Sunday, June 1, 2003

Nemechek wins Busch series race from pole

NASCAR notebook

Enquirer news services

DOVER, Del. - Joe Nemechek took advantage of Matt Kenseth's late-race blunder Saturday and became the first driver in 17 years at Dover International Speedway to win a Busch series race from the pole.

Winston Cup points leader Kenseth dominated the race, but missed a shift on a restart on the 155th lap of the MBNA 200. He was hit by Brian Vickers and tried to finish with rear bumper askew and left rear fender bent upward.

But Kenseth spun out on lap 179, giving fast-closing fellow Cup racer Nemechek the lead. "That last run, I caught Matt and started to work him over," Nemechek said. "He broke loose and got sideways. I said, 'Whoa.' It was like Christmas."

Nemechek's task was made easier when the cars restarted the crash-filled race in single file twice in the final 10 laps on The Monster Mile. The last came after Martin Truex Jr. spun, and the event was red-flagged.

But Scott Riggs was unable to close the gap in the final three laps under green, and his Ford finished nearly a half-second behind Nemechek's Chevrolet.

Nemechek knew what Riggs was up against. "If you get behind somebody, they're going to take away your line," he said. "My car worked good and we could pull away."

Kenseth led 160 laps, easily outracing any challenger as he attempted to win for the third time on the high-banked concrete oval.

"We had a great car, but I just didn't do a very good job," he said. "I just missed a shift. It happened to me a couple of times this weekend."

• Hours before he won from the pole in the Busch series race, Nemechek crashed his Winston Cup car in practice. The damage to his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet forced Nemechek to go to a backup car for today's MBNA 400.

Nemechek will have to fall to the rear of the field before the green flag because of the change, but that shouldn't have much of an effect. He was to start 37th.

"I think I've got to chalk that up to driver error," he said of the crash. "I ran down a car, ran him down real quick. I just clipped the inside of the apron and it got me into a little bit of a slide and I just ran out of room before I hit something."

MARLIN MOVING UP: Sterling Marlin hopes today's race doesn't come down to a gas mileage gamble. In the past seven races, Marlin has moved from 24th to ninth in points. Marlin has never won at Dover.

"The Roush (Fords) have always got good gas mileage. For some reason, the Dodges don't get the gas mileage the Chevys and Fords get," he said. "We've got to work on our gas mileage somehow and get it better.

"We'll have to work on the carburetors and make them more efficient. We generally have to stop six to eight laps before anybody else."

EARNHARDT JR. CRASHES: Dale Earnhardt Jr., 160 points behind series leader Matt Kenseth and second in the Winston Cup standings, crashed and was forced into a backup car.

He didn't have a chance to practice in the backup when NASCAR canceled the final session because of late-morning rain.

He will use the same chassis setup he had a week earlier in a 41st-place finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He was hamstrung in that race because of problems with brakes. Earnhardt told the team his Dover car was not stable in the turns before he crashed on the backstretch Saturday.

DOVER STATS: The polesitter has won only 10 of 66 races. Bobby Labonte was the last to do it, after taking the pole for this race in 1999. . . . Ken Schrader got the last of his four career victories 12 years ago in the June race at Dover, and is winless in his last 387 starts.

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