Border run pays off for Truex

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   BRISTOL -- It was quicker than a run to the border for Martin Truex Jr. when he grabbed a first Busch Series victory in the Sharpie Professional 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
   The driver of the No. 8 Taco Bell Driver led the last 134 laps to claim the victory after the last couple of circuits produced a wild and crazy finish.
   "We tested here last week and felt real good about our chances, and when we got here we just kept working on it," said Truex Jr., who drives for the Chance 2 Motorsports. "Even when we thought we were the best car we kept on working on it, and it never seems like you can do enough."
   Pole sitter Greg Biffle pulled ahead of Truex Jr. at the start the race and led the first 117 laps.
   The first caution of the evening flew on lap 13, when Ashton Lewis Jr. got into the back of the lapped car of Donnie Neuenberger. Kasey Kahne was also caught up in the accident, but only suffered mininmal damage.
   The second caution came out on lap 26, when Robby Gordon spun coming off turn two, placing him a lap down in the early going.
   The first pit-stops came on lap 70, after Jason Schuler's car stalled up top in turn two.
   All the leaders came to pit road with the exception of leader Greg Biffle and Bobby Hamilton Jr., who elected to stay out.
   Two laps after the restart, Jason Leffler slammed hard in the fronstretch inside wall when Kenny Wallace got into the back of his HAAS Automation Chevrolet.
   The action grew more intense by lap 100, when Biffle was trying to hold-off the lapped car of Gordon and also Truex, whose car had a fresher set of tires.
   By lap 117, Truex, Jr. found himself in the top spot.
   "At the beginning of the race we were just a little bit off, but after two pit-stops it got better and better as we went," said Truex. "I think the turning point of the race was when we pitted early and the other guys stayed out. On long runs it really fell into our hands."
   Biffle struggled after not pitting. He fell outside the top ten before reaching the halfway point.
   "We made a huge mistake on our part," said Biffle. "There's no excuse for it. We should have come in and we didn't. We lost all of our trackposition and almost went a lap down."
   With the threat of going a lap down looming, a crash by Lewis Jr. brought out a much needed caution for the #60 Charter Communications Ford.
   A caution on lap 222, set a shoot-out for the last 25 laps when Mike Bliss managed to get by defending race champion Kevin Harvick for second place right before the yellow flew.
   After a restart, the yellow flew again when Gordon's machine spewed smoke going down the back stretch.
   With the laps dwindling down, NASCAR decided to pull the cars on the apron of the track displaying a red flag. That allowed track clean-up, plus offered the fans an exciting ten-lap finish.
   Excitement transpired when Harvick got into the back of David Stremme coming off turn two, sending the No. 32 Trim Spa Dodge into the wall.
   "First thing I want to do is apologize to Stremme, for I got a run off the corner and into the back of him, which put him in the wall," said Harvick. "I just misjudged him and he bounced off the wall."
   After limping around the track, Stremme had trouble turning the car. As a result, he ended up catching the third place car of Johnny Benson in the left rear quarter panel.
   This caused tempers to flare between the teams of Stremme and Benson. After a near altercation, they met with NASCAR officials afterwards to discuss the issue.
   A bad break occured for Bliss, who went from a second-place finish to 17th after he pulled down on pit road and failed cross the start-finish line.
   "I looked like a dumb guy for pulling down pit road, and I guessed I should of stayed out on the race track," said Bliss. "The Truck Series has a green, white, checker finish, and not this under the yellow finish," said Bliss. "It's confusing when everything is frozen. There is too much different interpretations of the rule."
   It took officials a while to figure out the final scoring as several cars passed on the same lap that the caution came out. Drivers argued their case of where they placed.
   Harvick was credited with the second place finish. Kyle Busch was scored third, Biffle fourth, and David Green rounded out the top five.
   The victory gives car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. his first win as a car owner with someone else behind the wheel.
   "He was real happy with his car last night," said Earnhardt. "I drove it a little bit and it wasn't my favorite. He liked it and it ran real good, and the team made all the right calls with pit-stops, and everything worked out. I'm proud of all the hard work."
   Harvick leaves Bristol with a 41-point lead over Green in the Busch Series standings, while Truex Jr. is third 50 points behind Harvick with three top five finishes this season.
   "I think all the good runs since Rockingham of last year speaks for itself," said Truex. "We've been in the top five everywhere we've went. The two tracks we had never been to we had good runs."
   "Everywhere we go we're real competitive. That's why I'm so confident about our race team."