By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff
Kevin Harvick's wreck on lap 199 going into turn one handed a dramatic win over to Travis Kvapil in the O'Reilly 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Kvapil, the series points leader, scored his first win of the season by leading only the last two laps.
He had been gaining rapidly on Harvick in the closing laps before Harvick's No. 6 truck encountered a blown tire and smashed into the wall.
"I thought we were going to have to settle for another second place finish," said Kvapil. "Our truck was really good and we could run with Kevin in clean air, but he got through traffic a little better.
"We were a little loose on our first run, but we took a spring out and put wedge back in it and that fixed it. The team deserved to win and it's been a while since I had won."
For Harvick, as expected the loss was disheartening.
"The Goodyear guys told me it melted the beads (on the tires)," said Harvick, who ended up tenth. "I'm disappointed more than anything. I've never come to the white flag leading the race, cruising along and lose it.
I learned I don't need to hit the wall, it hurts."
Other drivers did have bright spots including Robert Pressley, who had a career best performance in any vehicle at BMS finishing second.
"My old Dodge was tough tonight," said the driver from nearby Asheville, NC. "I think if we could have caught a caution with about 20 laps to go, we might have had something for them.
"We started the race 13th place and one thing is that we didn't pass anyone in the pits. We passed them all on the race track."
Rick Crawford made a pass of Brendan Gaughan coming to the caution flag caused by the Harvick wreck to take third, Gaughan finished fourth and Dennis Setzer rounded out the top five.
Local entry Brad Teague of Johnson City had a solid showing, finishing 16th place, three laps down of the leaders.
Nine cars finished the race on the lead lap with 23 of the 35 cars that started the race running at the finish.
Pole sitter Ted Musgrave led the first 60 laps of the race before Gaughan took over for the next 15 circuits. Harvick then dominated most of the action leading from lap 75 to the accident.
The 200-lap affair on the .533-mile short track took only 1 hour and 12 minutes to complete as only six caution flags flew during the event.
Unofficially, it was the largest crowd ever to see a Truck Series event in Tennessee with BMS officials estimating the crowd at 55,000.
In the series standings, Kvapil is now the leader with Gaughan in pursuit in the runner-up role.
"I'm glad to finally get a win behind us," said Kvapil, who drives the No. 16 Chevy that Mike Bliss piloted to last season's Truck Series title. "Now, we can concentrate on winning the championship."