Last year's Kentucky Speedway race one of series' all-time best Lester to become NASCAR's first African American $1 million winning competitor DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 5, 2005) -- Mike Bliss took no prisoners when he won at Kentucky Speedway...
Last year's Kentucky Speedway race one of series' all-time best
Lester to become NASCAR's first African American $1 million winning competitor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 5, 2005) -- Mike Bliss took no prisoners when he won at Kentucky Speedway in 2002, beating Dennis Setzer (No. 46 Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet) by 18.197 seconds -- a margin that remains the widest in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history.
Sometimes, however, the prisoners can escape.
Witness Bobby Hamilton's (No. 04 Bailey's Dodge) similarly dominant performance in last year's Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers.
Like Bliss, Hamilton was the class of the field leading 131 of the race's first 145 laps around the 1.5-mile speedway.
Still, nearly 50,000 fans weren't heading for the exits knowing that no NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race is over until the checkered flag is in the air. Twenty-one percent of the races -- 53 of 254 -- have gone extra laps for a green flag finish.
Sure enough, caution closed up the field and erased Hamilton's eight-second advantage over Jack Sprague (No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet).
Sprague took the lead on the Lap 146 restart and it required another caution -- and a green-white-checkered finish -- for Hamilton to salvage what earlier had appeared to be a sure victory.
"He passed me when I spun my tires on a restart but I didn't worry yet," said Hamilton, who enters Saturday's race ranked second in the championship standings, 38 points behind Setzer. "Then the final caution came out. So I cleaned the tires and pushed under him in Turn 1."
"I held it to the mat, he raced me clean and it was all she wrote from there. It was a fun win."
Sprague, eighth in points with a win at Texas Motor Speedway, knew he'd received one gift but probably wouldn't get another.
"I thought, 'Man, this can't be happening,'" said Sprague. "I looked back and saw David Starr (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet) racing him hard and I thought, 'I can luck into this thing and win it.'"
Not quite. Caution appeared a final time at lap 149. The race went 153 laps.
"I knew he (Hamilton) is a pretty smart old guy and he isn't going to make the same mistake again and he didn't," said Sprague. "We both went into (Turn 1) wide-open and never lifted."
Both drivers say the Kentucky track was built for that kind of competition.
"Kentucky is the kind of track that allows you the luxury (of racing side-by-side into the turns)," said Sprague. "You have confidence when you are racing hard heading into Turn 1 that you know what you are dealing with as far as the race track goes."
Hamilton pointed to last month's NASCAR Busch Series race that Carl Edwards won with a next-to-last lap pass of Martin Truex Jr. Edwards scored his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory at Kentucky Speedway in 2003 and provided fans with a post-race backflip that has become his signature celebration.
"I love that race track," said Hamilton. "I noticed (they) had a great show up there the other night. I'm not going to do a back flip if I win it again but we'll try to make a good race out of it."