NASCAR Trucks' "Built Ford Tough 225"

Hamilton survives
late scare from Sprague

Caution sets up two-lap final sprint

By Don Ward

SPARTA, Ky. (August 2004) – At age 47, Bobby Hamilton still believes age and experience can triumph over youth and vitality, and he proved it July 10 at the Kentucky Speedway.

Bobby Hamilton Wins

Photo by Don Ward

Bobby Hamilton
celebrating after
winning the race.

The Nashville, Tenn., native held onto an impressive seven-second lead for much of the night in the “Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers,” then fended off challenger Jack Sprague in a two-lap sprint to the finish to clinch a victory in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race here.
Hamilton led all but 20 laps around the 1.5-mile tri-oval, seemingly with ease in his No. 4 Square D Dodge truck. In fact, much of the race appeared to be for second place as Hamilton dominated the field from the start.
Then Sprague sneaked around Hamilton on the inside on Lap 146 to take the lead. But the race went into its seventh caution when Rick Crawford bumped another truck coming out of Turn 4 and went spinning out of control through the entire length of the infield before coming to a stop. The caution, with less than three laps remaining, ended after the 150 laps had expired, so the race was extended a final two laps under a green-and-white-checkered finish, allowing the winner to be determined over another two laps.
For a moment, it appeared that Sprague, a Spring Lake, Mich., native and the series’ only three-time champion, would steal the victory from the wiley Tennessean. But on the first lap of the restart, Hamilton re-established his presence at the front of the pack by passing Sprague on the inside of Turn 1, then held on for the checkered flag before a crowd of 42,661. Hamilton’s 0.179-second victory was a series record at the Kentucky Speedway.
In doing so, Hamilton notched his third season victory, his second straight top 2 finish, and moved to within six points of series leader Dennis Setzer. He also collected $80,125, the second-largest payoffs on the series circuit. It was Hamilton’s seventh career victory in 60 starts in the truck series.
Sprague took second and David Starr of Houston third.
Since qualifying had been canceled because of rain on Friday, the starting lineup had been deteremined by point standings. Pole-sitter Setzer, who led the first 11 laps, finished 11th. Defending champion Carl Edwards, who was second on the pole, had to leave the race after Lap 70 because of engine trouble and finished 33rd. Earlier in the race, he was penalized during a caution for having a pit crew member over the wall too quickly. He was forced to start Lap 57 at the end of the field of trucks on the lead lap, 22nd place.

Jon Wood Pits

Photo by High Sierra

Jon Woods' crew get busy in the pits.

“To get this win, we just surrounded ourselves with good people. I think that we really have turned the corner. We have great people and great equipment,” said Hamilton, whose son, Bobby Hamilton Jr., won the NASCAR Busch Series’ “Meijer 300” here last year.

Hamilton Jr. led 100 laps of this year’s Busch Series race before bowing out with engine trouble. Asked if his son had given him any tips about the track, the elder Hamilton said, “He (Hamilton, Jr.) told me a lot of good stuff I used tonight. Something he told me about this race track, about how to drive it. I have a lot more experience than him, and I never would’ve thought it, but I did it tonight and it was like, ‘holy crap.’ I could run two and 3/10ths quicker than I wanted, it was all about how I drove the truck. I never will tell what it is, I didn’t even tell my teammate Chad Chaffin. I just don’t do that, I keep that to myself because somebody else will figure it out before long.”
Regarding Sprague’s late-race charge, Hamilton, said, “He is probably one of the best. I never got nervous when he took the lead because I thought that I was going to win. I knew that I had to do it on the restart.”
Sprague, who picked up $53,450, said of the restart, “We were second best. Bobby was the class of the field. If he wasn’t here, it would have been us.”
Sprague, who has won once this season, said he was “shocked” to get around Hamilton just before the caution came out. “He had some stuff on his tires,” Sprague recalled, allowing him to pass. But on the restart, Hamilton’s tires were clean. As a result, Sprague said, “He just smoked me in Turns 1 and 2. That’s the way it goes.”
The race was delayed by nearly 11/2 hours because of a thunderstorm that pounded the track around 6 p.m. The race had been scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Track officials worked furiously to dry the surface with blowers and several vehicles that circled the track for more than an hour, finally getting the race under way at 9:25 p.m. The first 11 laps of the race were held under a combination green-yellow caution flag to further dry the surface before the 36-truck field received the green flag.

ARCA’s Hemphill wins second at Sparta

Earlier in the day, Ryan Hemphill of Apollo, Pa., won for his second time this season at Sparta by capturing the ARCA RE/MAX “Kentucky 150,” which had been postponed from the previous night because of rain. Hemphill also won the “Channel 5-205” here in May.


Photo by High Sierra

Hemphill celebrates after winning the ARCA race.

Hemphill started fourth this time and took the lead on Turn 1 of the first lap and controlled the 67-lap race almost entirely. His cruise to victory was aided by Frank Kimmel’s decision to pit during a caution on Lap 30 put him back to 19th place on the restart on Lap 34. He raced back to sixth place over the next 50 laps, and he planned to not stop again for fuel or tires the rest of the way. But the rain storm ruined his plans, stopping the race for good before he could regain the lead. The race went into a caution on Lap 66 because of rain. At the time Brent Sherman was second, David Ragan third, Tandy Marlin fourth and Walt Brannen fifth, with Kimmel still sixth. Sherman pitted for fuel and returned to the track in 10th place.
Then the race went into a red flag caution on Lap 68 because of rain. Officials called the race soon afterward with the completion of 67 laps of a scheduled 100.
Hemphill led all 67 laps and won with an average speed of 100.544 mph. The 22-year-old received help from his spotter and stepmother, Kim Hemphill. It was his fourth victory of the season and sixth top-5 finish.
The day’s events included racing by the U.S. Auto Club’s Ford Focus Midget Series cars. After four heats on the quarter-mile infield track, a semifinal and final heat took place to determined the overall winners.
In the feature final heat, Joshua Clemons of Greenfield, Ind., won over second-place Ryan Litt of Lyons, Ontario, Can., and Kevin Studley of Plainfield, Ind. Additional excitement occurred when Terry Hall of Stuart, Va., flipped his midget car in heat No. 4.

To learn more about the midget series, visit: www.usacracing.com.

Back to 2004 Kentucky Speedway Articles.



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