Kentucky Kroger 225 race report

"Party-Crasher" Riggs Wins Action-Filled NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Kroger 225 SPARTA, Ky. - Jack Sprague and Ted Musgrave had the party pretty much to Sthemselves aturday night, swapping the lead six times over the first S109 laps of the ...

"Party-Crasher" Riggs Wins Action-Filled NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Kroger 225

SPARTA, Ky. - Jack Sprague and Ted Musgrave had the party pretty much to Sthemselves aturday night, swapping the lead six times over the first S109 laps of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck eries Kroger 225 at Kentucky SSpeedway.

Then they let series point leader Scott Riggs crash the affair.

A freak accident at the exit of Turn 2 eliminated Musgrave's speedy Mopar Performance Dodge just past the race's two-thirds mark, after Musgrave had made his final pit stop, apparently clearing the table for Sprague to claim his second victory of the year.

But, with 10 laps to go, the engine in Sprague's NetZero Platinum Chevrolet dropped a cylinder and there, ready to pounce, was a lurking Riggs who - at one point - was nearly a half lap behind the leaders.

Riggs passed Sprague's slowing Silverado on the 141st of 150 laps, then pulled away from championship rival Joe Ruttman in a two-serial shootout that followed the event's seventh caution flag. The driver of the Team ASE Racing Dodge held a 1.368-second advantage over Ruttman's DANA Corporation Ram, averaging a record 113.525 mph for the 225-mile distance.

The sophomore competitor's third victory of the 2001 season was worth $74,036 and allowed Riggs to extend his point lead over Ruttman to 59 as the series opened the second half of a 24-race schedule.

"Track position was very critical tonight, especially for us," said Riggs who celebrated the 150th series appearance of his sponsor and his wife, Jai's, 29th birthday that fell the day before. "It seemed like the truck took a long time to come in tonight. We set up in Happy Hour for the long run and we thought we'd be pretty good."

Ruttman passed Sprague for second-place on lap 149 as the field restarted single-file after Lance Norick's accident in Turn 3. The Bud Pole starter held onto third, despite pressure from Travis Kvapil and Dennis Setzer, who'd brought their mounts from a lap off the pace. Ricky Hendrick, Jon Wood, Randy Tolsma and Terry Cook completed the lead lap finishers with 10th-place Billy Bigley two laps behind.

Just 21 of the race's 36 starters managed to take the checkered flag. Caution consumed 35 of the 150 laps. Six competitors swapped the lead 14 times to the delight of an announced crowd of 41,229.

The action began early when Hendrick, who'd dropped back from his outside front row start, spun exiting the fourth turn on the 11th lap. Five trucks ultimately were involved with Chris Horn's Chevy the only one to suffer major damage in the melee.

Musgrave, meanwhile, took the lead on the seventh lap and held it until the 52nd when the field pitted under debris-triggered caution. Sprague won the race off pit road with Musgrave now in second- place. The pair, trading the lead three times over the next 33 laps, distanced themselves from the third- place battle, a scrappy, side-by-side match among Coy Gibbs, Riggs and Ruttman.

Musgrave's night came to an end after he'd pitted for right-side tires on lap 109. Green flag stops were completed on lap 116, cycling Musgrave back to the lead but only for an instant. He was in the process of putting a lap on Raybestos Rookie Matt Crafton, whose Chevrolet suddenly wobbled, catching the left rear of the leader's Dodge that, in turn, hit the outside wall.

"He got loose - and that was the end of my day," said Musgrave. Crafton commented, "As he was going by me, it just took the air off my spoiler and I tried to catch it - I overcorrected and got into the side of him. I had no intention to crash anybody but I'm not going to completely get down on the bottom of the track and put the flashers on. I don't think there's much I could have done at that point."

Tolsma inherited the lead then pitted bringing Riggs, who'd led for three laps during the green flag pit cycle, back to the No. 1 slot on the 120th circuit. After a sixth caution, when Gibbs spun in Turn 2 and collected Jimmy Hensley, Sprague, who'd taken four tires when he stopped on the 110th circuit, closed to run side-by-side with Riggs on lap 139 and take the helm one serial later.

Then Sprague's engine went south, costing the two-time series champion the lead and a possible victory for the second time in as many weeks.

"At least we finished third. That's better than last week," lamented Sprague who became the tour's first $4 million career winner. "I was having a lot of fun racing (Musgrave) and when he had his trouble, I thought I was home free. Mr. Riggs got a (early) Christmas present today."

The next-to-final yellow allowed Setzer and Hendrick to regain the lead lap and Setzer, in particular, made the most of his good fortune along with Kvapil. The two pitted for tires after Norick's incident then dashed into the top five, displacing Wood and Tolsma. The latter spun in Turn 3 on the white flag lap following contact with several other trucks, dropping from third to eighth.

The series completes a five-in-a-row schedule this week, heading for Saturday's New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway.

-nascar/cts-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Lance Norick , Terry Cook , Jon Wood , Scott Riggs , Matt Crafton , Joe Ruttman , Billy Bigley , Randy Tolsma , Jimmy Hensley , Chris Horn , Travis Kvapil