Texas race report

FORT WORTH, Tex - Maybe Greg Biffle's just a slow starter. Biffle, who didn't get his first of a record nine victories until the sixth race of the 1999 season, was shut out until the ninth event of the current campaign. But, after...

FORT WORTH, Tex - Maybe Greg Biffle's just a slow starter. Biffle, who didn't get his first of a record nine victories until the sixth race of the 1999 season, was shut out until the ninth event of the current campaign. But, after leading 120 of 167 laps en route to victory in Friday's Pronto Auto Parts 400, it's beginning to look like his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rivals just may be in for a dose of instant replay. The Texas Motor Speedway conquest was Biffle's second in his past three starts. Biffle, who started from the Bud Pole, led at will and faced with a single-file restart on lap 160 expertly drove his Grainger Ford away from five, lead lap pursuers to win by a wide, 2.741 second margin. Biffle's 11th career score was worth $64,560 plus a $10,000 Craftsman pole-win bonus paid to Roush Racing. He averaged 126.943 mph, making the tour's fifth visit to the 1.5-mile superspeedway its second fastest event at TMS. The Vancouver, Wash. veteran also took over the series point lead by a 14-point cushion when previous leader Jack Sprague finished 28th, parking the GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet after a vicious, backstretch accident that also collected No. 2 qualifier Rob Morgan. "It's been a long time coming trying to get back into the points lead," said Biffle, who was bypassed by Sprague for the 1999 title in the season's final event. "It was really unbelievable. I am really in awe of this truck. It was absolutely perfect all weekend." How perfect showed in the cumulative rundown: Biffle led the final 37 laps, passing runner-up finisher Mike Wallace off Turn 2. He headed the pack six different times as a TMS record 15 lead changes took place during a weather-threatened race which was delayed two hours seven minutes by a late-afternoon deluge that dumped an inch and a half of rain on the sprawling complex. Wallace, the Daytona 250 winner, wasn't far off Biffle's steady pace but, in the end, benefited from Kurt Busch's miscue to take second. Busch attempted to pass his Roush partner for the lead on the 162nd lap but, instead, grazed the Turn 2 wall and limped his Exide Batteries Ford to the checkered flag in sixth-place - the final truck to go the 250.5-mile distance. Randy Tolsma, his CITGO SUPERGARD Dodge damaged in a Turn 4 shuffle triggered by Marty Houston's 38th lap spin, finished third. Andy Houston, who started 37th after substituting a backup for the CAT Rental Store Chevrolet he lost in a "happy hour" accident, led three laps and claimed fourth. Bryan Reffner couldn't snap his series-record winless streak in his 100th start but led three times before settling for fifth-place in his Johns Manville Chevrolet. Busch, Marty Houston, Rick Crawford, B.A. Wilson and Scott Riggs completed the top-10 among 26 drivers who finished the one hour 58 minute 24 second contest. Accidents brought out the five caution flags that consumed 28 laps and eliminated Sprague, Morgan, Jay Stewart and Joel White. White, a former ARCA competitor, was examined at the infield care center where he was awake and alert, then transported to Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth for precautionary x-rays of his neck. Biffle, Wallace and Busch traded the lead five times during the first half of the race. Wallace, who lined up 11th, made a quick dash into contention and was fourth by the 20th lap and into first-place on the 36th stanza for a 15-circuit stay at the helm. Biffle regained the advantage on lap 51 then, pressured by Busch, let his teammate head three laps between the 57th and 59th serials. Houston and Tolsma, the latter from a disappointing, 18th-place qualifying spot, were slicing through the pack. The pair showed in the top-10 on the 60th lap and stayed there until the finish. Green flag stops, between laps 84 and 98, were Sprague's undoing. He ran out of fuel on the 88th circuit, overshot his pit box and experienced a slow, four-tire stop that left the two-time champion more than a lap behind. Joe Ruttman and Randy MacDonald tangled off Turn 2 on the 104th lap to send the field to pit road again, although Biffle had lapped all the way to eighth-place when the yellow flew. Sprague crashed attempting to pass Tolsma's Dodge apparently losing air, as the Chevy's rear end kicked out - then was t-boned by the unlucky Morgan, who'd gone a lap down after leading laps 92 and 93. "It got away from me and I couldn't get it back," said Sprague. Reacted Morgan, "I didn't even have enough time to lift or get on the brakes." Biffle, Houston, Reffner and Tolsma pitted, handing the lead to Wallace, who could hold off Biffle's charge for just a single lap when racing resumed on lap 129. Busch took second-place on the 140th lap. Biffle extended his advantage to over two seconds when White slammed the backstretch's inside retaining wall on lap 152. Reffner and Houston, who had right side tires left, pitted but made no progress toward the front after the final restart. The only question remained whether Busch actually had something for the leader or if Biffle had been toying with the 21-year-old rookie. Busch thought he could win his first race and attempted a high- side pass on lap 160 but was blocked entering Turn 3. He tried again two laps later and lost control of his Ford. "I really thought we had a shot," he said after flattening the right side of his F-150. "After (the accident) it was just too much to get the speed back up and I was out of the draft." From Texas, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series heads for Saturday's inaugural Kroger 225 at Kentucky Speedway.

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Andy Houston , Kurt Busch , Marty Houston , Jack Sprague , Rick Crawford , Scott Riggs , Joe Ruttman , Bryan Reffner , Randy Tolsma , Rob Morgan