Chicago race report

CICERO, Ill. - Joe Ruttman held off NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point leader Greg Biffle in a tense, two-lap shootout to win Sunday's inaugural Sears Craftsman 175 of Chicago at the Chicago Motor Speedway. The victory was the...

CICERO, Ill. - Joe Ruttman held off NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point leader Greg Biffle in a tense, two-lap shootout to win Sunday's inaugural Sears Craftsman 175 of Chicago at the Chicago Motor Speedway. The victory was the third of the season for Ruttman who extended Dodge's personal best winning streak on the tour to three in a row and four of the last five events. Although Ruttman started from the pole position, he had to come from deep in the pack following a 42nd lap pit stop. He battled back to the lead on the 115th lap, was passed by Biffle's Grainger Ford on the 137th serial and went in front to stay on the 163rd turn around the one-mile speedway when his rival overdrove Turn 1. Two late caution flags, on laps 165 and 171, gave Biffle two shots at the 55-year-old Ruttman and extended the scheduled 175-lap distance to 177. Ruttman, however, got a good jump on his rival on lap 176 and extended his lead to 0.330-seconds - about three truck lengths - at the finish. Ruttman won $49,040 for his 11th career victory on the tour and added a $10,000 bonus from series sponsor Craftsman to the DANA Corporation-sponsored team's coffers for winning from the Bud Pole. He averaged 85.259 mph as 10 caution periods consumed 43 laps. Biffle, who led a race high 70 serials, extended his series point lead to 200 over Mike Wallace. Wallace took third in the Team ASE Racing Ford, followed by Andy Houston's CAT Rental Store Chevrolet and the Carlin Burners/R.E. Phelon Ford of Rick Carelli who scored his first top-five finish in more than a year. Rookie Jamie McMurray, starting 20th, was sixth. Bryan Reffner, Terry Cook, B.A. Wilson and Randy Tolsma completed the top-10. The first 15 finishers among 26 who took the checkered flag completed all 177 laps. Seven drivers exchanged the lead 14 times. Ruttman, joined in victory circle by team owner Bobby Hamilton, kept Biffle at bay by blocking the inside lane - notably on the next-to-final restart on lap 170. "There at the end, I was just protecting my position," he said. "I knew that Greg and Mike were back there and I was going to do everything that I could do to make sure they stayed behind me." Biffle, a five-time winner this season, finished second for the second time. "I think we could have gotten back by him if it weren't for the caution flags there at the end," he commented. Two drivers, Ryan McGlynn and Jimmy Hensley, were involved in separate, single-truck accidents but were uninjured. Hensley triggered the final two cautions, backing his eLink Chevrolet into the Turn 3 wall on the 164th lap and after hasty repairs - demolishing his Silverado in a Turn 1 accident on lap 171. Ruttman, Biffle and Wallace exchanged the lead five times over the race's first nine laps before the field settled in on the flat, straightaway-dominated layout. Rookie Scott Riggs headed his first series laps on the 40th turn when all but Ruttman pitted. The eventual winner came down pit road two laps later, just before the event's third caution was lifted, leaving Ruttman at least 25 spots out of first place. Biffle then sliced his way back to the front, passing Riggs on lap 63. Riggs pitted his smoking Royal Crown Cola Dodge 10 laps later and eventually dropped out with rear end failure. Biffle allowed Roush Racing partner Kurt Busch to lead the 82nd stanza but reasserted himself to build a four-second lead by lap 105 when the field again headed in for service as Busch spun in Turn 2 after contact with Jack Sprague and grazed the outside wall. The rookie, after ducking down pit road, ran the reentry paddle on lap 106 and was black-flagged only to be tagged with a speeding penalty. Busch went from contender to two laps down and finished 19th, two spots behind Sprague who'd spun early in Turn 4 when a sway bar broke. Wilson, who'd pitted out of sequence, headed the pack when the field restarted on lap 112 but was quickly passed by Houston. Biffle, however, roared past both, followed by Ruttman who'd chased down the leaders from a half-dozen seconds behind. What turned out to be the deciding move came when Biffle slid up the track and Ruttman took advantage of his rare miscue. He slammed the door on Biffle's final advance on the 163rd stanza, a split second before Hensley's first of two accidents. Wallace shadowed the pair but couldn't find enough of his early race speed to mount a serious challenge. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series takes the Labor Day Weekend off before heading to Richmond International Raceway for the Sept. 7 Kroger 200.

Owen Kearns

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Andy Houston , Kurt Busch , Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Joe Ruttman , Ryan McGlynn , Bryan Reffner , Randy Tolsma , Jimmy Hensley , Rick Carelli
Teams Carlin