Michigan 200 race report

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Greg Biffle snatched victory from the jaws of victory. Turning in the 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season's second most dominant performance, Biffle shrugged off late caution and a ferocious, final-laps ...

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Greg Biffle snatched victory from the jaws of victory. Turning in the 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season's second most dominant performance, Biffle shrugged off late caution and a ferocious, final-laps charge by Roush Racing partner Kurt Busch to win Saturday's Michigan 200. Biffle, who led by more than six seconds at mid-race before the yellow flag reeled in his pursuers, went to the whip after a tense duel with rookie Busch and veteran Mike Wallace to carry a 10 truck length margin - 1.324 seconds - to the finish of his 14th career victory and second in a row at Michigan Speedway. The driver of the Grainger Ford led 90 of the event's 100 laps and averaged 138.408 mph for the 200-mile distance in the second-fastest race in NCTS history. Biffle's fifth win of 2000 was worth $52,090 and added 15 points to a championship lead that has reached 193 points over the third-finishing Wallace. Busch's Exide Batteries/Tractor Supply Co. Ford finished second for the fifth time in his freshman season - three of those to Biffle. Wallace, odd man out as the race wound down, held off Andy Houston's CAT Rental Store Chevrolet and the Mopar Performance Dodge of Dennis Setzer. First time Bud Pole winner Jamie McMurray caught Rick Crawford at the stripe for sixth-place. Finishing behind Crawford, who'd gone door-to-door with Setzer during the event's final 10 laps, were 31st starter Marty Houston, Terry Cook and Randy Tolsma. Twelve of the race's 28 finishers completed the full distance of an accident-free event in which no driver touched a barrier. The race's four cautions consumed just 15 laps, all coming after the first 56 serials were clean and green. Biffle, who started alongside McMurray's Farris Concrete Dodge, took the lead in Turn 1 of the initial lap and led until the 40th, when he pitted for tires and fuel - having lapped all but the next 14 drivers. Andy and Marty Houston each led a lap as service continued and Biffle returned to the front on the 42nd turn with Busch and Wallace in his wake. The stop proved costly for Joe Ruttman, who'd lost the engine in his DANA Corporation Dodge in qualifying and was forced to start a provisional 30th. Ruttman picked up 12 spots over the first two laps and reached 10th-place on lap 10. His crew, however, failed to remove a tire from the outside of his pit box and the ensuing stop and go penalty, on lap 43, removed the 55-year-old Ruttman from the dwindling list of contenders. Jack Sprague, who'd finished fourth a year ago, never got comfortable in his Chevrolet and joined the corps of lapped trucks on lap 48. He would finish 13th, a spot ahead of Ruttman. The complexion of the race changed dramatically on lap 57, when a piece of lead dislodged itself from one of the trucks and triggered caution for the first time. After that, Biffle never took an easy breath until Roy Selby's checkered flag waved over the two-mile speedway. From lap 61, when Wallace poked the nose of his Team ASE Racing Ford in front, the lead changed hands 10 times and the crowd never left its feet. "For a while, I didn't know if my blood pressure could take it," said Biffle who successfully defended a race victory for the first time in six tries. "I was gritting my teeth all the way. At the end, I had to go for all it was worth. In the battle behind me both drivers had to drive defensively and that helped me get away a little bit." Both Houston brothers, their Chevrolets able to go the distance