By Don Ward
SPARTA, KY. (July 9, 2005) Terry Cook had everything but Lady Luck riding on his side.
Photo by Don Ward
celebrates his Truck
Series victory, his
second in two weeks.
Unfortunately for him, that's what he needed most July 9 when he blew a tire five laps from the finish of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' "Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers" at the Kentucky Speedway.
Cook cut a tire, sending his truck into the backstretch wall and ending his chance of snapping his 71-race win drought that dates to Aug. 2, 2002. Instead, Dennis Setzer, who had started 18th, enjoyed the spoils of Cook's misfortune by suddenly finding himself in the lead after having spent much of the night chasing Cook and Mike Skinner.
The latter two had kept a safe distance from the 38-truck field for most of the race. Skinner settled for fourth place.
Cook's late crash then allowed drivers Setzer, Todd Bodine and David Reutimann to move up and position themselves in a run for the checkered flag. That's how they finished, with Bodine unable to make a last-lap charge around Setzer before a crowd of 40,196.
Our Silverado was pretty daggone good when we started the race, said Setzer, who claimed his third victory in his past four starts. He entered the race as the series point leader.
It was pretty bad in practice last night and today, but we made a lot of improvements in it. Our engines were really good, that helped us out a lot, and our pit stops were excellent. Those guys passed a lot of trucks on pit road that I couldnt have passed on the track.
Setzer scores his 15th career series victory after leading only six laps. He averaged 109.294 mph. Prior to that point, Cook had firmly held the race lead for 78 laps. His truck easily outpaced the rest of the field, except for Skinner's who ran just behind him.
Had the two not experienced bad luck in the late going, Setzer admitted he would not have had enough power to challenge them.
I definitely dont think we couldve caught Terry not with the amount of laps left, Setzer said. If it were a long run, we were a little better than those guys, but there was no way it was going to happen (with five laps remaining).
Its unfortunate for Terry and it was very bad for the Powerstroke Team. Im proud of those guys, theyre great competitors in the series. He must have run over something and cut the tire because he had the race handily won at that time.
NASCAR officials originally placed Bodine in the race lead following the caution but moved Setzer to the top spot before the race restarted with two laps remaining.
Setzer staved off the charging Bodine to register his sixth top-five and eighth top-10 finish of the season. He extended his series points lead to 83 over Ted Musgrave.
He wouldve agreed with the official decision following the caution even if it didnt give him the race lead.
NASCAR is one of the best sanctioning bodies there is as far as safety for the drivers, he said. They realize that when a caution like that comes out, Terry Cook couldve have been easily injured. If they wouldve put us in a situation where Todd and I had to race to him, theres a probably a chance that we couldve hit him and hurt him worse. Throw the caution out quick in that situation, I applaud them for that. If it wouldve been the other way around, I still would applaud them because we dont need to be racing toward these guys.
Photo by Don Ward
Country music star
Billy Ray Cyrus gets
the crowd going in a
"Terry did a great job; nobody had anything for him," said Reutimann, who scored his third top-five finish of the season.
Reutimann fell from third to 14th place late in the race when a pit crewman missed a lug nut and an official made him return to the truck to finish the job. "It was a mistake that's all. When you jump overt the wall with trucks coming down pit road at 30 mph, you have to be brave, so I'm not going to fault them. We had a chance to win the race before that. We had run down (Cook) prior to that. Our truck stayed consistent."
Bodine, who won the NASCAR Series Busch race here in 2002, notched his fourth top-five of the season. After switching teams in midseason, he won the race in Kansas on July 2, marking the first Toyota victory this year. It was Bodine's third Truck Series victory. He also has 15 Busch Series wins to his credit.
"Our truck was strong all night, especially on the long runs (without a caution)," he said. "I feel sorry for Terry. They should have won the race. To blow a tire like that I feel for him. But we'll take advantage of the situation and take what they give us."
Bodine said he wasn't disappointed with NASCAR officials' decision to award Setzer the lead for the final sprint. But he knew it meant he would be at a disadvantage.
"Whoever is at the front has clean air and is going to start stronger," Bodine said. "I definitely had a stronger truck than Dennis, and I think if I started in front, he would have had a hard time getting around me."
Bodine said the two-lap finish is always anybody's to win, however. "It doesn't matter what you're in a truck or a car you just put the pedal down and go for it."
Cook, a five-time Truck Series winner from Sylvania, Ohio, last won in 2002. He considers Kentucky close to serve as his home track and had a great run going until his mishap.
Photo by Don Ward
Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar) jockeys
for position July 9 during the Truck
Series race at Sparta. He finished fifth.
"The truck was fast all night," said Cook, who finished 25th. "It got tight the last few laps but I couldn't slow up because (Setzer) was behind me. It is a shame because we were having such a great night.''
Bill Lester, who won the pole for the second straight race, led the first lap but quickly fell out of contention and was lapped by lap 28. He finished 22nd.
By starting the race, Lester became the first black NASCAR driver to record more than $1 million in career earnings.
Rick Crawford had his series-record streak of 210 starts dating to January 1997 end after he crashed during qualifying. He was taken to a hospital and released, but wasn't medically cleared to race.
The 46-year-old Crawford spun his Ford coming out of the second turn and hit the wall along the backstretch. Boris Said, a commentator for the Speed Channel who took Crawford's place in a backup truck, said Crawford had a concussion.
Said, who last drove in a truck series race in April 2000, was knocked out of the race during a five-truck accident on lap 52 that caused the race to be stopped for nine minutes as debris was cleared from the track. He later resumed his TV duties.
Bobby Hamilton, who entered the race second in the series points standings, was involved in the accident but later returned to the track. Hamilton, who won last year's series race in Kentucky, completed 98 laps and finished 31st.
Twenty-two drivers surpassed the track's qualifying record in the first 30 minutes of the practice. Jon Wood set the track qualifying mark in 2003 when he turned the mile-and-a-half tri-oval at 169.641 mph.