NAZARETH, Pa. -- The championship merry-go-round kept on spinning at Nazareth Speedway Sunday as, since July 21 at Loudon, N.H., no competitor has held the point lead for more than one race. The lead has passed from Scott Riggs to Joe Ruttman to...
NAZARETH, Pa. -- The championship merry-go-round kept on spinning at Nazareth Speedway Sunday as, since July 21 at Loudon, N.H., no competitor has held the point lead for more than one race. The lead has passed from Scott Riggs to Joe Ruttman to Jack Sprague to Riggs again and -- once more Ruttman.
With Labor Day being the traditional beginning of the stretch drive -- there are six races left beginning with the Sept. 6 Kroger 200 -- nothing is settled. Ruttman has a 13 -point advantage but Sprague, in third-place, has compressed the top three spots to a spread of 20. In fact, 161 points span the top seven positions, less than the 185 any driver might earn in a single race.
Biffle, who expects to make one more NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start this year -- probably at Phoenix on Oct. 26 -- said comparing his F-150 truck to his NASCAR Busch Series Ford Taurus --is like comparing a stock car to a Formula One car.-- He added, --Having broadened my experience with Busch cars, trucks spoil me because they're so forgiving.--
The 2000 series champion also tipped his cap to the series regulars. --There are some great drivers in this series. Nobody was badly torn up today,-- he said. --Lapped trucks, everyone gave each other room.--
Sunday's race saw just one lead change, the fewest of the 2001 season. Although there were 11 swaps in each of the past two seasons -- many during green flag pit stops -- the paucity of lead changes isn't unprecedented at Nazareth Speedway. There were just two in 1996 and three in 1998.
Since switching to Ernie Elliott-built engines, Rick Crawford has posted four consecutive top-10 finishes and three straight among the top five, including Sunday's fourth-place effort. Crawford hasn't made up a great deal of ground for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship although he's solidified his lock on ninth-place, opening a 212-point bulge over 10th-place Coy Gibbs.
--We've been raced clean lately and the driver has been a little more aggressive,-- observed Crawford.
Jon Wood flew home to Stuart, Va following Friday's optional test after receiving word that his maternal grandfather, Herman Blackard, 69, had succumbed to a lengthy illness. He was back in Nazareth in time for Saturday practice and Bud Pole qualifying.
Also in the Roush Racing camp, Kyle Busch subbed in the test for Greg Biffle, who was otherwise occupied competing in the NASCAR Busch Series Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Biffle, on three hours sleep, arriving Saturday to qualify his Eldon Ford on the outside front row.
A freak accident left Carlos Contreras with a sore hip and arm. Contreras fell exiting his Hot Wheels Dodge on Friday morning, landing on a jack. The sophomore competitor was transported to St. Luke's Hospital for x-rays that proved negative.
Steve Grissom finished the test and stood by Sunday as a possible relief driver. Contreras, however, toughed it out and finished 16th.
August has been a big month for Bud Pole winner Terry Cook, who posted his only previous fast qualifying times -- at Flemington and Louisville speedways -- during that month in 1997 and 1998. Cook's sole NCTS victory, on Aug. 8, 1999, was recorded at the now-shuttered Flemington. He followed that performance with a second-place finish two weeks later at Heartland Park Topeka.
Cook's Power Stroke Diesel rig was the first Ford F-150 truck to win a Bud Pole this season, breaking a Dodge-Chevrolet lock on fast qualifier.
Former IMSA sports car champion Clay Young and Ed Spencer III failed to qualify for the Chevy Silverado 200. It was the first series entry for both.
Rick Carelli, absent from the series since Phelon Motorsports ceased operations in April, returns to competition Sept. 6 at Richmond International Raceway. Carelli, defending champion of the Kroger 200, is due to drive a Petty Brothers Dodge. He is one of four drivers to win in two different manufacturers on the series, in a Chevrolet and a Ford.