Economical Starr shines in truck win
David Starr held the lead through eight restarts over the final 121 laps Saturday at Martinsville, Va., to win for the fourth time in the Craftsman Truck Series.
Starr drove the last 185 laps on the same tank of fuel and tires, and had little trouble holding off Ted Musgrave in the final eight-lap green flag run to the finish in the Kroger 250.
“I would have never thought we could run that long on a set of tires,” Starr said.
It was the second consecutive truck race at Martinsville Speedway that set records for cautions. The final restart came after the 16th caution pushed the number of laps run under yellow to 87, breaking the track records of 15 cautions for 83 laps set last fall. The 16 cautions set a record for the series at any venue.
Musgrave finished second – 0.942 seconds back – to give Toyota the top two spots and give Musgrave four top-five runs in four races in the series this year. Matt Crafton was third in a Chevrolet after holding off Mark Martin.
The victory was Starr’s first in the truck series since November 2004 at Phoenix.
Marcos Ambrose of Australia, a two-time V8 Supercar champion in his homeland, made his debut in the Craftsman Truck Series after qualifying 20th.
NASCAR rules prevent rookie drivers from making their debuts on superspeedways until they demonstrate that they can race competitively on short tracks, but Ambrose went into the Kroger 250 uncertain how well he’d be able to meet that requirement.
“I’m going to be pleased when this weekend is out of the way,” Ambrose said after he finished 33rd and got to spend a long time in the garage after hitting the wall in turn four on his 150th lap. He wound up 52 laps down.
Franchitti takes IRL pole
Dan Wheldon, the reigning IRL IndyCar Series champion, struggled in qualifying for today’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., finishing 13th among the 19 drivers who took part in the time trials on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit tucked between Tampa Bay and downtown St. Petersburg.
Wheldon’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon fared considerably better, trailing only pole-winner Dario Franchitti in the IRL’s unique road course qualifying format, which has single-lap qualifying for all the drivers before having the six fastest go head-to-head in a 10-minute shootout.
Tony Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, will start third, followed by two-time IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. and his Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves – who finished second last week to Wheldon in a thrilling side-by-side finish – and Kanaan’s Andretti Green Racing teammate, Bryan Herta.
Earnhardt the owner
Now that he’s a car owner, too, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he’s settling down some, trying to motivate his team and still not mincing words.
Earnhardt owns Mark McFarland’s team in the Busch Series.
“You have to be really aggressive, set the example for the people you work with,” Earnhardt said. “It’s all about keeping that fire lit under them, keeping them pumped up. … That is probably the hardest part, to keep them really fired up to do the very best job they can because they don’t know just how good they really are. You really have to dig to help them to bring it out in themselves.”