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Labonte edges out Craven to win Truck Series event at Martinsville



Published: Sat, April 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



He became the first driver to win in NASCAR's top three series races.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Bobby Labonte became the first driver to win in each of NASCAR's top three series at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, capturing the closest Craftsman Truck Series event at the track.

Labonte passed Chad Chaffin for the lead with 30 laps to go, then held off Ricky Craven and Ron Hornaday on a restart with five laps to go. His Chevrolet beat Craven's Ford to the finish line by just 0.257 seconds.

Labonte, making only his fifth start in the truck series, also became only the 12th driver to win in the truck, Busch and Nextel Cup series.

"Every win here has been awesome," said Labonte, the 2000 Nextel Cup series champion. "It had its highlights and its moments of, 'Well, we're not sure if we're going to get there or not."'

Restart helped

One of those came on the last restart when Hornaday, running third, immediately pulled alongside Craven to challenge for second heading into the first turn. The duel allowed Labonte to take control, but barely.

"[Hornaday] and Ricky were beating and banging behind me, and it gave me just enough to get away," he said in Victory Lane.

In a season when his Nextel Cup team has struggled -- he's 34th in points through five races -- Labonte said any success was appreciated.

"Our Sundays haven't been that great, but we take it one day at a time and today was another day and that helped out," he said. "We can't even tell if we've really got great race cars in our Cup deal because we really haven't run long enough in a lot of races to even know that."

Last at Daytona

Labonte finished last in the season-opening Daytona 500 and his best finish was a 13th. His other finishes have been 41st, 37th and 22nd.

Hornaday finished third in a Chevrolet, and Todd Bodine, who gave up the lead when he pitted with 39 laps to go, was fourth in a Toyota.

"We couldn't quite make it on fuel and our front tires were going away," Bodine said. "Any way you look at it, we probably would have finished where we did without the tires, or with the tires."

Kevin Harvick, trying to become the first driver to win in each of NASCAR's three top series in consecutive starts, wound up 12th.

Harvick won Busch and Nextel Cup races at Bristol last weekend.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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