WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Greg Biffle became just the third driver in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history and first since 1997 to win three consecutive races Saturday as he led a one-two Roush Racing sweep of the Bully Hill Vineyards 150 at...
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Greg Biffle became just the third driver in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history and first since 1997 to win three consecutive races Saturday as he led a one-two Roush Racing sweep of the Bully Hill Vineyards 150 at Watkins Glen International. Biffle, the Bud Pole starter for the fourth time this season, passed Marty Houston on the 49th of 62 laps around the 2.45-mile road course, then drew away from teammate Kurt Busch to win by 1.498 seconds. The victory, Biffle's fourth in the past five races, was worth $44,590 plus a $10,000 Craftsman Pole-Win bonus and enabled the third-year competitor to pad his series point lead to 54 over 1999 champion Jack Sprague who finished fifth in the season's 13th of 24 races. Biffle's Grainger Ford led four times for 36 laps, falling back only during a lap 35 green flag pit stop for tires and fuel when he surrendered first-place to rookie Carlos Contreras. "I think that when you win like this everyone expects you to go out and win every race," observed Biffle who could become the first driver on the series to win four straight races should he successfully defend last year's victory at The Milwaukee Mile - site of Saturday's Sears DieHard 200. "Of course, that's what we'd like to do, too. I think that actually makes me a little nervous at times just because of the added pressure but it also is very exciting to be able to continue running well." Busch, driving the Exide Batteries F-150, settled for his fourth second-place finish of his rookie season - two of them behind Biffle. He refused to fold in the waning laps under pressure from two-time race winner Ron Fellows who just one week earlier competed in the LeMans 24 Hour race in France. Fellows, who started dead-last in a hastily arranged ride after his Bully Hill Vineyard Chevrolet failed to qualify for the race, charged back to finish third but couldn't bypass Busch to get a shot at Biffle. Wallace finished fourth in his Team ASE Racing Ford, trailed by Sprague whose afternoon was marred by a first lap, first turn spin when his GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet was hit from behind and dropped to 34th in the running order. Andy Houston, Dennis Setzer, Contreras, Rick Crawford and Randy Tolsma finished sixth through 10th. Contreras, a native of Mexico City, became the first Hispanic driver to score a top-10 finish on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and only the second foreign-born driver to lead a race. Eighteen of the race's 28 finishers completed all 62 laps, a distance of 151.9 miles. Biffle's winning average sped, 85.244 mph, was far below Fellows' 1997 race record due to a track high five caution flags that consumed 10 laps. All of the incidents, mostly involving trucks that spun off and got bogged down in gravel pits, were minor. Seven different drivers led the race, trading the lead nine times. Strategy - getting to the final fuel window, then pitting for four tires under green - was the order of the afternoon after Biffle, first-time starter Jeff Beck, Busch, outside front row starter Terry Cook and Sprague passed around the lead during the race's first half in which the yellow waved three times. Green flag stops among the leaders began when Busch headed down pit road on lap 31, followed by Biffle on the 36th serial. That turned over the lead to Contreras who, in turn, surrendered to Houston. The latter driver still hadn't made his pit call on the 49th lap when a combination of worn tires and Biffle's persistence produced the final lead change at the head of the backstretch. Meanwhile, most eyes were on Fellows, who took over the Conely Racing Chevrolet qualified 26th by Darren Law. Miscommunication with crew chief Brian Pattie - Fellows shouldered the blame - sent the truck to the rear on lap 15 when the veteran misread the pits closed flag. Fellows later overshot his pit stall, giving up more hard-won ground but - thanks to a lap 47 caution for Scott Riggs' spin into the Turn 1 gravel trap - he was able to