Martin Wins Truck Race at North Wilkesboro
NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. (AP) _ Mark Martin, driving in only his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, ran off to an easy victory Saturday in the Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse 250 at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
The Winston Cup regular, driving a Ford truck entered by Roush Racing, took the lead with 73 laps remaining on the .625-mile oval and went on to beat truck series regular Jack Sprague to the finish line by 0.78-seconds _ about six lengths.
It was the first victory by a driver not a regular in the pickup truck series since Winston Cup star Terry Labonte won last September at Richmond, Va. Martin finished third at Richmond earlier this month in his only previous series start. He is also the seventh different winner in 20 races this season.
``The 24 (Sprague) and the 3 (Mike Skinner) were faster than we were today, but we had enough when we needed it,″ Martin said. ``We about used (the truck) up, but it was fast and it was enough.″
Skinner, the defending series champion, tangled with the lapped truck of Harry Gant while leading on lap 174, but came back to finish ninth and close in on series leader Ron Hornaday Jr. with just four races remaining.
Hornaday’s season-long string of finishing every lap ended when he was penalized late in the race for passing the pace truck during a caution flag.
That caution was brought out after Hornaday banged together with Mike Bliss while making the pass for position on lap 222. The collision cut Hornaday’s right rear tire. On the next turn, Skinner, who had been dogging Hornaday for a number of laps, hit the slowing car from the rear, sending it spinning. Hornaday then passed the pace truck while hurrying to the pits for a tire change.
Hornaday, who came into the race leading by 132 points, wound up 22nd and now leads Skinner by 91, with Sprague just seven points further back in third.
Martin, who won $31,625, averaged 85.201 mph in the event slowed by nine caution flags.
Butch Miller finished third, followed by Kenny Wallace, Joe Ruttman, pole-winner Johnny Benson Jr. and Rick Carelli. Indy-car driver Robby Gordon, making his NASCAR truck debut, was among the leaders all day and wound up 13th after a spin in the late going.
The race began about 30 minutes late because of a short rain. The skies remained threatening, but the 250-lap race was run without further delay.