the season's 17 events that rain has played a role in competition.
Riggs' 0.281-second, winning margin over Dennis Setzer marked the closest finish of the 2001 season. It was the tightest spread since Sept. 22, 2000 when Kurt Busch edged Greg Biffle by 0.210 second at Dover Downs International Speedway.
Riggs can join an elite list of 10 drivers winning $500,000 in a season by banking $6,860 in Sunday's Chevy Silverado 200 at Nazareth Speedway. He's also attempting to win three consecutive events.
Power Stroke Diesel announced an extension of its sponsorship of K Automotive Racing and driver Terry Cook through the conclusion of the season. The deal originally had been for six races and was to end with the Sears Craftsman 175.
Over the course of those events, beginning at Kansas Speedway on July 7, Cook has logged five top-10 finishes -- including a pulse-stopping loss of fifth-place Saturday to fellow Ford competitor Rick Crawford. The pair exited Turn 4 side-by-side, rubbed a bit and were separated by less than four inches at the stripe.
"If we had it to do over again, we know what we wouldn't do and that's pitting at the end," said Cook.
Dodge's 12th victory of the year matched Ford (1999-2000) for second most wins in a season by a manufacturer. With seven races remaining, the truck maker still has an outside shot at Chevrolet's 1995 record of 18. Dodge needs a win and three second-place finishes (among the three makers) to clinch its first NCTS manufacturer crown.
Saturday was a career best day for Lance Norick who, with Riggs, took a gas and go on their final trip down pit road. Norick's third-place finish bettered the fourth the Oklahoma native fashioned in Daytona's season opener.
Billy Bigley, meanwhile, was at the other end of the rope -- ringing up a 32nd and career worst effort when the engine of his Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet let go for good at lap 54 after a multitude of trips to the pits.
Preston Tutt, a Lanier (Ga.) Speedway NASCAR Weekly Racing Series product, became the third African-American competitor to start a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event in 2001. Tutt, who owns a construction company, suffered transmission trouble but returned to finish 29th, two laps behind Bobby Hamilton Racing mate Willy T. Ribbs.
Crawford, who carried a Chicago Blackhawks logo on the flank of his F-150, had the last word on one of the year's most physical events. "I'm the only team out there that can be in the penalty box," quipped Crawford. "We had to show them something on the track. It's a physical race track. If you want to ride around out there like some -- are paid to do, you aren't going to pass anybody. Nothing to hurt anybody, but you have to go."
Sunday's Chevy Silverado 200 at Nazareth Speedway will begin at 12:30 p.m. EDT, a half-hour earlier than previously advertised.