Photo: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images for NASCAR

Throwback Thursday Theater – Battle in the Bluegrass State

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

While the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has only been racing at Kentucky Speedway since 2011, both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series have been racing at the track since 2001 and 2000, respectively. With that being said, the focus of this week’s “Throwback Thursday Theater” will spotlight one of the best finishes ever at the track that happened in the Xfinity Series, the 2002 Kroger 200.

With rain threatening scheduled Saturday night start of the race, the field was able to start on time, but it wouldn’t be long before Mother Nature would gain the upper hand.

Through the first 86 laps, the race lead would swap between Scott Riggs, who dominated the early portion of the race, leading 44 laps, Jason Keller, who led 19 laps, and Greg Biffle, who led 12 laps and was leading when a multi-car wreck broke out on lap 83.

As the field circled under caution, the rains that were threatening for the duration of the night finally set in and the heavy rain and lightning forced the race to be postponed to the next day and would be run as the Cup Series was competing in Michigan.

Todd Bodine, driving the No. 92 for Herzog Motorsports, had a decision to make. He was scheduled to run the Cup race as well, but decided to stay in Kentucky to try and give his No. 92 team a shot at the win. Turns out that Bodine would make the right decision.

When the race picked back up on Sunday, not much had changed as Riggs and Biffle would swap the lead back and forth due to the varying strategies that each team was using. By the time the race neared the 10 laps to go mark, another contender made his way into the mix. That driver was Bodine.

Bodine ran in the tire tracks of Biffle from about the 20 laps to go mark and was finally able to make the pass with 10 laps to go, making it past on the high side of the track and giving a little bit of foreshadowing on the finish.

As he was pulling away from Biffle, the final caution of the day flew with five laps remaining courtesy of fluids from the No. 02 car of Hermie Sadler, setting up a three lap dash to the finish.

Once the race got back underway, Bodine was unable to get going like he wanted, allowing Biffle to retake the lead. Biffle began pulling away from Bodine, but as the white flag flew, Bodine was able to make up a ton of ground on Biffle and set up the same move that gained him the lead just seven laps earlier.

As the two leaders moved into Turn 3, Bodine swung high and moved alongside Biffle as they entered the frontstretch. The two cars began bouncing off of each other as the finish line loomed larger and larger and after bouncing off of each other one final time, Biffle’s car got sideways and allowed Bodine to beat him to the line by .036 seconds.

Bodine and Biffle were followed to the line by Tony Raines, Scott Riggs, Scott Wimmer, Jamie McMurray, Kerry Earnhardt, the late Ricky Hendrick, Kenny Wallace, and Shane Hall.

The win was the only NXS win that Bodine was able to score in 2002 and the lone win while driving for Herzog Motorsports.

“Our car wasn’t real good right after restarts,” said Bodine. “Greg knew it; he was going to take advantage of it and did. He did exactly what he had to do and I said ‘the hell with that, he ain’t going to do that to me.’ Got a great run, stuck it on the outside in (Turns) 3 and 4 and didn’t know if it was going to stick and it stuck. I got in the throttle and we had a heck of a race down the front straightaway and beat him. It’s a great day for Excedrin and Herzog-Jackson Motorsports. Stan and Reggie, I wish you guys were here.”

He continued and talked about the decision to stay in Kentucky versus making the trip up to Michigan for the Cup Series race instead, saying: “We knew we had a good race car, but the deal was any conflicts and I had to stay here with the No. 92 Excedrin Chevrolet. Damn glad I did.”

While he came up just short of his second win of the season, Biffle was still smiling on pit road after the race.

“On that last set of tires, the Grainger Ford was really tight,” said Biffle. “We put a spring rubber in the right rear and I thought it was going to be really good, but Todd’s car really came around. Those guys did a really great job over there in the 92, and I was just so tight in the middle of the corner. I couldn’t run the top and I got down in the corner in (Turns) 3 and 4 and saw him coming on the outside and I just put it to the mat. Reminds me of Charlotte a couple of weeks back, and that’s all I had. The car pushed up and I got into him and it was my fault. He won the race and everything’s good, but it was exciting for the fans and TV.”

“I was all elbows trying to keep the thing going straight. You know, my car pushed up and I think he tried to push me down a little bit to keep me down and that kind of turned me sideways a little because I was out in front of him a little bit and I was back and forth and I kind of lost control of it. We were headed for the checkers, so it was okay.”

Though he came up short on the win, Biffle would go on to hoist the championship trophy later that season, making him both a NXS and Truck Series champion.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.