LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Ted Musgrave, whose crew elected to change an engine and start at the rear of the field, passed Jack Sprague with 17 laps remaining to win Sunday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Orleans 350 race at Las Vegas Motor ...
LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Ted Musgrave, whose crew elected to change an engine and start at the rear of the field, passed Jack Sprague with 17 laps remaining to win Sunday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Orleans 350 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Musgrave, who battled from the 34th position at the start to reach the top-10 by the 20th lap, got an assist from Sprague who drove a conservative race at the finish after leading most of the race from the pole position.
Sprague, leading 104 of the 146 laps around the 1.5-mile superspeedway, elected not to pit under caution with a third of the race remaining. He wound up with more than 85 laps on his NetZero Platinum Chevrolet's right side tires and was no match for Musgrave's Mopar Performance Dodge after the race's fourth and final caution.
Musgrave, who qualified 10th before the NASCAR-imposed engine penalty, dove low under Sprague's truck in Turn 2 to take the lead for good on the 130th lap. Sprague gave chase but wound up 0.906 seconds back - about three truck lengths - at the checkered flag.
The victory was Musgrave's sixth of the 2001 season - most of any driver. He won $41,635 at an average speed of 128.090.
"The engine we had in the truck wasn't acting right and I knew the spare was a good one because we've raced good with it before," said Musgrave. "This race track is wide and big. The penalty (for the engine change) was well worth being able to run all day."
Sprague, the series championship leader with two races remaining, elected to protect that lead rather than risk a pit stop - with Musgrave - that would have put him in mid-pack for a restart.
"Am I pleased with the finish? No," said Sprague who saw his title lead grow to 97 points over Joe Ruttman. "I'll forget this race if we win the championship."
Six drivers swapped the lead 10 times with Sprague having the dominant truck, running in front four times. Ruttman, Travis Kvapil, Brendan Gaughan and Rick Crawford also took turns in the No. 1 spot.
Kvapil, starting 14th, brought his CAT Rental Stores Chevrolet through the field to finish third, ahead of Crawford's Milwaukee Electric Ford and the Team ASE Racing Dodge of Scott Riggs, the winner's teammate at Ultra Motorsports.
Ricky Hendrick, David Starr, Ruttman, Kyle Busch and Dennis Setzer completed the top 10, all completing 146 laps.
The race was largely free of accidents and cautions with the yellow flag out just four times for 17 laps. Jon Wood hit the Turn 2 wall on lap 15 but returned to finish 29th after his crew made lengthy repairs to his Ford. Twenty-nine of the 36 starters were running at the finish.
The race began, under clear skies with temperatures in the mid-80s, with Sprague toying with his rivals. Crawford nose ahead to lead laps 20 through 22, after the caution waved for Wood's accident. Sprague then headed the field until the 55th circuit when he took four new Goodyear Eagles. Kvapil and Ruttman also led before turning the helm over to Gaughan, who'd pitted on lap 17 under caution and was off-sequence.
Sprague, however, ran down Gaughan on the 76th lap, sending the hometown driver to pit road and a lap behind. Gaughan briefly got back on the lead serial but settled for 11th-; place, the first truck a lap behind.
What Musgrave called the turning point came on lap 100, when fluid from Jim Inglebright's engine failure sprayed Turn 3 and brought out the caution. Sprague, Hendrick, Setzer, Busch and Riggs elected to stay on the race track -- and the strategy proved to be the wrong decision.
Musgrave restarted sixth but quickly picked off those shod with older rubber. Two laps of tense, three-wide racing involving Busch, Ruttman and Crawford ended on lap 125, when Ruttman -- the meat in the sandwich -- went around in Turn 2 but kept his DANA Corporation Dodge off the wall.
Sprague didn't completely come up to speed on the lap 130 restart and Musgrave was there to pounce. "I figured I'd to where he wasn't," said Musgrave. "It was my only chance to pass him. Otherwise, we'd have run nose-to-tail the rest of the way."
The race's only casualty came a few minutes later -- when Musgrave hit a pigeon heading off the second turn. "All of a sudden, feathers were flying," he observed. "I thought, 'well, here comes the Humane Society after me."
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series takes a weekend off before moving to Phoenix International Raceway for the Oct. 26 Chevy Silverado 150.