close for a last shot at the leaders. Fellows actually drove alongside Busch on the final restart with five laps remaining but figured he'd get the black flag if he held the position. "I got a heck of a restart (but ) the only problem was I jumped it so I had to back off," said Fellows. Instead of clearing the final obstacle between himself and Biffle, Fellows was faced with Wallace's Ford, which he bypassed, and the suddenly very wide truck belonging to Busch. There would be no comeback victory this time - and Busch took credit for that. "I was really excited to be able to beat somebody like Ron Fellows," said the 21-year-old rookie. "There was so much attention (paid) to him this weekend and it really feels good (to beat) him, especially at Watkins Glen." Partner Biffle also had an attaboy for his stablemate - whose efforts helped preserve the victory. "He really raced him there at the end," observed Biffle. The results: Bud Pole - Greg Biffle, Ford, 1 minute 14.465 seconds, 118.445 mph (record, old, Ron Fellows, Chevrolet, 1 minute 15.079 seconds, 1998) Failed to qualify (3) - Donny Morelock, Dodge; Jason Thom, Chevrolet; Phil Bonifield, Chevrolet Bully Hill Vineyards 150 (62 laps) -- 1. (1)Greg Biffle, Ford, 62, 85.244 mph, $44,590; 2. (7)Kurt Busch, Ford, 62, $26,455; 3. (26)Ron Fellows, Chevrolet, 62, $19,525; 4. (4)Mike Wallace, Ford, 62, $13,145; 5. (3)Jack Sprague, Chevrolet, 62, $13,575; 6. (15)Andy Houston, Chevrolet, 62, $11,595; 7. (8)Dennis Setzer, Dodge, 62, $10,795; 8. (6)Carlos Contreras, Dodge, 62, $9,395; 9. (10)Rick Crawford, Ford, 62, $10,995; 10. (13)Randy Tolsma, Dodge, 62, $11,295; 11. (2)Terry Cook, Chevrolet, 62, $9,695; 12. (18)Steve Grissom, Dodge, 62, $9,645; 13. (9)Bryan Reffner, Chevrolet, 62, $9,595; 14. (14)Jimmy Hensley, Chevrolet, 62, $9,545; 15. (5)Joe Ruttman, Dodge, 62, $9,645; 16. (21)Andy Santerre, Ford, 62, $8,595; 17. (19)Marty Houston, Chevrolet, 62, $9,395; 18. (23)Charles Morgan Jr, Ford, 62, $8,345; 19. (20)Tom Carey, Dodge, 61, $8,270; 20. (24)Randy MacDonald, Chevrolet, 61, $9,370; 21. (29)Randy Renfrow, Dodge, 61, $9,045; 22. (33)Rick Ware, Chevrolet, 61, $7,995; 23. (17)Lance Norick, Chevrolet, 61, $8,945; 24. (25)Scott Riggs, Dodge, 60, $7,895; 25. (32)Tom Boston, Ford, 57, $7,845; 26. (11)Rob Morgan, Ford, 55, $8,745; 27. (34)Wayne Edwards, Chevrolet, 55, $7,645; 28. (28)Jeff Beck, Ford, 53, accident, $7,545; 29. (27)Steve Prescott, Chevrolet, 52, $7,445; 30. (16)Brad Bennett, Chevrolet, 34, driveline, $7,345; 31. (22)J.D. Gibbs, Chevrolet, 24, accident, $7,245; 32. (12)Rick Carelli, Ford, 13, accident, $8,145; 33. (30)B.A. Wilson, Chevrolet, 4, engines, $8,045; 34. (31)Ryan McGlynn, Chevrolet, 1, brakes, $6,945 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Points - 1. Greg Biffle 2,077; 2. Jack Sprague 2,023; 3. Mike Wallace 1,1,998; 4. Andy Houston 1,1,948; 5. Kurt Busch 1,842; 6. Dennis Setzer 1,768; 7. Randy Tolsma 1,730; 8. Steve Grissom 1,721; 9. Bryan Reffner 1,708; 10. Rick Crawford 1,688 End
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES BULLY HILL VINEYARDS 150 NOTES AND QUOTES
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Greg Biffle could have been excused for scratching his head in disbelief when he read Saturday morning's newspapers that led not with news of his fourth Bud Pole of the season but the trials and tribulations of The Glen's most popular driver Ron Fellows. Fellows, whose Chevrolet's brake pedal snapped on its first qualifying lap, had failed to qualify for the race backed by Bully Hill Vineyards - also the sponsor of Joe Nemechek's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team. Not to worry. Journeyman owner John Conely stepped forward with the offer of his unsponsored truck, qualified 26th by driving school instructor Darren Law, like Fellows a native of Canada. Nemechek crew chief Brian Pattie and hands pitched in to replace engine, drive train, rear end and some suspension pieces on a chassis that -with a Ford body - had carried Tony Raines to three wins in 1998. Fellows' run hardly was flawless but the two-time series winner still finished third, even with the handicap of starting at the tail of the pack on three separate occasions. For Conely, and regular driver David Starr, all's well that ends (or in this case begins) well. Nemechek will provide his backup truck and the Bully Hill sponsorship