Almirola pushes Busch past Bodine
Taking advantage of a generous tap from teammate Aric Almirola a few hundred yards from the finish, Busch won the NASCAR Camping World Trucks race at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday to end Bodine's winning streak at restrictor-plate tracks.
Busch and Almirola pulled wide behind Bodine on the final lap and Almirola nudged Busch's No. 51 Billy Ballew Motorsports Toyota to the front. They overtook Bodine just before the finish line in fading daylight at the 2.66-mile oval.
"Two trucks can always beat a single truck and [Almirola] did an awesome job today by sticking with us and being a team player and not trying to go get the win himself," Busch said. "I've been in the position plenty of times."
The win was Busch's sixth in the Trucks series this season and his fourth in his last four starts. It also ended an impressive run for Bodine, who had won the last four restrictor-plate races.
"He finally beat me," Bodine said. "He'd been trying for the last four and finally beat me."
Bodine said he considered jumping out in front of Busch in an effort to block him but didn't want to take any unnecessary risks, not wanting to duplicate Carl Edwards' wild ride on the final lap of the spring Cup race at Talladega.
"I could have blocked him and who knows if I would have ended up like Carl Edwards into the catch fence," said Bodine, who didn't panic when he spun out trying to leave pit road early in the race. "I wasn't willing to take that chance."
Chrissy Wallace, making her first Trucks start, finished 13th, while father Mike wound up 28th. The two, the first father-daughter combination to race in a NASCAR national series event, actually ran first and second for a lap -- with dad in front -- during a caution early in the race.
Busch had endured some tough luck in the last few restrictor-plate stops, including a third-place finish at Talladega last year when Bodine bumped him out of the way on the final lap.
The NASCAR star didn't waste an opportunity to return the favor, particularly after Bodine found himself in the unenviable position of leading the race with a lap to go.
At most tracks, that's not a problem. At Talladega it can make a driver -- particularly one without a teammate around -- a sitting duck.
"I wanted to be on the offense instead of the defense," Bodine said. "As it ended up, I had to be defensive coming to the checker and I lost."
Busch and Almirola tucked in behind Bodine on the final lap then waited until they emerged from the fourth turn to make their move. The two jumped to the outside and Almirola drilled Busch's rear fender, propelling them past Bodine in the final yards.
The finish was Almirola's best in the series. He received a heartfelt "thank you" from Busch moments after the race was over and Bodine credited Almirola for "doing the right thing" by helping Busch get the win.
Not that Almirola was in the mood to celebrate. He finds himself looking for a ride in 2010 and a victory would have certainly helped his cause.
"I just wish there was some way possible that I could have been in front of [Busch] because I think the same result would have happened, but I would have been in Victory Lane," Almirola said.
Instead he sent Busch to his 15th career series win.
The start of the race was delayed by rain showers, and drivers spent most of the 250-mile race playing nicely despite the constant bump-drafting that goes on at most restrictor-plate races.
It all changed a handful of laps from the finish, when "The Big One" -- the nickname given to massive crashes that are a major part of plate racing because of the proximity of the cars -- struck with a handful of laps to go.
Nearly a dozen cars were involved, including points leader Ron Hornaday Jr., who was running in the middle of the pack when the chain reaction crash started, wreaking havoc on his right front tire. Hornaday finished 17th but still leads Matt Crafton by 202 points with three races remaining.
"It all happened on the outside and they all came down and I was just in the middle of it," said Hornaday of the late wreck. "It was a shame."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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