Sunday, July 11, 2004

Hamilton rallies to win rain-delayed truck race

Built Ford Tough 225

By Colleen Kane
Enquirer staff writer

SPARTA, Ky. - With four laps to go, Bobby Hamilton almost lost the lead he had held for most of the Built Ford Tough 225 Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Shane Hmiel leaves a trail of fire and sparks after he hit the wall in turn 2 during the Built Ford Tough 225 at Kentucky Speedway.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
Coming out of a caution on lap 146, second-place Jack Sprague overtook Hamilton and looked to be in position for a surprise win. But a final caution saved Hamilton.

He passed Sprague on the green-white checkered flag, part of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rule that a race must finish on at least two green flag laps, and held the lead to cross the finish line first.

"I never got nervous when he took the lead, because I thought I was gonna win," Hamilton said. "I knew I had to do it on the restart."

Hamilton, who recorded the fastest lap in practice Saturday morning and afternoon, had started in third and sped to the lead on lap 14. He led 133 of 153 laps, a Kentucky Speedway record for a truck race. He finished in 152:20 with an average speed of 122.587 mph.

Bobby Hamilton, winner of the Built Ford Tough 225.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
"He was so strong this morning and so strong tonight, that was my only chance," Sprague said. "The fastest truck won. We were second-best. Bobby was the class of the field. If he wasn't here, it would have been us."

It was Hamilton's third win this season and the fifth time he has finished in the top five, including a second-place finish at Kansas last week. He moves into second place in the Series points standings behind Dennis Setzer.

"To get this win, we just surrounded ourselves with good people," Hamilton said. "I think we really have turned the corner. ... We have great people and great equipment."

With delays because of rain two hours before the planned start time, the race started 1 hour, 25 minutes behind schedule Saturday evening. The race started on a green-yellow flag and ran the first 10 laps under caution to help further dry the track and make sure conditions were safe.

Fifteen minutes later on the 11th lap, the green flag officially dropped in front of a reported attendance of 42,661.

Hamilton, who ended a 14-year NASCAR Cup Series career in 2002, is in his second full season with the trucks. He finished third in the points standings last year. Last year at Kentucky, he started in second but finished 18th because of mechanical problems.

Setzer, who started on the pole after Friday's qualifying was rained out, complained that his truck was loose. He gradually fell back throughout the race and finished 11th. Defending champion Carl Edwards, who sat second in the points standings entering Saturday, left with engine problems after sparks flew from his car on lap 68. He re-entered the race with the leaders on lap 140 but could not gain any ground.

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