SOUTH BOSTON, VA- (October 4, 2003) -Andy Houston survived a last lap skirmish with rookie Carl Edwards to hang on to a hard fought sixth place finish in the John Boy and Billy 250 at South Boston Speedway. Saturday afternoon's action looked like...
SOUTH BOSTON, VA- (October 4, 2003) -Andy Houston survived a last lap skirmish with rookie Carl Edwards to hang on to a hard fought sixth place finish in the John Boy and Billy 250 at South Boston Speedway. Saturday afternoon's action looked like a typical short track affair as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors waged war on the circuit's smallest venue. In the end, short track specialist Dennis Setzer took the checkered flag and Travis Kvapil chipped into Brendan Gaughan's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points lead. Houston battled valiantly to hold off Edwards as the two raced to the line on the last lap. The ensuing contact forced Houston to spin and crash into the Turn One retaining wall, but he had already secured his third straight sixth place finish.
"I was going to do whatever it took to preserve my position on the last lap," Houston said after the race. "I knew Carl had fresh tires and he was going to try to get everything he could. He was going to root me low and I was going to pinch him up high. It was two guys fighting for the same spot and we just ran together there at the end. I am cool with it and he is cool with it. He spun me out after the race and I told him that I probably deserved it, so we are fine and we will both go on to Texas next week and run hard."
Houston started his Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge in the 14th position and steadily moved up through the field and into the top ten. When David Starr's spin brought out the caution on lap 75, crew chief Dennis Connor elected to bring his driver in for an early pit stop. By Connor's estimation an early stop would provide enough fuel for the rest of the event and give his driver valuable track position when the leaders were forced to pit later in the race. The Ultra Motorsports crew took only 16.25 seconds to put on four fresh tires and fuel Houston's Dodge. Houston restarted the race mired deep in the pack but quickly picked off competitors and once again moved up into the top ten. Caution befell the speedway again on lap 105 for Jerry Hill's harmless spin and the leaders headed to pit lane, putting Houston at the front of the pack.
"Dennis made a great call," Houston said. "It could have paid off with a win if everything had fallen into place just right. We had a different strategy than most of the guys. Getting track position at a place like this is so important because it is so hard to pass. Lap traffic messed us up and we didn't capitalize like we could have. When I am a lap down and the leaders and I know that I am not in contention to race with the leaders, I pretty much let the leaders go. There were times out there today when other drivers didn't give us the same courtesy.
Houston led for 47 laps from lap 111 to 158 but ultimately was reeled in by Setzer. As Houston's tires faded late in the event a host of other trucks were able to pass him for position. When Brendan Gaughan spun with only seven laps remaining, Edwards and Bobby Hamilton ducked onto pit road for fresh tires. That set up a two-lap dash to the finish and Houston was forced to try to hold off competitors with much fresher tires. The end result was not lost on Houston's crew chief, Connor.
"It is very, very refreshing to have a driver that will drive like that on the last lap and not let people literally and figuratively run over him," Connor stated. "The 99 truck had reason to believe that he could go out there on four fresh tires and gain himself several positions. We had reason to believe that we were going to maintain what we had or pick up a position ourselves. Ninety-nine percent of the time these days, a guy in that position will just pull over and let everybody go by because he doesn't want to fight the issue and be involved in a wreck. Andy did neither and drove his behind off and I can't put into words how proud I am of how he drove those last two laps. He did with this truck what was needed. It stayed in one piece until close to the end of the race and now it is used up. A race truck is like a set of brake pads -- they are supposed to be used up when the checkered flag falls and race trucks are the same way if that is the way a situation falls. I am extraordinarily proud of how he and all the guys on this Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge did their jobs here this afternoon."
The next race for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is the Silverado 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday October 11th. The event will be broadcast live nationally by the Speed Channel and MRN Radio at 3:00 pm ET.