BIFFLE'S HOT NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SUMMER ROLLS ON WITH VICTORY IN POWERSTROKE 200 AT INDY RACEWAY PARK BY OWEN KEARNS JR INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Powerstroke 200 by Ford/International hardly settled the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series...
BIFFLE'S HOT NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SUMMER ROLLS ON WITH VICTORY IN POWERSTROKE 200 AT INDY RACEWAY PARK BY OWEN KEARNS JR
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Powerstroke 200 by Ford/International hardly settled the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship but Thursday night's race at Indianapolis Raceway Park certainly redefined it. Greg Biffle's sixth victory of the season, coupled with the worst finish of Jack Sprague's NCTS career, produced a first-time championship leader and grouped a quartet of title aspirants -- Biffle, Sprague, Stacy Compton and Dennis Setzer -- just 111 points apart. Biffle, who needed 33 starts to collect his first victory, now has won six times in 13 races, matching Mike Skinner's six-win record. He went from third-place to the front on lap 160, dodging a skirmish between leaders Jay Sauter and Setzer in Turn 4 of the 0.686-mile oval. Compton, bidding to break a 26-race non-winning streak, drew alongside Biffle's Grainger Ford twice on the final lap but fell a truck-length short. Biffle's winning margin was 0.261 second with the Roush Racing driver setting an IRP speed record of 88.704 mph in collecting a first-place check of $40,330. Biffle also left the season's 18th stop with a 48-point championship lead over Sprague, who finished 34th when the engine of the GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet expired on lap four. Sprague was up by 71 when the green flag fell. Understandably, Biffle's strategy turned conservative following the exit of the defending race winner. "After I knew Jack was out early, I think it changed my attitude about the race a little bit to just be calm and smooth," said the 29-year-old sophomore driver, content to run top- five much of the evening. "If you had told me halfway through the race we were going to win, I'd have thought, `no way.' We didn't have the best truck but were we were able to adjust it on the pit stops and get it good enough to run up front." Compton, at the controls of the Royal Crown Cola Dodge, appeared ready to pass Biffle on lap 195. A Turn 1 accident involving fourth-place battlers Randy Tolsma and Setzer, however, produced the race's fifth caution and a two-lap shootout for the decision. It wasn't enough for an obviously disappointed Compton. "Once again, we were just so close to winning this race," he said. "I think we would have been able to pass Greg if that last caution had not come out." Mike Wallace, one of eight drivers to lead the race, finished third in the Team ASE Racing Ford. Kevin Harvick brought the Porter-Cable Power Tools Ford from a 22nd-place start to place fourth, dispelling any myth about lack of passing room at IRP. Biffle's Roush partner, Mike Bliss, drove his Exide Batteries Ford into the No. 5 spot. Sauter, his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet slowed by a push after his run-in with Setzer, finished sixth, followed by Setzer, Andy Houston, Tolsma and Joe Ruttman. All but Ruttman, recipient of a 15-second pit road speeding citation on lap 120, completed the 201 circuits. Twenty-seven drivers were running at the finish of a remarkably accident-free exercise. Ford's eighth win of the season displaced Chevrolet as the tour's manufacturer leader. Setzer, who won his first series Bud Pole with a record lap of 111.133 mph, measured the field for the first 117 laps, before pitting under green. Ruttman and Ron Hornaday also headed the field during the pit sequence that cycled Compton and Harvick -- who'd stopped for service during a lap 45 caution for Rob Morgan's spin -- to the lead slot. Debris on the backstretch sent the field to pit road on lap 144. Harvick was judged to have left too quickly, putting him to the tail of the longest line for a restart that lasted just three laps when Hornaday and Kevin Cywinski crashed entering Turn 3. Cywinski continued for a 15th-place finish but Hornaday, winner of the race in 1997, was done for the night. Sauter, who'd taken the lead from Wallace off pit road on lap 145, paced the next 15 circuits but fell into the clutches of an impatient Setzer and the Mopar Performance Dodge that remained the fastest truck on the racetrack. Setzer attempted a low-line pass between turns three and four but, instead, made contact with Sauter's Chevy. Biffle guessed right to avoid the incident in what became the winning pass. "I just saw Nashville all over again. I thought I was going to be in it," said Biffle, who slammed into Boris Said's spun-out truck while leading at Nashville Speedway USA in mid-July. "I was just on and off the brake and got a little sideways and was able to get the throttle back and drive away from them." Setzer fell to ninth but rallied back to fifth and catch Tolsma, only to crash again on lap 195. "I really hated this for the team," he said later. "I think we had the truck to win this race." Thursday's event concluded 10 consecutive weeks of racing action for the series. Competitors will be off until Aug. 20, when the Ram Tough 200 at Gateway International Raceway opens the season's final swing of seven events.
