Homestead Race Report

MIKE WALLACE EDGES USG ROOKE MIKE STEFANIK TO CAPTURE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK ’99 OPENER BY OWEN KEARNS JR HOMESTEAD, Fla. –Miami-Homestead Speedway worked its magic for the fourth consecutive time Saturday, making Mike Wallace a ...

MIKE WALLACE EDGES USG ROOKE MIKE STEFANIK TO CAPTURE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK ’99 OPENER

BY OWEN KEARNS JR

HOMESTEAD, Fla. –Miami-Homestead Speedway worked its magic for the fourth consecutive time Saturday, making Mike Wallace a first-time winner on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in the 40-year-old St. Louis veteran’s debut for Ultra Motorsports. Wallace, who left Ken Schrader’s team at the conclusion of the 1998 season along with crew chief Tim Kohuth, battled at the front of the field for most of a warm, South Florida afternoon and edged USG SHEETROCK® Brand Rookie-of-the-Year campaigner Mike Stefanik to capture the Florida Dodge Dealers 400. The winning Ford F-150 – there’s yet to be another make in victory circle at Miami- Homestead – covered the 258-mile distance at a record average speed of 109.813 mph, despite three late cautions which added five laps to a scheduled distance of 167 turns around the 1.5- mile speedway. Wallace, whose best previous finish was second-place in 1997 at California Speedway, collected $51,125 for series co-founder Jimmy and Marlene Smith’s Team ASE Racing outfit – making the Smiths the first owners to win in all five seasons of the tour. Stefanik, who started 17th, nearly got his first victory in the Rhode Island freshman’s second NCTS start but fell 0.461-second shy following a green-white-checker finish. Stacy Compton finished third in the Royal Crown Cola Dodge, trailed by defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday’s NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet and Andy Houston, who battled back from an unscheduled tire change which put The Cat Rental Store Chevrolet a lap behind at mid-race. Kevin Cywinski finished sixth to score his career-best finish in the series, followed by USG Rookie Scott Hansen, 1998 Florida Dodge Dealers 400 winner Rick Crawford and Rick Carelli. The first 13 among just 15 finishers completed all 172 laps. It was the fewest drivers to finish a series event, erasing from the record book the 16 running at Sears Point in 1995. Among those failing to finish were Bud Pole winner Randy Tolsma, who wrecked his Supergard Motor Oil Dodge in the first turn on lap 166 and Jack Sprague, who walked away from his demolished GMAC Financial Services Ford after a lap 149 altercation with Ron Barfield. Wallace led four times for 43 laps, poking the nose of his white, blue and orange Ford in front for the first time on lap 47, when he passed Barfield’s Icehouse Beer Ford. The deciding pass, it turns out, came on lap 159, when Wallace dove under Hornaday, whose Silverado truck slipped in fluid which – a split-second later – touched off a crash involving Terry Cook and Tom Hubert. He was one of eight drivers to head the extremely competitive affair, which kept a huge crowd on its feet throughout the race as the lead shuffled 17 times to match a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series record. Wallace, despite having a strong truck, was plenty worried when the caution flag kept appearing with the finish in sight. “Man, they were wearing me out. Any time you’re leading a race, we’ve all lost races in the closing laps,” said Wallace, who entered the 1999 season with a 43-race winless streak. “Mike Stefanik is a great race driver. I’ve watched him run everything else. I