on fuel, disdained pit service on lap 69 when B.A. Wilson's engine failure in Turn 1 brought out the second caution. They were quickly passed on the restart, at lap 73, and it was game-on. Busch took the lead for the first time on lap 79, gave it up to Biffle the next time around, then used a gutsy move in Turn 1 to slingshot under his partner on the 94th lap - after two more cautions, the last of which ended after the 91st circuit with a single-file restart. The final 10 laps saw the lead trio go three-wide on several occasions with Busch, then Wallace, swapping high and low grooves as they sought to overhaul Biffle's F-150. Wallace became the leader a couple of times but never could hold it back to the scoring line. Finally, on lap 98, Busch slid his mount in front of Wallace and held the position as Biffle - probably figuring he'd had enough fun for one afternoon - finally shook his rivals. "I feel sorry for Mike out there by himself," said Busch. "Having a teammate really helped out there today. I really couldn't get a good run on Greg but I did get under him a couple of times and by him too. He was really good up in the high groove and made it stick." Wallace agreed that the odds were just too long, although in a two-truck matchup he might have had something more for Biffle. "As long as I could keep clean air on the nose I was okay," he commented. "Whenever I would get a run on (Biffle), Kurt would go and help him back by me. These guys really work well together out there." After a run of eight consecutive weeks, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series takes a 10-day break. Next event is the Aug. 3 Powerstroke 200 by Ford at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The results: Bud Pole Award - Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 40.583 seconds, 177.414 mph (record, old, Stacy Compton, Dodge, 175.717, 1999) Failed to qualify - Ricky Sanders, Ford Michigan 200 (100) -- 1. (2)Greg Biffle, Ford, 100, 138.408 mph, $52,090; 2. (4)Kurt Busch, Ford, 100, $35,555; 3. (3)Mike Wallace, Ford, 100, $26,950; 4. (8)Andy Houston, Chevrolet, 100, $21,570; 5. (5)Dennis Setzer, Dodge, 100, $19,050; 6. (1)Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 100, $15,020; 7. (9)Rick Crawford, Ford, 100, $14,170; 8. (31)Marty Houston, Chevrolet, 100, $12,820; 9. (12)Terry Cook, Chevrolet, 100, $11,620; 10. (13)Randy Tolsma, Dodge, 100, $11,620; 11. (10)Scott Riggs, Dodge, 100, $10,170; 12. (17)Jimmy Hensley, Chevrolet, 100, $11,070; 13. (15)Jack Sprague, Chevrolet, 99, $11,970; 14. (30)Joe Ruttman, Dodge, 99, $10,870; 15. (7)Bryan Reffner, Chevrolet, 99, $11,070; 16. (14)Steve Grissom, Dodge, 99, $10,670; 17. (27)Lance Norick, Chevrolet, 99, $10,570; 18. (6)Rob Morgan, Ford, 99, $10,470; 19. (26)Donny Morelock, Dodge, 99, $9,370; 20. (11)Carlos Contreras, Dodge, 98, $10,420; 21. (28)Ryan McGlynn, Chevrolet, 98, $9,070; 22. (25)Patrick Lawler, Chevrolet, 98, $8,970; 23. (20)Rich Woodland, Chevrolet, 98, $8,870; 24. (24)Stevie Reeves, Ford, 97, $8,770; 25. (29)Stan Boyd, Chevrolet, 97, $8,670; 26. (22)Rick Ware, Chevrolet, 97, $8,570; 27. (32)Randy MacDonald, Chevrolet, 96, $8,470; 28. (16)Lance Hooper, Ford, 89, transmission, $8,370; 29. (21)David Starr, Chevrolet, 81, engine, $8,270; 30. (23)J.D. Gibbs, Chevrolet, 73, engine, $8,070; 31. (18)Rick Carelli, Ford, 72, running, $8,870; 32. (19)B.A. Wilson, Chevrolet, 67, engine, $8,770; 33. (33)Wayne Edwards, Chevrolet, 45, engine, $7,670; 34. (34)Phil Bonifield, Chevrolet, 3, brakes, $7,570 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings (unofficial) - 1. Greg Biffle 2,767; 2. Mike Wallace 2,574; 3. Andy Houston 2,558; 4. Jack Sprague 2,505; 5. Kurt Busch 2,503; 6. Steve Grissom 2,282; 7. Randy Tolsma 2,279; 8. Dennis Setzer 2,252; 9. Rick Crawford 2,213; 10. Bryan Reffner 2,182


