Saturday, June 17, 2000

Speedway opens with a surprise

Reffner takes pole

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Bryan Reffner talks to the media after winning the pole.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        SPARTA, Ky. — The new Kentucky Speedway produced its first big shocker Friday night, when Bryan Reffner surprisingly won the pole in qualifying for tonight's NASCAR Craftsman Truck race.

        Reffner had not won a pole since 1996, when he was the Truck rookie of the year. Friday, before a crowd of 36,210, Reffner upset bigger names such as Greg Biffle (series points leader) and Jack Sprague (1997 and '99 series champ) to win the Kroger 225 pole at 168.460 mph in his Johns Manville Chevrolet.

Ky. Speedway
Special Coverage

        Biffle will start second in tonight's 7:30 p.m. race, after qualifying at 168.282 mph. Marty Houston will start third, Sprague fourth, and rookie Scott Riggs — whose truck owner is Hillsboro native David Hodson — will start fifth.

        Reffner, a 36-year-old native of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., stands 10th in the Truck series points race.

        “We always thought when we'd come to a new track and that would be a place we would shine, because we don't have a big notebook to come from and it evens up the playing field,” Reffner said.

Trucks practice

  TICKETS: 1-888-652-RACE
 2 p.m.: Gates open to public
 4 p.m.: Joe Walsh concert
 7 p.m.: Truck series driver introductions
 7:30 p.m.: Truck series Kroger 225 (ESPN)
        Reffner's truck is owned by John Menard, the multimillionaire Indy Racing League owner whose clients have included former IRL champions Greg Ray and Tony Stewart. Reffner hooked up with Menard late last season.

        Reffner has never won a race on the truck series in 100 career starts. His best finish is third place in 1998, and his best this year is fifth place .

        He may find himself chasing Sprague and Biffle again tonight. Sprague had the top lap speed in practices entering Friday night's qualifying, with Biffle right behind.

        “This thing was good when we made our banzai run in that last practice,” Sprague said. “I thought we had a shot at the pole but it got tight in qualifying.”

        Biffle, who won a series record nine races in 1999, enters as the hottest racer on the circuit. He was won two of the last three Truck races, including last week at Fort Worth, Texas.

        “We were a little bit short of the 3 truck (Reffner), but I think we've got a great race package and I'm excited for (tonight),” Biffle said.

        The qualifying got off to a slow start, but had its exciting moments.

        The first great roar from the crowd occurred when driver Dennis Setzer, driving his No.1 Mopar Performance Dodge, spun out entering Turn Four. Setzer's screeching tires spewed a great wall of white smoke through the grandstands, but he corrected himself without hitting the wall. The fans cheered every second of it.

        There were more cheers for a driver named Andy Genzman, who hit the wall coming out of Turn Two. He and Setzer will both start near the back of the 36-truck field.

        Among the biggest names of the series, Mike Wallace qualified a disappointing 17th and Steve Grissom 18th. Both are former Winston Cup drivers, with Wallace the brother of Winston star Rusty Wallace.

        “It stunk,” said Wallace, third in the season points race. “I don't know what happened. ... It was a terrible lap.”

        Despite heavy rains in the Cincinnati area, the Speedway was relatively untouched. Qualifying sailed through without rain albeit under some threatening skies.

        The only stoppage was for a brief drizzle during the post-qualifying “happy hour” practices, which preceded the NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro stock car race. After the All Pro race, a downpour chased spectators home.

Kroger 225 lineup
Slim Jim winner disqualified
Basking in roar of a new racetrack

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