Portland Post Race Notes

Craftsman 200 Notebook By Shawn A. Akers PORTLAND, Ore. (April 25, 1998) Notes and quotes from Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Craftsman 200 presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Portland Speedway: Greg Biffle's homecoming was going so...

Craftsman 200 Notebook By Shawn A. Akers

PORTLAND, Ore. (April 25, 1998) Notes and quotes from Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Craftsman 200 presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Portland Speedway:

Greg Biffle's homecoming was going so well, and then...the bottom dropped out for the driver of the No. 50 Grainger Ford.

The Vancouver, Wash., native, who won the pole for Saturday's race, his first career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Bud Pole award, was black flagged for jumping the start of the race and was assessed a stop-and-go-penalty for the infraction on lap two, dropping him to the back of the field.

He then got caught up in an accident involving five other trucks coming off turn 4 on lap 28, causing him to head to the pits, where he lost a whopping 29 laps.

"I don't know what the problem was at first, but I got black flagged," said Biffle, who led the CINTAS Rookie of the Year point standings by five points over Andy Houston coming into Saturday's race. "When I went back out I asked the spotters where to run, but no matter where we were at, the high groove or the low groove, we were right in it. We are definitely disappointed.

Biffle eventually finished 26th, a total of 31 laps down to eventual race winner Stacy Compton.

Mike Bliss also had a rough homecoming. The Milwaukie, Ore. native was running up in the top-5 throughout most of the afternoon before he blew an engine on lap 142. The driver of the No. 2 Team ASE Ford eventually wound up finishing 28th.

"We were strong," Bliss said. "We were just a little loose the first half. The second half we were just trying to ride along until everybody wore their tires out. I don't know. It just lost a cylinder and then it finally blew up.

"I don't know what the heck we can do with it. We're good, I just don't know. We haven't had an engine problem in a long time. Last year, we didn't have one all year long. It might be just something stupid happening. But I'm sure we'll find out."

Rick Carelli said he couldn't complain about his third-place finish. The driver of the No. 6 RE/MAX Chevrolet, who started in the 13th position, got around Jack Sprague in the final two laps and wound up finishing a solid third behind Compton and Randy Tolsma.

"We were good today," Carelli said. "We were a little tight in the first half. I missed in qualifying, I slid up the race track a little bit and ended up starting 13th. There was a lot going on out there today. Me and Jack were pretty even. He was a little loose getting into the corners and tight off the corners.

"He was watching me so I changed my line a little bit. When he slid up the race track there in 1 and 2, I just got a good run off\ the corner and stood on it. Unfortunately, when you get out of the groove here at Portland you're in trouble and all you can do is slide. We started 13th and ended up 3rd, so we're all really happy."

Compton, who gained his first career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win on Saturday, became the 20th different driver to win in the series since competition began in 1995. He also became the first Ford driver to win on a short track since Mark Martin did it at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway in September of 1996.

Compton is also the second first-time winner in the series this season. Rick Crawford gained his first win at Homestead earlier this month.

Sprague has yet to win a race this season, but he has taken over the lead in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series after four events. Sprague moved eight points ahead (660 to 652) of Ron Hornaday, who finished sixth. Jay Satuer is third with 603 points, followed by Compton (568) and Joe Ruttman (551).

Three of the area's natives, Biffle, Bliss and Chuck Bown, participated in a Craftsman lawn tractor competition prior to the start of Saturday's Craftsman 200. Biffle won the race easily.

Tony Raines isn't complaining about his fifth-place finish, but he's not especially pleased with it, either. As far as he's concerned, the No. 19 Pennzoil Ford's first top-five of the year is simply a stepping stone to his real goal, getting back to Victory Lane.

"Fifth place was not as good as we could have done," Raines said, "but third or fourth would have been the best we could have done. We weren't far off. Top-10 last week, top-five this week, we're headed in the right direction.

Raines ran the kind of race you have to run at a tight track like Portland. He stayed out of trouble, and though he never challenged for the lead, he found himself among the leaders at the end.

"In a short-track race like this, you've got to keep your nose clean to finish well," Raines, who climbed five spots to eighth in points, said. "We tried to do that, and we tried to work on the truck to get it a little better at halftime. We gained a little bit, we were strong early in the second half, but we faded a little bit."

Bryan Reffner put together his second consecutive strong run, and moved into the top-10 in points. He held off Jay Sauter and Joe Ruttman over the closing laps to bring home a seventh-place finish, following up an eighth-place last week in Phoenix.

"We're happy with this finish," Reffner said. "We've only got to load it on the trailer and take it to the next track. We've got some momentum going."

For a team that managed only two top-10s the entire 1997 season, the progress made by the No. 66 Ford is encouraging.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Greg Biffle , Jay Sauter , Andy Houston , Stacy Compton , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Tony Raines , Jack Sprague , Rick Crawford , Joe Ruttman , Bryan Reffner , Randy Tolsma , Rick Carelli , Mike Bliss , Mark Martin