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Stewart nips Harvick for rare Truck victory

©Associated Press
September 6, 2002

RICHMOND, Va. -- Tony Stewart picked track position over new tires with 35 laps to go Thursday night, taking the lead and holding off Kevin Harvick to win the Virginia Is For Lovers 200 Craftsman Truck series race.

Stewart, the Winston Cup star making only his second start in the series, moved from sixth to the lead when Harvick and the other four lead drivers pitted for tires under a caution. Racing on tires he took on Lap 96, Stewart pulled away in his Andy Petree-owned Chevy and held on to win by 0.259 seconds.

"The truck was awesome," Stewart said. "It wasn't a surprise when we were able to get to the lead that we were also able to hold those guys off."

Stewart's strategy was challenged one last time when Adam Clarke spun in Turn 4 with just over eight laps to go, bringing out the eighth caution of the night and setting up a five-lap dash to the checkered flag.

At the time, David Starr was second, series points leader Mike Bliss was third and Harvick was fourth with his Chevy the fastest truck on the track.

Harvick pulled alongside Bliss on the first lap of green and passed him with three to go. The Winston Cup driver pulled onto Starr's bumper immediately, nudged him out of the way in Turn 3 with two to go and tried to go after Stewart, but the winner of three Winston Cup races here was not to be denied.

"This is getting old, running second," said Harvick, winless in 74 starts in the series.

Bliss finished third, followed by Rick Crawford and Terry Cook. Bliss added 10 points and leads Cook by 44 points in the championship race. Crawford moved into third.

FUNAI 250: Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his venture into race car ownership a smashing success, setting a track qualifying record of 126.868 mph for today's Busch Grand National race.

His lone qualifying lap around Richmond International Raceway easily bettered Matt Kenseth's mark of 125.780 set in May 2001.

"It's a brand new car, brand new team, brand new people," Earnhardt said. "It's the first time we've all worked together and we're real excited."

Greg Biffle and Kevin Lepage also broke Kenseth's record. Biffle qualified second at 126.399 and Lepage third at 125.792 on the three-quarter-mile oval.

The Earnhardt team is mostly a developmental one. He co-owns it with stepmother Teresa Earnhardt.

BURTON EXPLAINS SHAKEUP: Jeff Burton said replacing Frank Stoddard as crew chief of the No. 99 Ford was an emotional but necessary split.

"It's apparent that we aren't doing as well as we need to," Burton said. "We're in the midst of our second year that's subpar as seen by me and by Frank and by a lot of people watching it.

"Frank hasn't done anything wrong, and I don't feel like I've done anything wrong. It's just that together, right now, we aren't getting it done."

Burton is 13th in points after 25 of 36 races with only three top-five finishes. He and Stoddard won 14 races together and finished a career-best third in points in 2000. Burton said the possibility of one of them leaving was one of many solutions discussed.

Paul Andrews, who was crew chief for the No. 1 of Steve Park, replaces Stoddard. Roush has offered Stoddard another position.

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