Indianapolis win earns new contrack

INDIANAPOLIS, Joe Ruttman's been around long enough to know a good offer when he hears one so his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors shouldn't have been surprised that the only view of his DANA Corporation Dodge most of them...

INDIANAPOLIS, Joe Ruttman's been around long enough to know a good offer when he hears one so his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors shouldn't have been surprised that the only view of his DANA Corporation Dodge most of them saw Thursday at Indianapolis Raceway Park was its tailgate. Ruttman's owner, Bobby Hamilton, promised he'd extend the 55-year-old Ruttman's contract for the 2001 season if he could win the Powerstroke 200. Unsurprisingly, that was all the incentive Ruttman, unemployed when he hooked up with Hamilton midway through the past season, needed to lead 152 of the 200 laps around the 0.686-mile asphalt. Not even an expiring engine could spoil the party as Ruttman broke a 14-race losing streak to win for the second time in 2000. Lyndon Amick closed to within a half-dozen truck lengths at the finish, 0.859-second behind, but Ruttman's mount had just enough power left to seal a victory worth $49,615 plus a $10,000 Craftsman bonus for winning from the Bud Pole. A race record 10 cautions, consuming 53 laps, held the winning pace to just 75.064 mph, slowest for the tour at IRP, not that Ruttman could have cared. "For a guy my age" quipped Ruttman, "it's (just) pretty nice to know that I have a job secure already." Ruttman, who broke Dennis Setzer's year-old record with a 111.843 mph qualifying lap, led five times for a total of 152 serials. After allowing Jack Sprague to pace his 3,500th series lap (159), Ruttman returned to the front for good on the 160th circuit. Cautions on lap 167 and 176 enabled Amick's Penda Truck Accessories Chevrolet to threaten, despite having chosen track position over tires when most of the field pitted on lap 114 and, again, on lap 126. Owner Ken Schrader didn't agree with crew chief Wally Brown's call but grudgingly agreed it was correct as Amick logged his first top-10 finish on the tour. "Then Lyndon knew he was short on tires and he drove the heck out of it" marveled Schrader. Observed Amick, "It's good to know I can run up front." Rookie sensation Jamie McMurray, in just his second appearance in the Farris Concrete Dodge, won a slam-bang battle for third-place over the Fords of veterans Mike Wallace and series point leader Greg Biffle. Kurt Busch finished sixth, followed by Setzer, 30th starter Bryan Reffner, Jimmy Hensley and Randy Tolsma. The first 13 among 26 finishers completed all 200 laps. Among those behind the wall early was Andy Houston, whose CAT Rental Store Chevrolet was damaged in a166th lap, backstretch skirmish with Steve Grissom. Houston apparently cut a tire 10 laps later, hitting the Turn 4 wall to end the evening on a disappointing note. Mid-race leader Terry Cook also was sidelined by accident. Wallace, although out-racing Biffle, couldn't dent the leader's 193-point advantage as the latter led lap one through 20 to add five bonus points to his total. Biffle has 2,927 to Wallace's 2,734 while Busch bypassed Houston and Sprague to take third-place at 2,653 with six races remaining. Biffle, starting from the No. 2 position, out-raced Ruttman into the first turn and led the first 20 laps. Ruttman, however, appeared merely to be testing the strength of his rival and held leads of up to three seconds as the field ran under green until lap 88, when Carlos Contreras' Hot Wheels Dodge caromed off the wall underneath the flag stand and was t-boned by the Milwaukee Electric Tool Ford driven by Rick Crawford. A lap later, Ruttman and the front half of the field passed the entrance to pit road, believing that NASCAR hadn't open the pits. The second half of the lead lap trucks, headed by Grissom, dove in for service and relegated the previous front runners -- Ruttman, Sprague, Wallace, McMurray, Biffle and Busch, to the rear when the race restarted. Grissom and Cook exchanged the lead twice but Ruttman powered by both to regain the No. 1 spot on the 110th circuit while Biffle and Busch struggled to pass lapped traffic. Amick then led when Ruttman pitted on lap 115 but remained there for only three circuits after the caution was lifted. Ruttman continued to build a margin in the waning laps but expressed relief that the distance was 200 laps, not 201. "I could feel the truck losing power and the truck moving backwards" he said. ,I'm not sure it would have made another lap." Sprague, meanwhile, cut a tire on the final restart to lose third-place and a lap on the field when he paused to replace right side tires on the 186th stanza. That set up a sometimes three-wide battle between McMurray, Wallace and Biffle that saw neither veteran able to pressure the 24-year-old McMurray into making an error. In fact, Wallace got a bumper into the rookie with 10 laps to go, causing McMurray to slide sideways at the exit of Turn 4, but he recovered and drove away from his antagonists. "I just don't know what to say. I guess I'm just astounded right now at how well we've been running and at my first top-three finish" said McMurray, who won the Bud Pole at Michigan Speedway in his first appearance with TKO Motorsports. "I don't know if after only two races together we can expect to win a race but, right now, it feels like one may not be all that far off." Next event for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 250 at Nashville Speedway USA.

-Owen Kearns

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Ken Schrader , Mike Wallace , Kurt Busch , Lyndon Amick , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Carlos Contreras , Terry Cook , Jamie McMurray , Joe Ruttman , Bryan Reffner , Jimmy Hensley