SCOTT SAVES BEST FOR LAST, SCORES STRONG SECOND AT HOMESTEAD; NCTS ROOKIE COLLECTS CAREER BEST FINISH
Homestead, FL -- NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rookie Brian Scott came within mere feet of winning his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck race, finally settling for second place in Friday night's season ending Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, FL. Scott made a hard charge from the middle of the pack in his No. 16 Albertsons Toyota to take the lead with just nine laps remaining, but surrendered the top spot to NCTS veteran Todd Bodine on a late race restart. Nevertheless for the second straight week, Scott earned a top-five finish and collected the best finish of his NCTS career.
"That was just an awesome race, awesome way to end the year," Scott said on pit road after the race. "I can't say enough about all these guys on this Xpress Motorsports team. It was just a really good night all around. The guys in the pits busted their tails and gained spots every chance we pitted. We had a great truck there at the end. I think we had a truck that won and could have won but I got out-experienc ed by Todd. He's got a lot of experience and he was able to get me there on the restart. I spun my tires a little bit. I tried to make a Kamikaze Carl move but I didn't have the guts to hold it wide open and just see what happens. I got about half way through turns three and four and thought better of it. It was just an awesome job by all the guys on our Albertsons Toyota Tundra team. This is a great way to end the year."
Scott started the race in the 15th position and hovered just outside the top 10 for the first 40 laps of the event. His Toyota Tundra was just coming to life when the caution flag fell on lap 40. He headed down pit road on lap 42 for four fresh Goodyear tires and a full load of Sunoco fuel. Scott came in 14th and exited in the 11th position. After the restart Scott quickly moved into the top ten and began picking off spots one by one. Scott delicately passed championship contender Johnny Benson for 7th on lap 75, careful not to negatively impact the championship battle, and moved into 6th by the time the caution flag fell for debris in turn three on lap 89. Scott came into the pits for his last pit stop on lap 91. His Xpress Motorsports crew changed four tires, added fuel, made an air pressure adjustment and a track bar adjustment designed to aid the handling on his Toyota. He exited the pits in the fifth spot.
After the restart Scott drove like a man possessed, passing veteran Kevin Harvick for fourth and battling a host of accomplished drivers in what turned out to be a five-way battle for the lead. On lap 110 Scott passed championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. for second and battled the cagey veteran hard for the next ten laps as they both began to put pressure on the leader Kyle Busch. When the caution flag fell on lap 124, Busch came down pit road for tires giving the lead to Scott. On the=2 0ensuing restart Scott battled Bodine for the lead but the seasoned veteran was able to squeak by the 20 year-old Boise, ID native. One more caution flag fell setting up a green-white-checkered flag finish, and Scott and Harvick made a mad dash for Bodine but neither could wrest the lead away and Scott held off Harvick for second in a side by side finish at the line.
"I knew we were going to have a good truck when the green flag fell," Scott said in a press conference after the event. "When it fell we were a little bit different than it had been in practice, but after a long green flag run we were really good. Our crew chief Jeff Hensley kept coming on the radio and telling me I was running a tenth faster than the leader. At that point I knew if we just kept up with adjustments, got our truck a little better and stayed with the good guys and got a little track position we could be there at the end and we could have a shot at them. Sure enough as laps starting winding down, we started creeping our way up. I was leading the restart before the last one, and it's the first time I've done a restart at the end leading the race. I mean, as a driver you know what you're trying to do. You're trying to get the gas pedal down without spinning the tires but you've got to be right on that edge especially with Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday or Kyle Busch behind you. They're going to=2 0get everything they can get. I pushed it a little hard, spun the tires, but I knew going into turn one from what my spotter was saying that I had like three truck lengths. I opted to take the high right side and had momentum coming out and I didn't expect him to pull up beside me and be drag racing down the backstretch. He had a real good run through that corner, better than me obviously and when we got to three Todd just drove in there until he cleared me. Win lose or draw he was going for the win. I can't blame him for it. I would have done the same thing and I think it made the race exciting. I tried to get him back there at the end with the same trick but I didn't quite have all the guts that him and Carl Edwards did. That was the only thing going through my mind is what Carl did at Kansas. I had a brief moment where I was like 'Maybe I can look like a hero and try to do something like that.' I got in about the apex and I said 'No, I've got to lift. It's not going to work.'D
It was awesome to be able to race all those guys, you know: Benson, Hornaday, Harvick, Bodine. I felt like I was up there with all champions. It was just a lot of fun. I got a lot of good experience and it all worked out well for us. I was really happy with our truck because we were awesome on a long run. It seemed like the longer we went in a run the faster we went and the more positions we picked off. I didn't know what we were going to have there at the end on the green-white-checkered. I knew I was in the best of company up there with a bunch of veterans. I just tried to do everything I could and hold it wide open and even tried to get that first position. It was a great night though for everybody on our Xpress Motorsports team. I am really proud of this organization."
For Scott's crew chief Jeff Hensley it was a great finish to a spectacular last third of the season. Scott and Hensley combined for five top 10 finishes in 7 starts and closed out with a fourth place finish at Phoenix and the runner up spot at Homestead.
"That was big right there," Hensley said in the post race inspection area. "We knew we had a good truck going in even though we didn't qualify as good as we had hoped. But we knew we probably had a 10th or 15th place truck qualifying, and the longer we ran the better it got. Brian was really good at searching the racetrack to find a groove that worked well for him. Those long green flag runs played right into our hands, and we worked our way up to fifth without any help. The guys did an awesome job on pit road to pick us up a couple of spots. We were going to finish second anyway if that last caution had not come. I don't think we could have beaten the 51, but I thought we were as good as anyone else, and that's the reason we chose not to put on any tires. Track position was more important than tires for a change here. It's a wide racetrack but it's really hard to pass. You could run good on the top side so it was hard to pass. Our truck was really good up there but it took us four or five laps to get going, and consequently that's how Todd Bodine got by us. Man I can't say enough -- I wish we were racing somewhere next week. Brian did an excellent job and gave excellent feedback all night long. The boys did a really good job on pit road. This performance tonight is just huge for Brian Scott's career. Once again he was running around good people all night long -- Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Johnny Benson, Todd Bodine. Those are people that Brian will learn from. Todd Bodine is one of the best out there, and we came within a half a truck length of beating him. That speaks volumes for Brian."
While Bodine won the battle in Friday's season ending Ford 200, Benson won the season long war besting Hornaday Jr. to claim the 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Championship. Benson's sixth-place finish, just one position ahead of Hornaday, earned him the championship. Harvick, Busch and Dennis Setzer followed Bodine and Scott across the line to round out the top five for the event.