Ruttman at Sears Point RacewayAP , Associated Press
Oct. 5, 1997 10:33 PM ET
SONOMA, Calif. (AP) _ Joe Ruttman took the lead after a late-race crash then withstood a furious, single-lap challenge from Tom Hubert to win Sunday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Sears Point Raceway.
Ruttman, who won twice previously this season in the Jack Roush-owned Ford, couldn't believe it as a dominant Dave Rezendes lost control of his truck in the ninth turn of the 2.52-mile road course with just four laps remaining.
Dodging debris and flying tires, the 52-year-old Ruttman took the lead for the first and only time, then held off Hubert's Dodge to win by 1.451 seconds. The two ran side-by-side through three of the track's twisting corners before Hubert ran off the road and settled for second.
Ruttman, who won a series road course event in July at Topeka, Kan., averaged a record 70.199 mph for the 151 miles. He won $40,675.
``He was awful fast. I don't believe I could have caught him, or passed him either,'' Ruttman said of Rezendes, then, commenting on Hubert's bid for his first win. ``Oh yeah, I was blocking; no doubt about it. I got pretty wide. I was mirror-driving. I've got a wide mirror.''
Jay Sauter, driving a Chevrolet, finished on Hubert's tailgate to take third place. Former American Motorcycle Association national motocross champion Rick Johnson drove his Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish, just ahead of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point leader Jack Sprague, also in a Chevy.
Sprague extended his point lead to 77 over Rich Bickle with just four races remaining on the 1997 schedule. Bickle, who had run among the top five drivers most of the race, finished a disappointing 12th after being forced off the track by a lapped truck on the 56th of 60 laps.
Rezendes, who started from the pole, led the most laps and appeared headed for his second consecutive Sears Point Raceway victory. His 38th birthday celebration ended prematurely, but he walked away from the wreckage of his Ford.
``I just got on it too hard and got it loose and I got off the track and one thing led to another,'' said Rezendes, who led 34 laps of the race. ``I just wanted to win too bad.''
Six drivers swapped the lead a Sears Point record nine times. Sixteen of the 23 finishers completed all 60 laps.