Crawford hangs on for third win

Updated: April 17, 2004, 7:11 PM ET
Associated Press

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Rick Crawford held off Dennis Setzer during a two-lap sprint to the finish Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, making a midrace gamble with his tires pay off for his third career victory.

Crawford pulled away on two restarts in the final 34 laps, then had to do it again after Steve Park hit the wall with just over three laps to go in the NASCAR truck series race.

Because series rules provide for a two-lap, green-flag finish, Crawford had to wait until the 253rd lap to do it again.

"I didn't need that last one because I had six or seven car lengths on Dennis and I know how good he is here,'' Crawford said of Setzer, the defending Kroger 250 champion. "I did what I had to do.''

Crawford started third and was racing up front when he stopped for tires and fuel with 104 laps to go. Many of the leaders didn't stop until 17 laps later, giving them fresher tires for the run to the finish.

But it never seemed to hamper Crawford, who had passed Mike Skinner for the lead on lap 202. Crawford opened a big lead in his Ford on a restart with 34 laps left, then pulled away from Setzer with 13 to go.

The victory came four weeks after Crawford broke his left foot in a crash at Atlanta on March 13, the previous race in the series. Crawford drove with a plastic brace on his foot that allowed him to brake better.

"There was a little pain there, but having a truck like (crew chief Gene Nead) and the team prepared, that was the best medicine,'' he said.

"It's been a tough four weeks. The driver had to heal and the team had to build another truck, but this shows what this team can do.''

Setzer finished .365 seconds back in his Chevrolet, followed by the Chevy of pole-sitter Jack Sprague and the Ford of Virginia native Jon Wood, who won here last fall. Skinner held on for fifth in his Toyota.

Carl Edwards, who was sixth, passed Travis Kvapil for the points lead after the third of 25 races. Edwards has 486 points, Kvapil 464.

Three-time Nextel Cup champion Darrell Waltrip, who stepped out of the Fox broadcast booth to make the first of three scheduled starts in the series this year, crashed on the next-to-last lap and wound up 24th.

Setzer wasn't surprised he never quite caught Crawford.

"His truck was really good all day. He drove this race with a broken foot, so I admire Rick for what he went through here,'' Setzer said.

The race was slowed by 12 cautions for 83 laps, tying a series record set Sept. 21, 2002, at South Boston Speedway, about 60 miles away.

Thirty-four of the 36 starters were still running at the end, breaking the series record of 32 trucks, achieved several times previously.

The 24 trucks on the lead lap at the end also was a record.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press