Bud Pole Award -- Dennis Setzer, Dodge, 20.222 seconds, 111.133 mph (record, old, 22.283/110.829, Randy Tolsma, 1998)
Failed to qualify -- Andy Hillenburg, Chevrolet; Kevin Sasser, Chevrolet; Mike Clark, Chevrolet; Tom Bambard, Chevrolet; Brad Means, Ford
Powerstroke 200 by Ford/International (201 laps) -- 1. (3)Greg Biffle, Ford, 201, 88.704 mph, $40,330; 2. (5)Stacy Compton, Dodge, 201, $24,780; 3. (8)Mike Wallace, Ford, 201, $17,745; 4. (22)Kevin Harvick, Ford, 201, $11,445; 5. (11)Mike Bliss, Ford, 201, $11,270; 6. (20)Jay Sauter, Chevrolet, 201, $8,870; 7. (1)Dennis Setzer, Dodge, 201, $14,820; 8. (15)Andy Houston, Chevrolet, 201, $8,545; 9. (13)Randy Tolsma, Dodge, 201, $8,070; 10. (2)Joe Ruttman, Dodge, 200, $8,345; 11. (10)Scott Hansen, Chevrolet, 200, $8,570; 12. (17)Rick Crawford, Ford, 200, $7,970; 13. (24)Ron Barfield, Ford, 200, $7,720; 14. (26)Tim Steele, Ford, 200, $6,920; 15. (14)Kevin Cywinski, Ford, 200, $7,870; 16. (9)Mike Stefanik, Ford, 200, $7,420; 17. (12)Terry Cook, Chevrolet, 199, $7,270; 18. (21)Bryan Reffner, Chevrolet, 199, $6,220; 19. (7)Scott Riggs, Ford, 199, $6,170; 20. (18)Marty Houston, Chevrolet, 198, $6,245; 21. (19)David Starr, Chevrolet, 198, $6,720; 22. (29)Rob Morgan, Ford, 197, $6,670; 23. (32)Ronnie Hornaday III, Chevrolet, 197, $5,620; 24. (23)Jamie McMurray, Ford, 195, $5,570; 25. (25)Brad Mueller, Chevrolet, 191, $5,545; 26. (33)Stan Boyd, Chevrolet, 190, $5,495; 27. (34)Scotty Sands, Ford, 184, $5,470; 28. (27)Rick McCray, Chevrolet, 180, rear end, $5,445; 29. (16)Ron Hornaday, Chevrolet, 151, accident, $7,420; 30. (4)Jimmy Hensley, Dodge, 103, engine, $6,420; 31. (28)Michael Dokken, Chevrolet, 62, engine, $5,420; 32. (30)Phil Bonifield, Chevrolet, 46, transmission, $5,720; 33. (31)B.A. Wilson, Ford, 43, rear end, $5,420; 34. (6)Jack Sprague, Chevrolet, 4, engine, $6,620
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Standings -- 1. Greg Biffle 2,730; 2. Jack Sprague 2,682; 3. Stacy Compton 2,647; 4. Dennis Setzer 2,619; 5. Jay Sauter 2,550; 6. Mike Wallace 2,528; 7. Andy Houston 2,516; 8. Ron Hornaday 2,439; 9. Mike Bliss 2,385; 10. Kevin Harvick 2,371.