Loudon race notes

LOUDON, N.H. - Three competitors enjoying the most success in 2001 - Scott Riggs, Jack Sprague and Ted Musgrave - have struggled with inconsistency. While the trio count nine wins, nine Bud Poles and rank first, third and sixth in NASCAR...

LOUDON, N.H. - Three competitors enjoying the most success in 2001 - Scott Riggs, Jack Sprague and Ted Musgrave - have struggled with inconsistency. While the trio count nine wins, nine Bud Poles and rank first, third and sixth in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points, they also have racked up 10 finishes of 20th or worse.

How that plays out in the championship remains to be seen. History, however, shows that the first three champions - Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday and Sprague - finished 20th or worse just once in their title years. Last year, a 25th-place finish was the only blot on Greg Biffle's championship log.

Things get a bit murkier after that: Hornaday and Sprague each had four finishes of 20th or worse in 1998 and 1999, respectively.

On the plus side of the ledger this year, with a single 20th or worse each, are Joe Ruttman (second), Ricky Hendrick (fourth) and Travis Kvapil (fifth).

Sprague is the first series Bud Pole winner to triumph at New Hampshire International Speedway. The best previous start by a race winner was fifth, by Kurt Busch in 2000. Sprague*s New England 200 victory marked the veteran*s 125th top-10 finish in 160 NCTS appearances.

His 128.091 mph qualifying lap marked the first time in 2001 that a single-lap record had been lowered. Sprague leads Bud Pole competition with five and extended the series-best career mark to 18.

Dennis Setzer had a horrendous start to the season, failing to land a top-five finish in his first nine starts with the Morgan-Dollar Motorsports team. The turnaround continued Saturday as Setzer, the 1999 New England 200 winner, finished third to post his third top five in his last four starts. The finish was Setzer*s 25th among the top five in series competition.

What a difference a year makes for Setzer, who broke his shoulder blade in a Turn 3 accident shortly after the start of last year*s race. *We got some good breaks and it came out on paper,* he observed.

Tom Carey, who also competed in the afternoon*s NASCAR Busch North Series event, finished 11th. The part-time series competitor*s previous best outing came June 30 when the Orange, Mass. driver ran 21st. Carey, bouncing back from a serious accident last September at Dover Downs International Speedway, ran as high as fourth before slipping back.

NBS regulars Mike Olsen and Dale Shaw made cameo appearances before making quick exits from the New England 200.

Ken Schrader posted his third consecutive finish among the top 10. Schrader showed class when the race came down to a seven-lap shootout, giving NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point chasers plenty of room * although not exactly laying over. That*s why he*s never considered an outsider when Schrader chooses to *go visiting.*

Chevrolet*s top-four sweep was the first by any manufacturer since the 1998 season when it happened three times, most recently on Oct. 11 at Sears Point Raceway (by Ford). Chevy pulled off the same feat a month earlier at Gateway International Raceway. The month of May saw Fords finish one through four at I-70 Speedway outside Kansas City.

Intermittent power outages around the NHIS grounds failed to delay the start of the New England 200 although ESPN and MRN Radio switched to backup generators and the track*s scoreboard stayed dark. Power was restored about a third of the way into the race.

-NASCAR

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Mike Skinner , Ken Schrader , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Hendrick , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Scott Riggs , Joe Ruttman