Reffner scores breakthrough win in O'Reilly 400 By Dave Rodman FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 13, 2000) One year after his team owner sealed the deal to buy a former champion's team in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, driver Bryan Reffner Friday ...
Reffner scores breakthrough win in O'Reilly 400
By Dave Rodman
FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 13, 2000) One year after his team owner sealed the deal to buy a former champion's team in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, driver Bryan Reffner Friday night scored a breakthrough win for himself and team owner John Menard at Texas Motor Speedway.
Reffner, driving the same Chevrolet Silverado that Jay Sauter used to win this race a year ago, started from the Bud Pole in his No. 3 Johns Manville Chevrolet and won the O'Reilly 400 presented by Valvoline DuraBlend by 1.277 seconds over Andy Houston's No. 60 CAT Rental Store Chevrolet. He averaged 112.993 mph for two hours, 13 minutes and one second. The race was slowed by seven cautions for 39 laps and there were 15 lead changes among six drivers.
The evening was marked by the highlight of Greg Biffle clinching the first NCTS championship for himself and team owner Jack Roush, and the lowlight of driver Tony Roper suffering critical injuries in an accident on lap 32.
Biffle, who took the point lead when he won the Pronto Auto Parts 400 at the 1.5-mile TMS oval in June, will go to the season finale Motorola 200 at the California Speedway on Oct. 28 with a 250-point lead over teammate Kurt Busch.
Roper was airlifted from the race track by helicopter after he was stabilized and put on a ventilator to aid his breathing at the track's Lonestar Health Infield Care Center. He was listed in critical condition at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
"It's been a great year for this new team and we all thank our team owner John Menard for giving us what we need to win," said Reffner, 36, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. "I can't thank the guys in this team enough starting with crew chief Les Back."
Reffner led only 28 of the 167 laps but never fell any lower than eighth in the running order. His victory broke a 111-race winless streak for the circuit's inaugural 1996 rookie of the year, the longest in the tour's six-year history. His previous best finish was third at Flemington (N.J.) Speedway in 1998.
Houston was trailed across the line by NCTS Rookie of the Year leader Kurt Busch in the Exide Batteries Ford; Jimmy Hensley in the No. 16 eLink Chevrolet, who scored his season-best finish; and Dennis Setzer in the No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge.
Rick Crawford in the Milwaukee Electric Tool Ford, Randy Tolsma in the CITGO Supergard Dodge, Ricky Hendrick in the GMAC/Quaker State Chevrolet, Rick Carelli in the No. 66 Carlin Burners & Controls Ford and Mark Petty, who scored his career best finish in only his sixth start; rounded out the top-10 finishers.
"I've just got all the good people behind me 110 percent," Reffner said, basking in the glow of his team owner's presence while his Indy Racing Northern Light Series team competes in its season finale Sunday. "Winning the race makes me feel good, but knowing the kind of people behind me make me feel even better."
"We got our first top-5 with this team here at the first Texas race in the spring and it's a good place for momentum," Reffner said of his team, which used an engine built in-house for the first time at this race. "I guess Texas likes me and I like Texas and I hope as far as the team goes the momentum won't stop here in the ability to win races."
Reffner, who moved into 10th in the season point standings with his victory, won $70,485 for his victory and also claimed an additional $10,000 bonus from series sponsor Craftsman for winning from the pole.
Two-time and defending series champion Jack Sprague won the Gatorade Front Runner Award for leading 54 laps, but he was eliminated in a vicious accident on lap 115 while battling for the lead with Houston and Reffner. Sprague spun coming through Turn 2 and collected NASCAR Winston Cup veteran Derrike Cope in the accident. Neither was injured.
Biffle led six laps early in the race and was eliminated when he crashed on the 80th lap in Turn 2 while running sixth. He ended up finishing 25th.
Reffner's victory broke Chevrolet's longest winless skein in their six-year series history. The streak began when Biffle won here in June. -nascar.com-