David Starr wins Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway;

"Thank God I didn't get off the gas and let him go"


LAS VEGAS -- David Starr won the Las Vegas 350 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after race leader Ted Musgrave suffered a flat tire with less than five laps remaining.  Musgrave's deflated tire created a first-time winner in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The win was not exactly handed to Starr.  He won the Bud Pole Award and led the first 23 laps.  Musgrave led four times for a total of 44 laps, much of it during the second half of the race.  Musgrave sparred with Mike Bliss and traded the lead a few times while Starr kept the pair in sight.  As Musgrave slowed with a flat tire, Starr passed Bliss and took the lead. Starr stayed ahead of Bliss for the final handful of laps and went on to win the race.  For Starr, it was his second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, having won a NASCAR Winston West Series event here in 2000.

"I can't believe I'm sitting here talking to you right now," said Starr to reporters during the post-race interview.  "The Winston West deal was cool, but this is even cooler.  When the race started, we really didn't have the best truck.  Every pit stop we made, (crew chief) Dave McCarty kept making it better and better. 

"I had Mike Bliss behind me and every corner I'd go into, he'd be diving underneath me.  I was trying to keep my momentum up high and keep ahead of him.  Trying to catch Ted and trying to hold off Mike at the same time was pretty tough.  I'm glad it ended up the way it did.  I don't think I had anything for Ted Musgrave."

Some late-race wheeling and dealing could have cost Starr the victory.  The crew chiefs of Starr and Bliss conferred to see if one of the Chevrolet teams could catch Musgrave's Dodge.

"My crew chief came over the radio and said, 'If Bliss is faster than you, let him go.'  I said, 'Well, I ain't gonna let him go¿'   My crew chief said they think if they (Bliss) can get by you, they can catch Ted.  That's a tough call.  He's (Bliss) a Chevrolet driver too and he's leading the points chase and if I could help my manufacturer win a championship, that's another story.  But I thought I had a good enough truck where I could win. Thank God I didn't get off the gas and let him go.

"(Team owners) Wayne and Connie Spears are tremendous people and they've been part of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since it started.  They've had a lot of great drivers in the past: Ron Hornaday, Kevin Harvick, Marty Houston.  They've had a lot of talent in the Spears 75 truck and when I got the call last winter to drive the truck this year I was on Cloud Nine."

That Mopar Dodge has no luck this year," Musgrave mused.  "We thought we had a shot to win it, but we cut a tire down on the backstretch.  We must have run over something¿that's the way our luck has been this year.  We've got a good team, a good Dodge truck, great sponsors and great people, but we just don't have the luck this year."

For Starr's crew chief, Dave McCarty, it was one the track owed him.  The last time a McCarty-led team raced at Las Vegas (with Hank Parker Jr. in 2000), they won the pole but were victimized by spark plug failure on the very first lap.

This feels pretty good," said McCarty.  "I had a pole here in 2000 with a Busch car and we just had problems from the start -- went straight backwards.  It's been '98 since I won a Truck race and we'd been close, close, close and sooner or later you start to think, 'Maybe you can't do this.'  So it feels pretty good."

Local favorite Brendan Gaughan fared well, all things considered.  He finished eighth and won yet another Raybestos Rookie of the Race Award after starting at the back of the pack.  Eighth place was a decent end to a trying weekend.  Gaughan won the Bud Pole Award for Saturday's Orleans 150 NASCAR Winston West Series and qualified second for the Las Vegas 350.  Then his fortunes reversed: His engine blew while leading the Orleans 150 and he crashed during the final NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series practice.

"We had to go to ¿Old Faithful¿ today,¿ Gaughan said, referring to the back-up truck that the NAPA Auto Parts/Orleans team raced today. ¿We were easily a fast truck and I think we could have caught them, but we got a little behind and I didn¿t want to get in the way of the race leaders.¿

Time of race: 1 hr., 37 min., 3 sec.

Bud Pole Award: David Starr.

Raybestos Rookie of the Race: Brendan Gaughan.

Caution flags: 2 for 10 laps. (90-95, 120-123).

Lap leaders: David Starr 1-23, Ted Musgrave 24-32, Mike Bliss 33-54, Coy Gibbs 55, Ryan Hemphill 56-60, Travis Kvapil 61-62, Mike Bliss 63-95, Ted Musgrave 96-107, Mike Bliss 108, Ted Musgrave 109-113, Mike Bliss 114-123, Ted Musgrave 124-141, David Starr 142-146.

Total laps led: Mike Bliss 66, Ted Musgrave 44, David Starr 28, Ryan Hemphill 5, Travis Kvapil 2, Coy Gibbs 1.

Unofficial Top 10 Driver Points: Mike Bliss 2,922, Rick Crawford 2,837, Ted Musgrave 2,773, David Starr 2,753, Jason Leffler 2,701, Dennis Setzer 2,698, Robert Pressley 2,660, Terry Cook 2,647, Travis Kvapil 2,591, Coy Gibbs 2,583.

Raybestos Rookie of the Year points: Gaughan 227, Lester 159, Small 154.

Las Vegas 350 Unofficial Finish: 1. David Starr, 2. Mike Bliss, 3. Dennis Setzer, 4. Travis Kvapil, 5. Jason Leffler, 6. Rick Crawford, 7. Robert Pressley, 8. Brendan Gaughan, 9. Ted Musgrave, 10. Jason Small, 11. Lance Norick, 12. Andy Houston, 13. Carlos Contreras, 14. Ryan Hemphill, 15. Coy Gibbs, 16. Bobby Dotter, 17. Bill Lester, 18. Jon Wood, 19. Lonnie Cox, 20. Doug Keller, 21. Eric Jones, 22. Randy MacDonald, 23. Conrad Burr, 24. Jerry Hill, 25. Matt Crafton, 26. Lance Hooper, 27. Terry Cook, 28. Steve Portenga, 29. Morgan Shepherd, 30. Chris Horn, 31. Stan Byrd, 32. Ricky Sanders, 33. Loni Richardson, 34. Dana White, 35. Brian Rose, 36. Carl Edwards.