Late tire call pays off for Busch and Co.

Updated: October 29, 2005, 6:54 PM ET
Associated Press

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Gambling on a late pit stop for fresh tires in Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, Kyle Busch charged from eighth to a victory in a three-lap dash that ended with most of the leaders involved in a crash.

Veteran Jack Sprague, with a nearly 2-second lead, appeared to have the win wrapped up until debris from series leader Ted Musgrave's shredded tire brought out a caution flag with just eight laps remaining in the 130-lap event at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Busch gave up second place to pit for tires and restarted eighth on lap 128. He picked his way through traffic and was third heading into the final trip around the 1.5-mile, D-shaped oval.

As the leaders drove onto the final straightaway, Sprague tried to block Busch and pushed him up into the wall, igniting a melee that caught up several other cars, including Johnny Benson, Bobby Labonte and Todd Kluever.

"I looked in my mirror and saw all this stuff around me and then I realized I was going to go across the line first, so that was great," Busch said. "But I'm sorry we tore up a good Chevy Silverado truck. It's my favorite."

He credited crew chief Richie Wauters with the call to come in for tires.

"We decided we were going to get tires no matter what," Busch said. "On that last lap, I just had to keep my foot in it."

The 20-year-old Nextel Cup rookie, making only his 15th truck start and eighth of the season, got his third series victory. He led five times for 45 laps.

Todd Bodine, who came back from a crash earlier in the day, was credited with finishing second and Benson third after NASCAR checked the videotape.

Sprague, a three-time series champion, slid across the finish line in 10th.

"I thought I was in pretty good shape there, but I got beat by tires," he said.

Musgrave came into the race with a 54-point lead over Dennis Setzer in the championship chase. The leader lost ground early when he bounced off the wall, then fell back again with the flat tire, but wound up 19th and still leads Setzer, who finished 13th, by 36 points.

A fiery, three-car crash on the second lap spilled gasoline and scattered debris on the track, forcing NASCAR officials to stop the race for 30 minutes and 7 seconds. Steve Park, Mike Bliss and Eric Norris all escaped injury.

There were a record 18 lead changes in the event, breaking the mark of 13 set last March.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE