TALLADEGA, Ala. - After 250 miles of racing, it all came down to the final 250 feet. And in the end, Todd Bodine managed to barely hold off Rick Crawford and Johnny Benson to claim victory Saturday in a thrilling Mountain Dew 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Crawford remained tucked behind Bodine for most of the final two laps, with Benson close on the rear of Crawford. Then as the trio came off Turn 4 and headed through the tri-oval toward the checkered flag, Crawford pulled out on the high side and Benson tried to pass on the bottom of the track. They crossed the finish line three-wide, with Bodine maintaining the lead by 0.014 of a second over Crawford.
"This is Talladega. It just lends itself to great finishes," Bodine said afterward. "Where the start-finish line is and the way the track is. … It's just the way Talladega is. It's a great place to race, and a great show for the fans."
Jason Leffler finished fourth, followed by Dennis Setzer in fifth, NCTS rookie Willie Allen sixth and Ron Hornaday Jr. seventh.
Hornaday's showing was enough to give him a 14-point lead in the NCTS points standings over Mike Skinner, who finished 13th. Skinner had entered the race with a three-point lead over Hornaday. It was the third time in the past four races that the points lead has changed hands.
The only thing closer than the points battle was the final-lap battle for the victory in Saturday's race. Crawford said he waited until the last-possible moment to make his move out of concern that if Benson didn't follow him, he would have lost the draft and dropped several positions.
"I was getting a really good run off of (Turn) 4 … but if I had pulled out (too early), I would have finished 10th or 15th," Crawford said. "So I had to take the draft, I had to use it as much as I could. I got the side draft off of Todd, I was just four feet short."
Bodine said he knew Crawford was going to make a move, he just wasn't sure when.
"He had a great run. He just came up a little short," said Bodine, the defending NCTS champion. "It was pretty close. I knew Rick was out there, but I couldn't see his hood (at the finish line), so I knew we had won.
"Rick timed it just a little too late. If the start-finish line was down another couple 100 yards, he probably would have been by me. He almost timed it perfectly."
But Crawford, who drives a Ford, said he was worried that if he had gotten out of line, Benson would have stayed behind Bodine, since both of them drive Toyotas. Benson did not dispute that notion.
"If (Crawford) would have had a manufacturer behind him the same as him, he would have gone on by (Bodine)," Benson said. "I just tried to win the race myself. I thought we were going to get there. Between first, second and third, it had to have been pretty tight."
A victory would have been special to Crawford, since he is a native of Alabama.
"I thought I made the right move," Crawford said. "If I second guessed myself or looked in the rear view mirror, I would have done it the same way. … "(It was) a bold move there at the end to try to make it exciting for the fans in my home state of Alabama."
The victory was special to Bodine as well, considering how close he has come to winning past NCTS races at both Talladega and Daytona International Speedway.
"I'm just glad to come out on top for a change," Bodine said. "I've always run well at Daytona and Talladega, I just never quite got it done. I finally got it done today. That's the best part about this whole thing."
Race fans wishing to attend the UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race tomorrow are urged to get tickets now, as there is a very limited amount left for purchase. To purchase tickets, call 1-877- Go2-DEGA, log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com, or visit one of our ticket booths on site - - including the main Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office located on Speedway Boulevard at the International
Motorsports Hall of Fame.