DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2003) -- The 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' season-opening race last Friday, the Florida Dodge Dealers 250, had it all: a three-wide photo finish, one of the series' veterans snapping a lengthy winless streak and...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2003) -- The 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' season-opening race last Friday, the Florida Dodge Dealers 250, had it all: a three-wide photo finish, one of the series' veterans snapping a lengthy winless streak and record TV ratings for the series at Daytona International Speedway.
A thrilling finish featured Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford) taking the white flag in the lead, dropping to third on the 2.5-mile superspeedway's backstretch, then surging past defending race champion Robert Pressley (No. 59 Kingsford/Harris Trucking Dodge) off Turn 4 to break a 120-race victory drought.
Crawford, second-place Travis Kvapil (No. 16 IWX Motor Freight Chevrolet) and Pressley hit the stripe virtually side-by-side to record the first three-wide finish in series history. Crawford's .027-second margin of victory was the sixth-closest finish in series history.
The spectacular conclusion capped an eventful 2003 Speedweeks for the series, which included the announcement that NASCAR has approved Toyota's Tundra truck for competition beginning in 2004.
Daytona also marked the debut of SPEED Channel as the exclusive television home of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Extensive promotion, coverage of all Florida Dodge Dealers 250 practice and qualifying sessions and a dramatic race resulted in the series' highest-rated, most-watched Daytona race.
SPEED Channel's broadcast earned a 1.0 Nielsen rating, 67% higher than last year's event on ESPN (.6). There were 576,000 households tuned into the Florida Dodge Dealers 250, and increase of 14% from 2002.
"Great competition -- tough drivers in tough trucks -- always has been a hallmark of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and this intense competition translates very well on television," said Paul Brooks, NASCAR vice president/broadcasting. "SPEED Channel, and its commitment to providing not only that story but the story-behind-the-story, is off to a great start in delivering the excitement of the series to fans nationwide and we are pleased with the increased value that our team, tracks and series sponsors are receiving from NASCAR TV on SPEED."
SPEED Channel's coverage continues with Darlington (S.C.) Raceway's Craftsman 200 on March 14.
IN OTHER NEWS
* Sweet Home Alabama ... To honor Crawford's runner-up finish in last season's NASCAR Craftsman Truck championship standings, the competitor's hometown of Mobile, Ala. scheduled "Rick Crawford Day" for this past Tuesday. Everyone got a bonus by being able to also celebrate Crawford winning Daytona and collecting a series record purse of $84,585.
* Aging like fine wine ... Circle Bar Racing crew chief Ray Stonkus, at age 62 years nine months, becomes the oldest winning crew chief in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history. The previous most senior? Roland Wlodyka, who was 59 years five months old when Crawford won at Homestead-Miami Speedway on April 4, 1998.
* Ford back on top after long wait ... Ford heads for Darlington Raceway with the series manufacturer lead for the first time since Oct. 28, 2000, the final race of Greg Biffle's championship season. Kvapil's owner, Steve Coulter, scored Chevrolet's 1,400th manufacturer point at Daytona.
* Pressley first POWERade Pit Championship winner ... Pressley's team, directed by crew chief Greg Conner, won the inaugural $3,000 POWERade Pit Championship at Daytona. The award is based on a combination of points from qualifying and race finish. The driver/team advancing the most positions under a caution flag pit stop, also receives bonus points.