Loudon race report

LOUDON, N.H. - Kurt Busch, performing more like a seasoned veteran than the rookie he is, came out on top of a wild, two-lap scramble to win Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series thatlook.com 200 race at New Hampshire International ...

LOUDON, N.H. - Kurt Busch, performing more like a seasoned veteran than the rookie he is, came out on top of a wild, two-lap scramble to win Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series thatlook.com 200 race at New Hampshire International Speedway. The victory was the second in succession for the 21-year-old driver who, a week earlier won his first race in Milwaukee. Busch was the eighth and final leader, taking over from a dominating Bobby Hamilton who steered his DANA Corporation Dodge to the garage after cutting a left front tire while attempting to lap Rick Crawford on the race's 170th lap. Busch then held off veteran Mike Wallace, who several times closed the gap to a truck length and - following a three-lap caution * drove under the leader's Exide Batteries Ford in the second turn of final lap around the 1.058-mile speedway. The two trucks banged together and slid sideways, allowing Randy Tolsma and Greg Biffle to join the tight pack racing into the final set of turns. Busch, however, held steady to beat Wallace by a third of a second. Tolsma's CITGO SUPERGARD Dodge trailed the two Fords in third-place while Biffle's Grainger F-150 grabbed the fourth position from Andy Houston's CAT Rental Store Chevrolet in a side-by-side dash covered by three-thousandths of a second and settled by the start-finish line camera's view. Rookie Scott Riggs finished a career-best sixth, chased under the checkered flag by Ricky Hendrick, Michael Dokken, Ken Schrader and Marty Houston. Busch, who won $48,565, averaged 98.491 mph for the 215.83-mile distance. The seventh caution, when Terry Cook spun his PickupTruck.com Chevrolet in the first turn and hit the outside wall, extended the scheduled, 200-lap distance by four laps. The final restart nearly was Busch's undoing. He successfully blocked the initial charge of Wallace's Team ASE Racing Ford but couldn't shake his rival, who made his last-ditch move entering the second turn of the final lap. "I slipped two gears and really didn't get a good start at all," he said, giving credit to his teammate Biffle for teaching him to slow down the pack entering the race's final, two turns. "I just parked it there in the middle. (Biffle) got bumped out of a win a couple of years ago and I didn't want to let that happen to me." By then, Wallace had seen Biffle charge to the outside in a move reminiscent of Ron Hornaday's final lap dash from eighth-place to victory in the 1996 inaugural version of the race. *It was like, ¡oh my God,¢* said Wallace. *From that point it was just a matter of hanging on.* Busch became the first rookie driver on the series to win consecutive races and matched the late Kenny Irwin's record of two victories in his freshman season. "I think that Kenny was up there helping me through today," said Busch of the 1997 series rookie-of-the-year who suffered fatal injuries in a NASCAR Winston Cup Series practice accident here on Friday. Eight drivers swapped the lead 14 times. Schrader dominated the early going, pacing 59 of the first 60 laps, but never returned to the lead pack after pitting out of sequence. Schrader's Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet quit handling after his initial pit stop but the 1995 series winner wrestled his mount to its first top-10 finish in nearly three seasons. Hamilton, who started 14th, took over the lead when Schrader pitted on lap 61 and led four more times for a total of 56 laps. He and Biffle exchanged the lead five times between laps 67 and 115 with Tolsma, Wallace and Busch in pursuit. Biffle gave up the lead to Tolsma on lap 127 and never got it back. The duo ran in tandem the rest of the distance - hoping for significant contact between Busch and Wallace that never came. Biffle's ninth consecutive top-five finish, matching Jack Sprague's record set earlier in the season, extended his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point lead to a season high 142 points over Wallace who vaulted past previous runner up Sprague and Houston. Sprague was one of nine drivers eliminated by accident, finishing 34th and last on the field. Sprague's Chevrolet was severely damaged after slamming into Dennis Setzer's Dodge that caromed off the Turn 3 wall on the third lap and spun back into traffic. Setzer was transported to a Concord area hospital where he was treated for a fractured right scapula and released. Sprague was unhurt. Next event is Saturday's Chevy Silverado 200 at Nazareth Speedway where Biffle is the defending winner.

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Ken Schrader , Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Andy Houston , Kurt Busch , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Marty Houston , Ricky Hendrick , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Scott Riggs , Michael Dokken , Randy Tolsma