Joe Ruttman Continues Dodge Streak With Jelly Belly 200 Victory At Pikes Peak Track FOUNTAIN, Colo. - Two tires, a splash of gas and a pit miscue by Jack Sprague's crew handed Joe Ruttman the victory in Sunday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series...
Joe Ruttman Continues Dodge Streak With Jelly Belly 200 Victory At Pikes Peak Track
FOUNTAIN, Colo. - Two tires, a splash of gas and a pit miscue by Jack Sprague's crew handed Joe Ruttman the victory in Sunday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Jelly Belly 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.
Ruttman, who started second in a field set by owner points when Bud Pole qualifying fell victim to Rocky Mountain showers, dueled with Sprague for most of the afternoon - trailing Sprague's NetZero Platinum Chevrolet until the tail end of long, green flag runs.
Green flag stops, however - Ruttman on lap 158 and Sprague a serial later - gave the 56-year- old Ruttman a six-second lead when the pit sequence had concluded.
Ruttman's crew chief, Danny Rollins, gambled on a two tire change and a single can of gas while Sprague's unit misfired - leaving a pair of lugnuts off the right rear tire, necessitating a second trip down pit road which cost the two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion a lap.
Sprague, haunted by bad luck in 2001, got his lap back on lap 187 and had a final shot at Ruttman when caution, on lap 199 for Jonathon Price's Turn 2 spin, erased the leader's eight-second advantage and extended the 200-lap distance by four trips around the one-mile superspeedway.
The deficit proved too much even for Sprague's rapid Chevy Silverado, which restarted sixth in a green, white and checkered flag run. Sprague passed a trio of rivals but ran out of time, finishing on the tailgate of runnerup Scott Riggs who, in turn, trailed Ruttman's DANA Corporation Dodge by 0.449- second.
Ruttman, in fact, was home free when Riggs' Team ASE Racing Dodge failed to come up to speed on the single-file restart. The Upland, Calif. Veteran averaged a record 111.004 mph en route to his second victory of the season and 13th overall on the series. Ruttman, who handed Dodge its seventh consecutive victory, won $45,985.
"Jack, probably on short runs, was by far the quickest truck (but) if we went far enough, we were quicker so I was looking for a long time and he was looking for 40 or 50 laps," said Ruttman after giving Bobby Hamilton Racing its second straight win. "We were about out of gas - it sputtered - but you just keep going.
"I never second-guess (the crew chief's decision). I have full confidence in (him) the bulk of the time. He's right more often than he's wrong."
Ruttman shaved five points from Riggs' championship lead that stands at 80 after seven of 24 races. Sprague moved to fourth-place.
Ted Musgrave finished fourth in the Mopar Performance Dodge, trailed by Ricky Hendrick, the top finishing Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year contender in the GMAC Financial Services Chevy. Freshman Matt Crafton, thanks to a short-pit strategy, was sixth, followed by Travis Kvapil, who also led but slid into the Turn 3 wall on the final lap after cutting down a tire. Dennis Setzer limped in with a broken axle, the final finisher to complete 204 laps. The remainder of the top 10 were Rick Crawford and Chuck Hossfeld.
Twenty-four of 34 starters completed the event with engine woes felling most of those who dropped out. Caution appeared only twice, claiming 13 of the 204 laps. A four-truck ruckus in Turn 2 on lap 71 eliminated Carlos Contreras and Tom Powers but neither driver suffered injury.
Five drivers - Ruttman, Sprague, Riggs, Kvapil and Hendrick - swapped the lead eight times with Sprague pacing the majority of laps - 97. Ruttman took the lead for the final time on the 163rd lap when Hendrick pitted and paced the last 74 circuits.
Riggs, who started first by virtue of his standings lead, headed the initial 29 laps before Sprague negotiated a low-side pass in Turn 3. His advantage lasted until lap 45 when, entering Turn 1, he tagged the rear of Jim Inglebright's Jelly Belly Chevrolet and lost momentum. A closely trailing Ruttman slipped past both trucks, taking a lead that lasted until the 72nd stanza when the field pitted under caution.
Sprague headed the pack on the restart, leading until lap 150. Ruttman took the high groove around the first and second turns, completing the pass as the pair hit the backstretch.
Green flag pit stops cycled Sprague back into the No. 1 spot on the 158th lap, then handed the lead to Kvapil and Hendrick, whose lap 162 stop for leftside tires put Ruttman back on top.
Ruttman's advantage, over Kvapil, was six seconds when pit stops had been completed. Sprague, on four new tires, quickly ran down the leader and was 100 yards ahead when Price spun to stack the field for a lead lap trucks to the front restart.
'I was pretty much driving over my head to get my lap back," said Sprague. "I don't know how good the truck was or wasn't. I just knew I had to get spots. I was certainly disappointed.
"We had problems and came back to third. Way cool."
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series takes a week off then heads to Dover Downs International Speedway for the June 1 MBNA e-Commerce 200.