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Published: Saturday, 2/19/2005

Hamilton awarded truck race


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - If the first Craftsman Truck Series race of the season is any indication of what the rest of the year might hold, stay in your seats until the race is over - and then a while longer.

Jimmy Spencer was first declared the winner and sat in Victory Lane accepting congratulations after a crash-filled and helter-skelter Florida Dodge Dealers 250 last night at Daytona International Speedway.

But Spencer's truck was hurriedly pushed out of Victory Lane a few minutes later to make room for Bobby Hamilton, who was awarded first place after NASCAR officials reviewed a last-lap caution that came just moments before the race ended.

Hamilton, the defending champion in the Craftsman Truck Series, had been pushing Spencer for the lead when several trucks got tied up behind them. An instant before the caution light came on, Hamilton slipped a nose by Spencer on the outside. Hamilton asked race officials to review the finish as soon as he brought his car off the track.

"When I questioned the finish, I wasn't accusing anybody of anything," Hamilton said. "I just knew that when the lights came on, I was in front of him."

Hamilton, who started from the last position in the 36-truck field, is the first driver in Craftsman Truck Series history to win a race from that far back. There were a number of multi-truck pile ups in the race, and Hamilton was a survivor as much as the winner.

"We didn't set that as a goal," Hamilton. "We just wanted to go out and run hard and see if we could win some races."

Spencer, the notorious "Mr. Excitement" of the Cup ranks, started 21st, was a lap down with just 24 to go after a black flag penalty for passing below the yellow line, then wiggled through the mayhem to an apparent win in the race before Hamilton slipped by him.

Kerry Earnhardt, who started on the pole but ended up in street clothes riding around in a golf cart by the halfway point in the race, crunched a truck in qualifying, and one in last night's race.

Earnhardt, the older half-brother of Nextel Cup star Dale Earnhardt Jr., lost control and went sideways in the middle of a big pack, and cleaned eight trucks out of the race, including Ron Hornaday.

Brendan Gaughan was the villain in the second major pileup as he sought to pass leader Mike Skinner to get back on the lead lap. Gaughan jerked low, then jumped high trying to correct, and took out three of the top four trucks at the time.

"I don't know," Skinner said. "I guess he either run out of talent, or brains, or luck, I'm not sure."

Sylvania native Terry Cook, who led the race after 44 laps, was pushing toward the front with six laps to go when Chad Chaffin, running second at the time, got loose and went airborne.

Cook went sideways across the infield grass trying to avoid Chaffin, but worked his Power Stroke Diesel back on the track before taking it to the garage with two laps left due to mechanical problems.

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