Fuel strategy propels Bodine to truck win

SPARTA, Ky. — Todd Bodine tried to outrace Kyle Busch. When that didn’t work, the NASCAR Trucks Series veteran decided to outsmart the Sprint Cup star.

Bodine recovered from a midrace spin — one started when Busch edged too close to Bodine’s rear quarterpanel — to end Busch’s three-series winning streak at four with a brilliant fuel-saving run Friday night at Kentucky Speedway.

The series points leader squeezed out 58 laps on one tank of fuel to beat Johnny Sauter and Aric Almirola while ending Busch’s two-week stranglehold on Victory Lane.

“Our misfortune turned out to be our fortune,” Bodine said after his fourth win of the season.

Sauter was second, followed by Almirola, Jason White and Ricky Carmichael.

Bodine exacted a little revenge on Busch.

The two got together briefly last week at Chicagoland, where Busch eventually rolled to his fourth straight win across NASCAR’s three national series.

They were at it again at the bumpy 1.5-mile oval in northern Kentucky. They were battling for the lead just past the race’s halfway point when Bodine got loose trying to take the lead from Busch on lap 82. He lost control coming out of Turn 4 and slid onto the infield grass. His truck was largely unscathed, and he pitted on lap 92.

Bodine wasn’t supposed to make it 58 laps on one tank, yet he sipped enough gas to make it hold up and extend his lead over Almirola to 261 points with seven races to go.

“I’d like to thank Kyle for driving dirty and pushing us,” Bodine said in Victory Lane. “That made us get the gas.”

The remark angered Busch, and the two exchanged angry words. Bodine didn’t back down from his comment, saying he’s getting tired of Busch’s seeming lack of respect for his fellow drivers.

“Unfortunately, I’ve always had a lot of respect for Kyle,” Bodine said. “Slowly but surely I’m losing it.”

Busch, who will look for a record-breaking 11th win in the Nationwide Series today at Atlanta, was not approached for comment afterward.

He began the day hoping to match Fred Lorenzen, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and David Pearson as the only drivers to win five consecutive NASCAR events.

No biggie. He wasted little time making his way through the field. Busch was in front by lap 55 and appeared ready to continue the dominance that began two weeks ago at Bristol, when he swept the Trucks, Nationwide and Cup races. He backed it up last week at Chicagoland and clearly had the fastest truck Friday.

It just wasn’t so great on fuel mileage. He pitted under green with 23 laps remaining, ceding the lead to Bodine, who kept his right foot gingerly on the throttle as the laps wound down.

Bodine crossed the finish line with a couple of ounces to spare. Not bad for a truck that needed a major face-lift after getting banged up at Chicago. The truck was in the shop Sunday and had a new engine by Monday.

Five days later, it was good enough to help Bodine pick up his 21st career Trucks victory.

Bodine hopes there’s more checkered flags in his future. He knows he’ll have to beat Busch to get there. He’s hoping the supremely talented Busch, however, will learn some manners.

“It’s not just the Trucks Series, it’s every division he races,” Bodine said. “He’s so good. He’s without a doubt one of the best drivers NASCAR has ever seen … he doesn’t have to drive like that to win races, but he does, and he’s getting away with it because NASCAR won’t do anything about it. He was mad because I called him out on it.”

■ INDYCAR — At Sparta, Ky., Ed Carpenter posted a lap of 217.933 mph to capture the pole for today’s Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

The pole is the first of Carpenter’s career. The veteran racer signed a three-race deal to drive for Panther Racing last month.

Series points leader Will Power, coming off a disappointing 16th-place finish at Chicagoland last week, will start second at the 1.5-mile oval.

Defending series champion Dario Franchitti, who trails Power by 23 points with three races left, qualified 11th.

Power let a chance to pick up his first career win on an oval slip away when a late pit stop gaffe left him short on fuel. He was forced to pit with a couple of laps remaining, allowing Franchitti to pull away for the win.

■ NHRA — At Clermont, Ind., Cory McClenathan took the Top Fuel qualifying lead with a record-setting run in the drag racing’s playoff-opening U.S. Nationals.

McClenathan, a two-time Indy winner who entered the six-event Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship second in the standings, had a run of 3.789 seconds at 319.98 mph, both O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis records.

Robert Hight, Mike Edwards and Andrew Hines also topped their divisions in the prestigious event that will end Monday.

Hight, a two-time Indy winner, set a Funny Car track record for time at 4.055 and 310.98 mph in a Ford Mustang.

Edwards, the defending Pro Stock champion and season leader, paced the division at 6.596 and 208.46 mph in a Pontiac GXP.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the top-seeded Hines was quickest at 6.974 and 185.69 mph on his Harley-Davidson.

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