Rich Bickle Michigan Race Notes

GREG BIFFLE, STRONG AT THE FINISH, INAUGURAL WINNER INNASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCKS AT MICHIGAN SPEEDWAY BY OWEN KEARNS JR. BROOKLYN, Mich. - Early in Saturday's goracing.com 200, Greg Biffle was going nowhere except backwards and, once,...

GREG BIFFLE, STRONG AT THE FINISH, INAUGURAL WINNER INNASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCKS AT MICHIGAN SPEEDWAY BY OWEN KEARNS JR.

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Early in Saturday's goracing.com 200, Greg Biffle was going nowhere except backwards and, once, nearly into Michigan Speedway's second turn wall. By mid-race, however, Biffle's Grainger Ford had been transformed from also-ran to King Kong, allowing the Roush Racing sophomore to withstand Jay Sauter's final-laps charge to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' inaugural event at the two-mile superspeedway. Biffle, as hot as July's weather, posted his fourth victory in the circuit's past six races. He headed the 200-miler's final 34 laps, bump-drafting his way past Mike Wallace off the second turn for the race's 12th swap of the lead. The 29-year-old driver's work, however, hardly was done, as Bud Pole winner Stacy Compton, veteran Jimmy Hensley and - finally - Sauter took their shots at the orange-and-white F-150. Sauter, at the controls of the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet, came from 10th with 10 laps to go to close the margin to a truck length but fell 0.153-second short at the checkered flag in the season's closest finish. Biffle, who won $46,400, averaged 121.889 mph in a race slowed six times by caution. The victory followed by six days his triumph at Nazareth Speedway and marked the fifth win of his brief, 43-race NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career. Early on, however, it appeared unlikely Biffle would see victory circle except via post-race video highlights. He started 11th, dropped to 15th, worked his way forward to third but back-pedaled to 12th (on lap 38) when his Ford slid out of the groove between turns one and two and came perilously close to tagging the outside concrete. Trips down pit road, on lap 49 and again on the 57th serial, restored the balance of Biffle's truck, which had been among the fastest in pre-race practice. Restarting eighth on lap 60, he needed just seven trips around topside of the spacious oval to take the lead for good. "We worked all day to tighten up the truck and (crew chief) Randy Goss and all the Grainger guys did one heck of a job," said Biffle, who had the handling right when it counted. "I could just go in and breathe the throttle back and just keep it flat all the away around. "All those Dodge trucks were teaming up on me at the end. Stacy got up underneath me real far there at the end and got the air up, so I just had to hold on for dear life." Compton, forced to lift to keep from crashing both trucks on the 92nd lap, slipped back to a sixth-place finish. Commented crew chief Goss, now a 10-time NCTS winner with Biffle and Joe Ruttman, "The key for us today was (we) just kept on digging and making the changes that worked. (Greg) worked the high line from the time we unloaded and that sure turned out to be a pretty good spot to run." Sauter, who masterfully conserved his tires for the final, 12-lap green flag segment, edged Hensley for the runner-up position. He brought the crowd to its feet on the 97th lap, ducking under both Hensley and Compton at the entrance of Turn 1 in a three-abreast maneuver. "There at the end we needed another lap or two and I think we could have done it," said Sauter. "When you have a truck as good as I had today, it makes it look easy." Hensley nearly passed for the lead off Turn 2 on lap 95 but couldn't make the move stick. "That was a pretty exciting race, from where I was sitting," he observed. Series point leader Jack Sprague, 18th following a 57th lap pit call under caution, passed Mike Wallace, Ron Hornaday and Ruttman over the event's final six laps to finish fourth. Ruttman was fifth, trailed by Compton, Mike Stefanik, Dennis Setzer, Hornaday and Jim Sauter. Twenty of the race's 24 finishers completed all 100 laps. The event's eight leaders, besides Biffle, included Compton, both Sauters, Hornaday, Wallace, Bryan Reffner and Randy Renfrow, Sprague, who led Biffle by 165 points two weeks ago following the latter's 22nd-place finish at Nashville, Tenn., saw his cushion dip to 89 with nine races remaining on the 1999 NCTS schedule. Sauter made the biggest advance, moving from seventh to fifth-place on the points chart. Outside front row starter Renfrow, who led three times during the first 40 laps, was among eight non-finishers. Exhaust fumes overcame Renfrow, making his first start for TKO Motorsports, after his Dodge's rear crush panel was damaged in a second turn bump with Jay Sauter. The incident peeled back the top of the right front fender of Sauter's truck but didn't affect its aerodynamics. An accident, following his Mopar Performance Dodge's engine failure, sent Bob Keselowski out of the race on lap 20. A single-truck crash in the fourth turn kayoed Michigan driver Stan Boyd while USG SHEETROCK Brand Rookie contender David Starr parked his Nitro Fish Chevrolet after an 85th lap tangle with first-time series starter Austin Cameron. The tour next moves to New Hampshire International Speedway for the Aug. 1 Pennzoil/VIP Discount Auto Centers 200.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Rich Bickle , David Starr , Jay Sauter , Mike Wallace , Stacy Compton , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Joe Ruttman , Bryan Reffner , Jimmy Hensley , Jim Sauter , Stan Boyd