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Bodine makes late pit stop pay off

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Todd Bodine gambled on a late stop and made it pay off Saturday with a victory in the Alltel 200 Busch Grand National race at North Carolina Speedway.

Bodine was leading when rookie Scott Wimmer's car hit the wall on Lap 183 of the 197-lap race.

Bodine, the youngest of three racing brothers, pitted for four tires, while several other drivers, including defending series champion Jeff Green, stayed on the track.

Green led and Bodine was sixth when the green flag waved for the start on Lap 190.

Within one trip around the 1.017-mile oval, Bodine was second, trailing by less than a car length. Bodine charged past Green on Lap 191 to take the lead for good.

"At a place like Rockingham, you know if you don't pit and anybody behind you pits, you're in trouble," Bodine said. "I told (crew chief) Gary (Cogswell), "If we want to win, I've got to pit.' That's just what happened."

The leader avoided a five-car pileup on Lap 193 and, with a two-lap sprint to the end after that final caution, beat Kevin Harvick, last year's top BGN rookie and the driver replacing the late Dale Earnhardt in his Winston Cup ride for today's Dura-Lube 400.

Bodine won by 0.407 seconds, about seven car lengths.

Harvick, who qualified in 36th position for today's race, received the biggest ovation from the spectators during driver introductions. He was asked if getting in the car Saturday was an emotional experience.

"There's a lot of things going through your mind," Harvick said. "About 15 laps into the race, the only thing going through my mind was making sure the car went through the corner faster than everyone else."

It was Bodine's seventh BGN victory. He averaged 112.049 mph.

Harvick, who also finished second in the season opener Feb. 17 in Daytona, took the series lead, 28 points ahead of Green, who slipped to eighth at the end.

An early tire stop might have cost Green the victory.

"For some reason, the tires we started with felt like we had a right-front flat," Green said. "Eighteen laps into the race we had to put tires on, and nobody else did. That put us one set of Goodyears shorter than everybody else.

"When that caution came out with 10 to go and I saw everyone come in, we were just a sitting duck."

Rookie Greg Biffle, who started on the pole, was third, followed by Kenny Wallace, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Jeff Purvis and Rich Bickle.

Despite five separate crashes involving a total of nine cars, there were no injuries reported.

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