TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) – Mark Martin won the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, coming back from a lap down and holding on after series leader Todd Bodine was penalized for passing illegally nine laps from the end.

The 94-lap race on the 2.66-mile oval was just as competitive as expected, with plenty of three- and four-wide racing and the outcome in doubt until half a lap from the end when Mike Skinner, just in front of a huge pack of cars, bumped second-place Mike Wallace from behind and ignited a scary multicar crash.

Nextel Cup star Martin, who drives a handful of truck events, was ahead at that point and, with the field immediately frozen by the caution, drove on to the checkered flag, winning for the fifth time in 10 truck starts this season.

Martin, who started from the pole Saturday, lost a lap early when he had to pit on lap 10 because his engine was overheating. His crew removed a piece of debris from the front grill and Martin, who has now won at least one race here in Cup, the Busch Series and trucks, quickly regained that lost lap on a caution flag and raced back into contention.

“We had a great motor, but I guess we were just lucky, too,” said Martin, third in the Cup points heading into Sunday’s UAW-Ford 500 on the same track. “Todd was the one who was strong enough to do something and, once he had his bad luck, that was it.”

Bodine’s Toyota, pulling teammate Ted Musgrave with him, dove to the bottom of the banking as he drove past Martin’s Ford heading into the fourth turn on lap 86. But Bodine got his wheels below the yellow out-of-bounds marker during the pass and was immediately black-flagged by NASCAR.

A caution came out moments later when Boston Reid crashed and Bodine and his team used the respite to protest that he was forced below the yellow line by Martin, but was able to get back onto the track as Martin then moved up to give him room.

The argument fell on deaf ears and Bodine had to pit and fall to the rear of the lead lap cars, restarting 27th on lap 91. He then put on a great charge, slicing through traffic over the next four laps to finish fourth.

“It’s an interpretation of a rule and everybody’s going to see it different,” Bodine said, shrugging. “I saw it as a clean pass, but it was a judgment call. It could have been a real bad day in the points, but it turned out to be a good day.”

Bodine’s penalty left Musgrave in the lead, but Martin shot past him on the restart on lap 91 and led to the finish.

It took NASCAR about 30 minutes after the race to review the videotape and figure out the final scoring.

Skinner was scored second, followed by Musgrave, Bodine, Champ Car star A.J. Allmendinger, in only his second truck race, and David Reutimann.

Series runner-up Johnny Benson finished ninth and, thanks to Bodine’s late charge, slipped from 91 points behind Bodine to 113 out with five races remaining.

AP-ES-10-07-06 1952EDT


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