CLERMONT, Ind. (AP) – An already exhausting day got a lot longer and a lot more tiring for Martin Truex Jr.

Truex, who will drive in Sunday’s Nextel Cup race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, held off Clint Bowyer on a final two-lap shootout Saturday night to win the rain-interrupted Kroger 200 at nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Truex, the series points leader, won for the sixth time this season. “Any win’s worth the wait,” Truex said. “We had a long day, jumping back and forth between the big track and here, and before qualifying, I wasn’t too excited. I didn’t really know what to expect.”

Truex qualified ninth, stayed close early in the race and got his car working better after a rain delay of 1 hour, 35 minutes.

“Anytime you make pit stops and they make the car better, it makes you happy,” he said. “I was able to conserve my car, conserve my tires until the end, when I needed them. I had good stops all night and that got me the win.”

The race was scheduled for 200 laps, but a late crash kept it going under yellow while the track was cleared. The green finally came out after 202 laps and Truex pulled away to victory, padding his lead over Bowyer in the series standings. Pole-winner Reed Sorenson, a rookie who won in St. Louis a week earlier, finished third.

“After the last pit stop, I really tried to take care of my car,” Truex said. “I ran as hard as I had to run, and that really helped me at the end. …I knew exactly what I had and how hard I could drive.”

There were a flurry of cautions in the final 20 laps, starting with a three-car tangle involving Tony Stewart, Tim Sauter and Carl Edwards and ending with Tyler Walker’s crash into the wall with five laps to go.

Bowyer, who started eighth, had taken the lead after the rain delay 59 laps into the race. Most of the leaders took pit stops under caution just past the halfway point, and Truex came out ahead of Bowyer.

Both of them still trailed Ashton Lewis Jr. and Walker, who had not come into the pits, but three laps later, when the green came out, both Truex and Bowyer quickly passed the two slower cars in front of them and held their 1-2 positions the rest of the race.

“The rain must have washed away the rubber we built up on the top (of the track), and that was obviously the fastest way around,” Bowyer said. “We had a good race car. It’s just frustrating to run second. I’d rather run fifth.”

Truex, the defending series champion, averaged 72.930 mph and finished 1.002 seconds ahead of Bowyer. He increased his lead to 85 points in the series standings after 23 of 35 races.

Sorenson, third in points and 104 behind Truex, dominated early in the race and began lapping the slowest cars within the first 15 laps. His lead was about 1.1 seconds over David Stremme after 40 laps, but Bowyer began his move to the front and passed Stremme for second on lap 49. He went by Sorenson the next time around for the first lead change of the race.

When the rain hit three laps later, most of the leaders came in for pit stops under the yellow, and the scramble coming out left Bowyer sandwiched between Green, who did not pit, and Stewart.

Stewart, who will start 20th in Sunday’s Nextel Cup race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, didn’t stay up front for long, however. He was black-flagged into the pits because of a loose lug nut and was running 31st – the last car on the lead lap – when the rain stopped the race after lap 59.

Stewart started 17th and finished 23rd.

AP-ES-08-07-05 0126EDT


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