BROOKLYN, Mich. - During a season gone pretty much to form, Jamie McMurray's Cinderella-like Bud Pole win was a welcome breath of fresh air on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. McMurray, in his first start with Fort Worth-based TKO Motorsports, put his Dodge Ram in the No. 1 starting position with a record-breaking lap of 177.414 that upstaged point leader Greg Biffle and rookie-of-the-year rival Kurt Busch. And that's when the fun began. The 24-year-old NASCAR Weekly Racing Series and RE/MAX Challenge Series graduate, wearing the taped over uniform of predecessor Randy Renfrow, had to be led to the Bud Pole board for the post-qualifying picture. McMurray still was dazed when he reached Michigan Speedway's Media Center where he was surrounded by a crush of reporters that wanted to know, "Who's Jamie McMurray." "This is something I'm not used to. I haven't slept or eaten all week," admitted McMurray, a Missouri native who once drove for the same NWRS owner (Bill Willard) as No. 3 qualifier Mike Wallace. McMurray failed to lead a lap of the Michigan 200 but he felt a solid, sixth-place finish - the team's best since Renfrow was fifth in March at Mesa Marin Raceway - validated owner Mike Farris' decision to put him in the truck. "I'm just an inexperienced driver now on the larger speedways but I think with a little more seat time I will be able to use the draft better," he said. "With what we showed here this afternoon, I would say that a win is not far away."

* Terry Cook finished ninth to record the PickupTruck.com Chevrolet team's first back-to-back top-10s since the initial two stops of the 2000 season in February. That was the good news. The better news was that ESPN pit reporter Amy East accepted Cook's proposal of marriage tendered the night before the Michigan 200. The pair went out on their first date exactly one year ago in Michigan.

* Also celebrating an "unnamed" birthday was Shelly Brevak, a music teacher and owner of the Brevak Racing Ford driven to a 24th-place finish by Stevie Reeves. She also sang the National Anthem prior to the Michigan 200.

* Biffle's 193-point lead makes him the first driver in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to be able to miss a race and still possess the No. 1 spot in the standings. Since taking the lead June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, Biffle has added to his margin after each of six subsequent starts.

* Mike Wallace isn't waving the white flag just yet but agrees that Biffle has the finish line in sight. "Greg can be in cruise control mode for the rest of the year as far as the points are concerned," agreed the current runner-up.

* One record Biffle lost Saturday was his 1998 mark for most money won by a rookie driver -- $359,782. Partner Kurt Busch now counts $387,780 in his 17 trips to the post this season. Two wins and five second-place finishes will do that.

* Only one series race has been faster than Saturday's Michigan 200 that Biffle completed at an average speed of 138.408 mph. That was Jack Sprague's 1998 victory at California Speedway, a similar two-mile venue, at 141.844.

* The Petty Enterprises Dodge had a new crew chief at Michigan. Mike Grechi, most recently in the NASCAR Busch Series, has been signed for a three-race trial.

* Fifty students from Cranbrook Academy in Detroit were guests of the Ford Motor Co. and its NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Program Manager Robert Brooks in the garage area Friday. Representatives of 10 race teams joined to give the young people garage tours and explain how education and NASCAR racing mix.

"We hope to help the kids understand what opportunities are available within the racing community while generating the interest in the sport itself," said Brooks whose wife and two young daughters also spent the day "inside the ropes" at Michigan Speedway.

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers David Starr , Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Andy Houston , Kurt Busch , Stacy Compton , Marty Houston , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Lance Norick , Carlos Contreras , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Jamie McMurray , Rich Woodland , Scott Riggs , Lance Hooper , Joe Ruttman , Donny Morelock , Ryan McGlynn , Bryan Reffner , Randy Tolsma , Jimmy Hensley , Rick Carelli , Steve Grissom , Phil Bonifield , Stan Boyd , Patrick Lawler , Wayne Edwards , Stevie Reeves , Ricky Sanders