Bodine staves off Crawford, Benson for Talladega win

Updated: October 6, 2007, 7:46 PM ET
Associated Press

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Todd Bodine barely held off Rick Crawford and Johnny Benson in a three-wide finish Saturday in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Bodine, the reigning truck champion, was out front for a restart with two laps to go on the 2.66-mile oval, with Crawford and Benson close behind in a single-file line of competitors. It stayed that way until the final corner of the 94-lap race, when Crawford drove high on the steeply banked track and Benson, a former series champion, ducked below Bodine.

That's the way they drove across the finish line, with Bodine beating Crawford by 0.014 seconds -- about the length of a hood. Benson was 0.028 seconds behind the winner, with Jason Leffler, in fourth, also less than a second behind Bodine.

"We only made one change in practice to make this Toyota truck run better,'' said Bodine, who started from the pole. "It was awesome.''

The wild race included several crashes, the biggest of which came on Lap 74 when three-time series champion Jack Sprague had his right front tire blow while he was leading. Sprague tried to slow enough to get to the pits and was bumped from behind by Benson, turning him sideways and igniting a six-truck melee.

"It's typical Talladega,'' Bodine said of the second truck race at the Alabama track. "The guys get racing hard and try to jockey for position at the end of the race. Somebody bumps somebody else and pretty soon everybody is crashing.''

Mike Skinner, who came into the race with a three-point lead over Ron Hornaday Jr. in the championship, took advantage of Sprague's problem to jump into the lead. But Skinner had to pit during the last caution -- brought out by Mike Wallace's spin on Lap 90 -- to have his flapping hood tacked down.

Hornaday, who had several close calls and fell back into the pack several times, wound up seventh, while Skinner finished 13th. That gave Hornaday the series lead by 14 points -- the third time the two have swapped the top spot in the past four races. There are five races to go.

Newcomer Jacques Villeneuve, making his second truck start, lost the lead draft early and was running toward the back of the pack when he was caught up in a three-car crash on Lap 54. The former Formula One champion and Indy 500 winner, who will make his NASCAR Nextel Cup debut here Sunday, suddenly veered to the right and came together with the trucks of T.J. Bell and Bryan Silas.

"There was a truck in front of me,'' said Villeneuve, who finished 30th after running 21st in his first truck start two weeks ago in Las Vegas. "I slowed down to avoid him and got collected.

"Once you lose the pack, you're done. I hope there won't be a repeat tomorrow.''

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press