BUSCH: IRL: RaceBeat 2002-05-05

NASCAR Winston Cup: Patience paid off for Tony Stewart in the wreck-filled Pontiac Excitement 400. Steering clear of a record-tying number of accidents, Stewart pulled away from rookie Ryan Newman on a restart with 17 laps to go in the ...

NASCAR Winston Cup:

Patience paid off for Tony Stewart in the wreck-filled Pontiac Excitement 400. Steering clear of a record-tying number of accidents, Stewart pulled away from rookie Ryan Newman on a restart with 17 laps to go in the rain-delayed race. Stewart led the last 27 laps at Richmond International Raceway, where he has won two consecutive spring races and three times in seven career starts. The victory was his 14th in 115 Winston Cup starts. He also moved from 10th place to eighth in the points race, shaking off the disappointment of consecutive 29th-place runs. There were a track record-tying 14 caution periods and a record 103 laps run under the yellow flag on the track billed "The Action Track.'' Stewart qualified third but started 41st when the race began Saturday night because he'd changed his engine. He was 27th when the race resumed for the final 334 laps after what amounted to a 14-hour rain delay. And he started with a bad attitude, unhappy with his car, unhappy that new sealer had created a one-groove track and thinking he had no shot. Slowly but surely, Stewart worked his way into contention, finally cracking the top 10 with about 160 laps to go and continuing his climb. He passed Mark Martin for third with 67 laps to go, got by Jeff Gordon for second with 55 laps left and then set his sights on Newman, who ran in the top five all day and was strongest on long runs. After following on Newman's bumper for several laps, Stewart finally sneaked his car underneath on the 372nd lap, rode side-by-side with Newman for a lap and then pulled ahead for good entering the first turn. Newman held on for second in his Ford, followed by the Fords of Jack Roush teammates Jeff Burton and Martin, and Jeremy Mayfield's Dodge. Burton, meanwhile, was pleased to rally for his best finish of the season after and cutting a tire with about 100 laps to go. Matt Kenseth, another Roush driver, rallied from three laps down early to finish sixth, and Gordon finished seventh as the first Chevrolet. The side-by-side duel for the lead was a rare sight as the track was mostly a one-groove raceway because of a new sealer that didn't work. One lap after a restart with 67 laps left, Jimmy Spencer bumped Martin from behind, getting Martin loose and causing a pack of cars to try to brake in a cloud of smoke on the backstretch. Ten cars were involved in the accident, including Winston Cup points leader Sterling Marlin. Marlin finished 11th and remained the points leader by 132 over Kenseth, who passed Kurt Busch for second. Busch is third, 191 behind, and Martin is fourth, giving Roush three of the top four. Martin is 193 back.

NASCAR Busch Grand National Series:

Jason Keller insists that Richmond International Raceway is his favorite track. Now he has a result to back it up. Keller passed Bobby Hamilton Jr. with 12 laps to go Friday night and cruised to victory in the Hardee's 250, an event that tied the track record of 11 cautions for the series and slowed the pace for 85 laps. The victory moved Keller from 32 points behind leader and pole-sitter Jack Sprague to 34 ahead. Sprague crashed early and finished 18th. The first half of the race was a crashfest, with 10 cars out by the time 100 laps had been run and 19 eventually finishing in the garage. But conditions improved as the race wore on, Keller said. Through most of the night, Hamilton was the man to beat. He led 158 laps and used his spot in the front to avoid the wildness behind him. Hamilton even swapped the lead with Keller with 27 laps to go, but grabbed it back three laps later and quickly rebuilt it to more than a second. But racing on tires that hadn't been changed for nearly 150 laps, he was an easy mark for the veteran, who slowly reeled him in. The end for Hamilton came on the backstretch of the 239th lap around the three-quarter-mile oval when Keller's Ford ducked inside and easily blew by as Hamilton's car appeared to lose power, his gas gauge on empty. Keller raced on to an easy victory, while Hamilton pulled his coasting Ford into his pit, and his pit crew pushed it gloomily to the garage. Hamilton wound up 25th. Ashton Lewis Jr. recovered from a front-stretch spin with 93 laps to go and finished a career-best second, followed by Greg Biffle, Winston Cup regular Michael Waltrip and Kevin Grubb. The race was the first run on the newly sealed oval, and prerace driver concerns about the absence of a second racing groove proved to be legitimate right away. The caution flag flew four times in the first 51 laps and slowed the pace for 38 of the first 64 laps. Among the cars out after about 100 laps were those of Winston Cup regulars Johnny Benson, Jeff Green and Todd Bodine. Jimmy Spencer, another Winston Cup regular seeking his record-tying third consecutive Busch victory here, was gone a short time later when a U-bolt broke on his car as he was about to exit his pit. Sprague, on the pole for the second consecutive week after rain washed out qualifying, brought out the first caution when he slammed into the wall on the 12th lap.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series:

