Race ends under caution, series tightens

Updated: February 5, 2004, 2:12 PM ET
Associated Press

Bobby Hamilton Jr.
Hamilton Jr.
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Bobby Hamilton Jr. won the rain-shortened race and Scott Riggs took the lead in the tight five-man NASCAR Busch series points chase Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Hamilton was ahead of Kevin Harvick by nearly a straightaway on the 1-mile oval when light rain brought out a caution flag on lap 175. The race earlier had been interrupted for 2 hours, and 24 minutes by rain.

With darkness falling quickly, NASCAR ended the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 after 181 laps. It was originally scheduled to go 200 laps, but the teams were notified prior to the last restart, on lap 172, that it would be cut to 190 because of the impending darkness.

It didn't get that far, and Hamilton wound up celebrating his fourth win of the season in twilight, doing tire-smoking doughnuts and climbing the fence, ala IndyCar star Helio Castroneves.

Harvick, who won the truck series race Friday, was leading going into the final pit stop, under caution on lap 102. He came out fourth, trailing new leader Hamilton, Stacy Compton and Brian Vickers. Harvick managed to get back to second before the final restart, but couldn't stay with Hamilton's Ford.

Harvick was upset with his Richard Childress Racing crew for the slow pit stop.

"You can't give up that much ground to a car that's that good on the track,'' said Harvick, who also will race in Sunday's Winston Cup event. "The car was awesome all day, but we got back there in the pack and never could recover. We just wore out the car trying to catch up.''

Hamilton, who also has won this year at Kentucky, Chicago and Memphis, could understand Harvick's frustration.

"The bottom line is pit stops won this race,'' Hamilton said. "I got far enough ahead to make him have to catch me and use up his tires.

"I don't know if he could have gotten me or not, but it would have been a heck of a race.''

Vickers finished third, followed by Joe Nemechek, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Riggs, who came into the race trailing David Green by 13 points in the championship and will got to Rockingham next week leading new runner-up Hornaday by 17.

Vickers moved to third, 21 points behind, followed by Green, who finished 16th Saturday and now trails Riggs by 22. Jason Keller finished 17th and is fifth in the points, 60 behind, with two races remaining.

Hamilton, who got off to a slow start this season, now has six top-five finishes, including two wins, in his last eight starts. He's sixth in the standings, 125 points out.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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