wasn’t going to race him any different, or take him any more lightly, than Ron Hornaday or Jack Sprague.” Wallace, after competing in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division, initially had his doubts about the competition in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where 13 different drivers have gone to victory lane in the last 14 races. He’s since changed his opinion. “The competition is so tough, so darn tough,” he said. “Now, nobody can say ‘Mike Wallace hasn’t won a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.” Stefanik, meanwhile, was having an equally gratifying day, along with Dale Phelon’s Carlin Burners & Controls team, who enjoyed its best series finish. “I’m just so happy. I haven’t ever been so happy with a second-place,” said the 1997-98 Featherlite Modified and Busch North, Grand National Division champion. “The guys in this series know how to race.” Stefanik, who trails Wallace by a 180 to 170 margin in series standings, takes a 20 to 14 USG rookie cushion over Hansen to the year’s second race – Saturday’s Chevy Trucks NASCAR 150 at Phoenix International Raceway. — The results: Bud Pole Award – Randy Tolsma, Dodge, 36.045 seconds, 149.813 mph (record, old Jack Sprague, 36.173, 1998) Florida Dodge Dealers 400 (172 laps) -- 1. (10)Mike Wallace, Ford, 172, 109.813 mph, $51,125; 2. (17)Mike Stefanik, Ford, 172, $27,375; 3. (2)Stacy Compton, Dodge, 172, $23,225; 4. (14)Ron Hornaday, Chevrolet, 172, $14,775; 5. (19)Andy Houston, Chevrolet, 172, $16,125; 6. (8)Kevin Cywinski, Ford, 172, $11,375; 7. (21)Scott Hansen, Chevrolet, 172, $11,475; 8. (18)Rick Crawford, Ford, 172, $11,725; 9. (15)Butch Miller, Dodge, 172, $11,525; 10. (13)Rick Carelli, Chevrolet, 172, $12,250; 11. (4)Greg Biffle, Ford, 172, $11,225; 12. (28)Brian Sockwell, Chevrolet, 172, $10,125; 13. (22)Randy MacDonald, Dodge, 172, $10,000; 14. (25)Lance Norick, Chevrolet, 171, $10,900; 15. (5)Ron Barfield, Ford, 170, engine, $11,150; 16. (32)Rick McCray, Chevrolet, 170, $9,700; 17. (1)Randy Tolsma, Dodge, 165, accident, $11,600; 18. (29)Tom Hubert, Chevrolet, 158, accident, $9,500; 19. (7)Terry Cook, Chevrolet, 157, accident, $10,400; 20. (30)Scot Walters, Ford, 152, engine, $10,300; 21. (3)Jay Sauter, Chevrolet, 149, engine, 10,300; 22. (11)Jack Sprague, Chevrolet, 148, accident, $9,875; 23. (16)Bob Keselowski, Dodge, 147, engine, $8,750; 24. (20)Lonnie Rush, Chevrolet, 120, engine, $9,450; 25. (26)Tim Steele, Ford, 107, accident, $8,300; 26. (23)Rob Morgan, Ford, 94, accident, $8,050; 27. (9)Kevin Harvick, Ford, 87, engine, $8,850; 28. (12)Mike Bliss, Ford, 41, accident, $8,650; 29. (6)Jimmy Hensley, Dodge, 27, engine, $8,450; 30. (27)Randy Nelson, Ford, 15, engine, $6,700; 31.(33)Michael Dokken, Chevrolet, 10, engine, $6,600; 32. (31)Ernie Cope, Ford, 10, engine, $6,500; 33. (34)Joe Ruttman, Ford, 3, vibration, $7,350; 34. (24)Dennis Setzer, Dodge, 1, engine, $6,350 — NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Points (Unofficial) – 1. Mike Wallace 180; 2. Mike Stefanik 170; 3. Stacy Compton 170; 4. Ron Hornaday 165; 5. Andy Houston 155; 6. Kevin Cywinski 150; 7. Scott Hansen 146; 8. Rick Crawford 142; 9. Butch Miller 138; 10. Greg Biffle 135

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jay Sauter , Mike Wallace , Andy Houston , Stacy Compton , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Tom Hubert , Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Joe Ruttman , Tim Steele , Michael Dokken , Randy Tolsma , Jimmy Hensley , Rick Carelli , Mike Bliss , Rob Morgan , Ron Barfield , Dale Phelon , Brian Sockwell , Butch Miller , Scott Hansen
Teams Carlin