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Park takes gift and goes to Victory Lane at Fontana

Fontana, CA (Sports Network) - Steve Park captured Friday night's American Racing Wheels 200 Craftsman Truck Series race. The No.62 Dodge driver crossed the finish line almost 1.229 seconds ahead of runner-up Bobby Hamilton.

The victory was the first truck win of Park's career. The win gives the former Nextel Cup driver a win in each of NASCAR's three national series' - Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman. He is the 10th driver to accomplish the feat (Greg Biffle, Hamilton, Kevin Harvick, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Ken Schrader, Jimmy Spencer and Tony Stewart).

"We have a great race team," said Park.

And the pass for the win was the easiest of Park's racing career.

Park was running second to Mike Bliss (who was substituting for the injured Jack Sprague), when the former series champion ran out of fuel with six laps to go. As Bliss pulled down to the bottom of the track, Park cruised by on the high side.

"I had that happen to me one other time," said Park. "In a Busch race in 1997 with Mark Martin. I was running second and all of a sudden he fell to the side with two laps to go."

The No.62 Dodge held more than a second-and-a-half lead over Hamilton. Though last week's winner was closing the gap by about a tenth-of-a-second per lap, he couldn't come close to Park as he took the checkered flag and rolled into Victory Lane.

Ricky Craven, Todd Kluever and Ted Musgrave completed the top-five.

Early on, David Starr controlled the race. He took the lead on the opening lap from pole winner Mike Skinner and held the top spot for the first 45 laps before making a pit stop and relinquishing the lead to Ron Hornaday Jr.

After the mid-point of the race, the lead shuffled between Jonny Benson, Starr and Hornaday Jr. On lap 64 Mike Bliss, who had jumped into the truck on lap six after Sprague began the race in the No.16 Chevrolet, took over the lead.

Sprague had broken a bone in his left heel on Wednesday while doing work at home in North Carolina.

Bliss' pit crew had gotten him off pit lane on the lead lap and the veteran had worked his way through the field and into the lead. But his last pit stop was on lap 45. His crew thought if they could get five laps of caution they could make it to the finish.

They were wrong.

Bliss comfortable held the lead until lap 94 when his truck began to sputter. He limped silently down pit road as Park flew past him into first place. A couple of minutes later, Park was making the turn into Victory Lane.

Hamilton's second-place finish gave the defending series champion a 25-point lead after the first two events of 2005 (355-330). Jimmy Spencer (321) is in third place, followed by Musgrave (310) and Matt Crafton (280).

The next race in the series is scheduled for the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, March 18th.
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