for the duo's Saturday race at The Milwaukee Mile. "This whole weekend's been big for us, very big," said Conely who scored his first manufacturer points for Chevrolet. Added Starr, with a big smile, "This is going to be a great opportunity for me. It's the first time in the series that I'll have a truck to drive that's capable of winning a race." For Biffle, the fourth time turned out to be the charm in his quest for three consecutive victories. The third-year driver struck out after two on three occasions in 1999 - at New Hampshire, Heartland Park Topeka and Louisville. Mike Skinner was the first to turn the series hat trick in 1996 with wins at Tucson, Colorado National Speedway and Topeka. Ron Hornaday's 1997 streak began at The Milwaukee Mile and continued through Louisville and Colorado. "I'd like to be the first to win four in a row," said Biffle, adding, "I think we can do it." Biffle now has won 13 times in his last 33 starts, beginning with his May 1999 first NCTS win at Memphis Motorsports Park. That's a winning percentage of 39.4 percent. Crew chief Randy Goss now counts 18 series victories - one fewer than all-time leader Dennis Connor of Hendrick Motorsports. Track position is supposed to count for everything, especially in road racing, so one would surmise Jack Sprague's fifth-place finish after a first lap spin to 34th-place must represent the exception to the rule. Sprague even collected five bonus points for leading the race. "I'm not a road racer so this is a good finish for me," observed Sprague who apparently isn't conversant with the record book. The finish was his fifth consecutive top-five and lead lap performance at The Glen - best by far on the tour - and a NCTS leading 10th top-five and 13th top-10 finish on a road course. The next lap Sprague leads on any type track will be his 3,500th. Rookie Carlos Contreras has marshaled his energies for the two road course races and, after his brilliant performance at The Glen, it's easy to see why the Mexico City native elected to sit out the June 17 race at Kentucky Speedway while his Pikes Peak-injured left knee heeled. Contreras, known to some as Señor Hot Wheels, qualified a career best sixth, led two laps and finished eighth. He's only the second foreign-born driver to lead a lap on the tour and the first Hispanic competitor to post a top-10 finish. "I'm happy with the finish because I think this is the most competitive series in the world and I'm proud to be a part of it," said Contreras, a graduate of road racing in stock cars and single-seaters. "I'm hoping this is the first of a lot of top-10 finishes." Charles Morgan Jr., the 57-year-old father of series regular Rob Morgan, became the oldest driver in the modern era to debut in one of NASCAR's national series. The former IMSA winner finished 17th, completed all 62 laps and won family bragging rights by beating his son. The younger Morgan had a top-five truck early but thanks to a botched pit stop, finished 26th. - Who wants to be (the next NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series) millionaire? Rick Crawford and Dennis Setzer can reach that plateau at The Milwaukee Mile and join the previous 12 competitors who have won $1 million or more on the series. Crawford, who's started 91 times, needs $7,904 while Setzer, a 60-race veteran, is $29,555 shy of seven figures. Crawford merely has to start the Sears DieHard 200 while Setzer must finish second. A 13th-place finish ended Bryan Reffner's top-10 finish string at nine races, the longest such streak of the 2000 season. Reffner's lead lap finish streak continues at 11. A Spears Manufacturing truck has appeared in all 16 series road races but until Marty Houston led the Bully Hill Vineyards 150, the team never had headed an event on a road course. In fact, the team never had led consecutive races until Saturday. "Wayne and Connie Spears give us everything we need and they've been real patient with us and we're getting this thing turned around," said Houston. Spears, Hendrick Motorsports and Ultra Motorsports are the only three teams to have started each of 16 series road races. Sprague and Joe Ruttman have 16 road course appearances. - None of the top-15 positions in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series changed following the season's 13th of 24 races. That's the first time it's happened in 2000.