Terry Cook broke an 88-race NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory drought, winning the Dodge Ram Tough 200 at Gateway International Raceway. Cook, who went to the emergency room with flu symptoms on Wednesday, recovered sufficiently to bring his Ford F-150 from the eighth starting position to the lead by the 91st of 160 laps. The Ohio native gave up the advantage on the 106th lap in making his final of two pit stops. Cook took over for good when leader Jason Leffler pitted his Dodge 11 laps later. Cook held a 7.5-second lead over Leffler after the pit stop cycle, a margin that grew to 8.564 seconds at the checkered flag. The winner averaged 109.323 mph for 200 miles and earned $52,160 for his first victory since 1998. Pole-winner Mike Bliss finished third in a Chevrolet. Rick Crawford took fourth place despite an early stop to fix a broken oil line that dropped his Ford to 32nd in the 36-truck field. David Starr finished fifth in another Chevy to take over the series points lead, 10 ahead of Ted Musgrave. Dennis Setzer, Jon Wood, Brian Rose, Lance Norick and Matt Crafton completed the top 10, eight of whom completed all 160 laps. Just three caution flags flew to consume 14 laps, with the last ending at lap 48. Six competitors swapped the lead eight times with Cook leading twice for 59 laps. Bliss, Setzer, Wood, Leffler and Musgrave also paced the event.

National Hot Rod Association:

Larry Dixon is proving to be nearly unbeatable. The driver of the Miller Lite Dragster scored his fifth Top Fuel victory of the season at the 22nd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Whit Bazemore, Allen Johnson and Angelle Savoie also won their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the seventh of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Dixon turned in a 4.637-second run at 318.09 to beat Doug Herbert, who went 5.039 at 231.87 in the Snap-On Tools Dragster. Bazemore scored his second consecutive win of the Funny Car season, taking out points leader John Force in the final. Bazemore went 4.963 at 310.41 in his Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird to beat Force and his run of 5.559 at 195.51 in Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Johnson beat Greg Anderson to earn his second career victory in Pro Stock. Johnson made a 6.907 pass at 200.92 in a Dodge Neon R/T to beat Greg Anderson's 7.676 at 138.41 in a Chevy Cavalier. Johnson has not been in the winner's circle since the Richmond event in 1999. He is the seventh different driver to win a Pro Stock race this season. Savoie earned her first victory of the season and 23rd of her career, beating Matt Hines in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final. Savoie turned in a 7.162 at 187.91 on her CVEC Suzuki to beat Hines' 7.181 at 188.25 on his Eagle One Suzuki. Just before qualifying began on Friday, Savoie announced her new primary sponsor. She had been running without a sponsor in the first two events of the season. The next NHRA national event is the Matco Tools SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., May 16-19.

Indy Racing League:

Indianapolis Motor Speedways' new "soft'' walls passed their first real test. Robbie McGehee became the first driver to crash into the walls and limped away with only a cut on his left leg after crashing in turn three during the Indy 500's first practice session. The wall wasn't as fortunate. Workers at the track will replace the 20-foot section of four steel tubes after the bottom panel caved in when the back of McGehee's car slammed into it. The panel just above it was gouged. But track officials said that damage was expected and the results were encouraging -- preventing what could have been far mo,'' said Brian Barnhart, Indy Racing League vice president of operations. "It was a very high impact.'' Barnhart said McGehee hit going 218-219 mph, with the back end going almost straight into the wall at a 90-degree angle. Yet the car's black box indicated that the first hit came only at a force of 40 G's. When the car spun back around and slapped the wall a second time, with the right front, McGehee hit at 72.7 G's. The car nearly flipped on the 2 1/2-mile oval. Barnhart said similar accidents registered much higher impact forces. "I'm the first driver to test the new soft-wall system, which is a distinction I'd rather tell you I not have,'' McGehee said. "I can tell you it's not soft. It's hard. But I can also assure you that I'm very glad it was there.''

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Drivers Jeff Burton , Bobby Hamilton , Matt Kenseth , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Doug Herbert , Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Whit Bazemore , Greg Anderson , Jimmy Spencer , David Starr , Greg Biffle , Jeff Green , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Johnny Benson , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Lance Norick , Brian Rose , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Jon Wood , Matt Crafton , Mike Bliss , Allen Johnson , Ashton Lewis , Jack Roush , Mark Martin