Archive for Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Cook ends extended drought in Craftsmen Truck Series

July 5, 2006

Terry Cook could feel himself slipping into the 100-races-without-a-win hole.

"When you're heading into the grave for that long," Cook said, "you start doubting yourself and start reaching."

The 38-year-old will have to press no more, since he drove away from the field to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series O'Reilly 250 Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

His victory ended a string of 94 consecutive truck starts without a victory. Cook's last checkered flag came at the O'Reilly Racepark in Indianapolis in August 2002.

"We've skated on the verge, and we just can't seem to get over the hump," Cook said. "Today we did."

After a rough start -- he was a full lap behind the field and in last place after 20 laps -- Cook made up ground quickly. He led the final 41 laps and was never challenged down the final stretch, receiving guidance through the final laps from crew chief Dennis Connor.

"He's a wily old veteran. He's won a lot of races," Cook said. "He told me, 'Put the rear-view up and do not look behind you. Just look forward and keep on trucking.'"

Cook followed orders well, winning the race by a comfortable 2.040 seconds over Rick Crawford.

"I just hate finishing second," Crawford said. "I'm a competitor, and this will eat at me until Kentucky."

Crawford finished runner-up after qualifying second the day before.

Marcos Ambrose produced the best finish from a rookie this season, finishing third. The Aussie was the first foreign-born driver to finish in the top five since 1999.

Coming to the States with a road-race background, Ambrose never had driven a stock car or competed on an oval track until this season.

"I was kind of a big fish in a pretty small pond, and now I'm a small fish in a huge ocean over here," Ambrose said. "I've really got to find my mark. I'm a pioneer, I guess, on any international level to come across here and try to make NASCAR stick."

The race was stopped for a red flag on lap 107 after Kelly Sutton slammed into the wall on the backstretch. Her car later spun onto the infield, causing a fire and also producing thick smoke.

Sutton also suffered an accident at last year's truck race, colliding into Chris Fontaine and flipping her truck onto its top while sliding down the track.

At latest report, Sutton was listed in fair condition at the University of Kansas Hospital. She spent Saturday night at the Kansas City, Kan., hospital.

Sutton led a single lap, making her only the second woman ever to do so in truck series history.

After failing to pass pre-qualifying inspection Friday, points leader Todd Bodine moved all the way from last to first in the opening 90 laps. He later fell back to seventh, keeping his points lead over David Reutimann at 138 points.

Johnny Benson -- who was coming off consecutive wins at Michigan and Milwaukee -- made a late run to finish ninth.

Brendan Gaughan placed fourth, with pole-sitter Mike Skinner rounding out the top five.

  • Crawford attributed some of his and Cook's success to divine intervention.

"My pastor always says a prayer before the races. We all got together, and as I was walking off, Terry Cook said, 'Come on back in here. We need to say another one,'" Crawford said. "And we get first and second. How about that?"

  • This might be the only time ARCA/REMAX driver Frank Kimmel can claim he passed Jeff Gordon.

Kimmel won the Kansas Lottery $200 Grand on Saturday, making him the all-time winningest driver at Kansas Speedway with three victories.

He surpassed the NASCAR great in the process.

"We knew we had a good car," Kimmel said. "We just had to get it to the end."

Kimmel also won the first-ever race at the Kansas Speedway, taking the NASCAR Winston West Series Kansas 150 on June 2, 2001.

The victory continues his phenomenal success at the racetrack, as the 44-year-old has placed in the top-three in each of his six ARCA appearances in Kansas.

  • Erin Crocker nearly ended her 450-mile racing day with a win, pulling into second place in the Kansas Lottery $200 Grand behind Kimmel.

She also participated in the NASCAR truck series O'Reilly 250 earlier in the day, finishing in 16th.

"It was a little tough, but not bad," Crocker said of the heat. "I feel pretty good."

Part of the reason for that was because of a failed cooling attempt. Upon entering the media room, Crocker pulled out an ice bag from her racing suit that had leaked during the races.

She had raced while all day while wet.

"It's time to get myself a shower," Crocker said. "And some rest."

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