Rookie Lia Winner In Final Lap CTS Shootout

MANSFIELD, Ohio – Rookie driver Donny Lia battled his way through the field taking the lead on the final lap to win Saturday’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Ohio 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park.

Lia, NASCAR’s 2007 Whelen Modified Tour champion, caught and passed leader David Starr in the second turn of the 250th lap around the 0.5-mile oval.

Lia, Starr and 2006 series champion Todd Bodine ran side-by-side down the backstretch before Lia pulled his Chevrolet ahead to score his first career victory in the 27-year-old Long Island, N.Y. competitor’s eighth series start.

He edged Starr, whose Toyota had held the lead since the 80th lap, by 0.241 seconds. He became the first rookie driver to win on the circuit since August 2003 when now NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor Carl Edwards won in Nashville.

Lia, who averaged 62.517 mph for the 250-lap, 125-mile distance, became the 10th driver – and first since 2006 – to lead only the final lap of the race. Seven drivers exchanged the lead six times as 15 caution periods consumed 80 laps.

Lia won $45,500 from $513,636 in posted awards.

“I used everything I had there at the end and I couldn’t have driven it any harder,” said Lia, who started 28th – furthest back of any Mansfield winner. “We just got them on the restarts and got them where we had to get them. We just did everything right today, my crew (and) everybody.”

Terry Cook finished fourth behind Starr and Bodine with Mike Skinner taking the fifth position. Shelby Howard, Jack Sprague, Johnny Benson, Sean Murphy and Stacy Compton completed the top 10.

All but one driver in the 36-truck field finished the race – 29 of them on the lead lap.

Bodine assumed the championship lead by eight points over Rick Crawford as previous leader Ron Hornaday Jr. was involved in a lap 47 accident and spent most of the race behind pit wall as his crew repaired the defending series champion’s Chevrolet. Hornaday was credited with a 35th-place finish, 105 laps behind the winner.

Pole starter Benson headed the race’s first 45 laps before being passed by Hornaday, whose advantage lasted less than two circuits before his Turn 4 accident. Skinner, Howard and Dennis Setzer led over the next 33 laps before Starr – who’d pitted for fuel early – cycled back to the front and remained there through multiple restarts.

Bodine made several attempts to pass Starr on late race restarts but was unable to make the challenges stick. Lia, who ran as far back as 23rd, fought his way into the top five on lap 196, took third on lap 210 and dispatched Bodine’s Toyota at lap 228.

The event’s final caution, for Brendan Gaughan’s spin in Turn 2, proved to be pivotal as it erased Starr’s five truck-length lead thus setting up the final lap dramatics.

“It was just good short-track racing,” said Starr, who was bidding to 52-race non-winning streak dating to 2006. “I guess I left a hole open and he got into me in the left rear. We just drove into Turn 3 on a prayer. He (Lia) had the preferred line.”

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