BIFFLE SHEDS 32-RACE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK WINLESS STREAK WITH CLOSE VICTORY AT MEMPHIS MOTORSPORTS PARK BY OWEN KEARNS JR MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Greg Biffle, wicked fast yet winless in 32 previous NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series...
BIFFLE SHEDS 32-RACE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK WINLESS STREAK WITH CLOSE VICTORY AT MEMPHIS MOTORSPORTS PARK BY OWEN KEARNS JR
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Greg Biffle, wicked fast yet winless in 32 previous NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts, expertly held off fellow twenty-something Kevin Harvick's late charge to capture Saturday's Memphis 200 at Memphis Motorsports Park. Biffle, who started from the Bud Pole, didn't lead the race until the 50th lap. The 29- year-old Vancouver, Wash. native passed Andy Houston with 66 circuits remaining, then kept his Grainger Ford F-150 ahead of Harvick despite three late caution flags. The pair crossed the finish line separated by 0.241-second after a two-lap dash, which followed the 12th slowdown of a caution-plagued event which saw the yellow wave over 59 of the 200 laps around the 0.75-mile oval. "I don't know what to say. We got a monkey off our backs," said Biffle, who (like Harvick) ran the final 78 laps without a visit to pit road. "He (Harvick) was turning the heat up on us with 25 laps to go and my truck started getting loose. I thought, 'he's going to get me' but his lap times fell off, too. It worked for me." Biffle's victory was witnessed by the team's owner, Jack Roush, whose two-truck stable hadn't won a race since May 30, 1998, when former Exide Batteries team driver Joe Ruttman took the checkers at Watkins Glen International. "I think Benny Parsons may have had it right after all," said Roush, who took the advice of the former driver and current ESPN color analyst to hire NASCAR late model star Biffle literally sight unseen. "Benny did a good job of bringing Greg to our attention and now it looks like is ready to go and maybe win a championship. Stacy Compton, who planted the Royal Crown Cola Dodge solidly in fourth-place, added five points to his championship lead which stands at 20 over Ron Hornaday, who came from nearly two laps behind to claim sixth-place. Biffle entered the sixth of 25 scheduled events in ninth-place and moved to fourth. Jay Sauter, starting his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Silverado from the No. 2 position, finished third behind Harvick's Porter-Cable Power Tools Ford. Compton and Dennis Setzer's Mopar Performance Dodge Ram completed the top-five finishers, followed by Hornaday, Houston, Randy Tolsma, Jack Sprague and Butch Miller. Hornaday's NAPA Auto Parts Chevy picked up six positions in the last two laps with a high- side move that bypassed a freight train blocking the track's inside groove. He passed Houston coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap, falling just short of the top-five. The first 15 among 27 finishers completed the 150-mile distance, which Biffle completed at an average speed of 75.303 mph. Biffle's share of $426,090 in posted awards was a career- best $45,125. Biffle previously finished second twice, most recently at Phoenix International Raceway in October 1998. He was the circuit's fifth different winner the season's first six races. Five drivers -- Biffle, Harvick, Hornaday, Houston and Lonnie Rush -- traded the lead seven times. Once the leaders made their final pit stops, the race became a Biffle-Harvick battle a straightaway ahead of their pursuers, except as caution closed the field. Harvick, a second-place finisher in Bakersfield, Calif. in April, drew alongside the leader in traffic with 20 laps left but was unable to make the pass. A green-white-checkered finish, after Stan Boyd's Turn 4 spin, saw Biffle prevail after a perfect restart. -more
"We probably needed some left side tires but that is the way it goes," said the 23-year-old runner-up, who broke into the top-10 in the championship rankings with Liberty Racing's fourth consecutive top-10 finish. "We dug ourselves a hole in the first two races and now we're gaining them back. "We'll get us a win pretty soon." The event was accident punctuated, beginning with Bobby Hamilton's spin in the fourth turn on lap four - an incident which indirectly led to veteran Rick Carelli's serious accident seven serials later. Carelli, winner of the April 10 event at Bakersfield, got into the rear of another truck on the lap nine restart, pushing a fender onto the left front tire. Hoping for a caution, the Denver competitor pressed on, only to have the tire go flat and send his RE/MAX International Chevrolet hard into the Turn 3 wall. The 45-year-old driver was transported to the Elvis Presley Trauma Center at Memphis Regional Medical Center, where he was admitted in serious but stable condition with a concussion. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series moves west again on May 16 for the NAPA 300K at Pikes Peak International Raceway near Colorado Springs.