Lia Outlasts the Competition in Mansfield
The Ohio 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park turned into a good-old fashioned slugfest and after the checkers flew, a first time winner celebrated in Victory Lane.
Veteran drivers looked more like rookies for the first half of the event as they played knockout racing at the front of the pack.
Todd Bodine was the first victim when he went for a spin off the nose of Matt Crafton’s truck on Lap 9. Ron Hornaday was racing Mike Skinner for the lead on Lap 48 when contact between the two eliminated Hornaday from contention. Dennis Setzer’s bid for back-to-back victories ended when he crashed while battling David Starr for the lead on Lap 80.
In all, the caution flag flew 15 times for various single- and multi-track incidents throughout the race but it’s the final lap that will have everyone talking for quite some time to come.
The final restart came with seven laps to go on the half-mile speedway and Starr was in the lead and followed by rookie Donny Lia and Bodine, who managed to claw his way back into the top five after his early incident.
As they raced into Turn 1, Lia drove in so hard that he drifted up the track and just tapped Starr’s left rear quarter panel. Starr’s bauble allowed Lia to draw even while Bodine dove to the inside and made it three-wide down the backstretch. Anyone who expected the rookie to lift was sorely disappointed as Lia buried the accelerator in Turn 3, bounced off Starr one final time and surged ahead to score his first victory in just his eighth series start.
“With 25 laps to go, I got on the radio because I could see what was going to happen," said Lia. “I knew I could get him (David Starr) there at the end. So I told my guys the last few laps were for them. I knew we could do it. I wouldn't be driving this truck if I didn't think I could do it. But so soon? No. I can't believe it."
Starr was looking to snap a 55-race winless streak but he took the runner-up finish in stride and chalked it up to typical short track racing.
“I love these short tracks,” said Starr, who led 170 of 250 laps. “You never know what's going to happen. (The contact on the last lap) was just enough to break my momentum. He slid up and got up into my left rear, just enough to break traction. When you break your forward bite, I mean, that's everything here.”
Bodine, however, was pretty bitter about his third place finish even though he leapt from third to first in the point standings.
“He did what he had to do to win but I don't agree with it,” said Bodine. “I wasn't going to do David (Starr) that way, but that's the way Donny drives. He got away with one here.”
Terry Cook and Mike Skinner rounded out the top five.
Ron Hornaday was the biggest loser in the points race as he tumbled from first to fourth and now sits 64 points behind Bodine.
Next, the truck teams will join up with the Cup and Nationwide Series competitors for a triple-header weekend at the Monster Mile in Dover and Race #8 on May 30.