TOOELE There was never any point where the odds were in Todd Souza's favor at Miller Motorsports Park.
Souza had earned a single top-10 finish and no top-five finishes during his four years of racing in the west division of the NASCAR Camping World Series. It looked as if it would take nothing short of a miracle for him to even be in contention for the top spot.
Actually, all it took was a flat tire and a car running out of gas.
Souza recorded his first series victory on Saturday afternoon, passing the checkered flag with a total time of 1 hour, 53 minutes and 11.998 seconds to win the second annual NASCAR Camping World Series 125 race.
It was a sweet moment for Souza and his team. They entered the race at 63rd overall in the 2008 points standings and weathered a series of late caution flags to gain enough ground to vie for the top spot.
"We've been waiting a long time and were starting to think it was never going to come," Souza said.
Souza seized his moment in the sun after Jason Bowles and Jim Inglebright both squandered late-lap leads.
Bowles, the 2007 champion, started out strong enough. He won the pole position during morning qualifying and held onto the lead for several laps early in the race.
Bowles fell back into the pack around the 16th lap but clawed back to the lead on the 35th lap. Then disaster struck on the 41st lap when a tire went flat. Bowles was forced to make a pit stop and get four new tires.
He finished the race in 10th place overall, which seriously damaged his quest to unseat points leader Eric Holmes.
Holmes did not fare well
either. He earned a one-lap penalty early in the 44-lap race because his car was over the service line in the pit. Holmes never recovered, finishing 16th overall.
"We've got to win the next three if we're going to try to win the championship," Bowles said. "We have no options. Today was a good day to score a lot of points and, unfortunately, with those things that happened at the end, it didn't work out for us."
Jim Inglebright took over the lead and held it going into the final lap. Moments later, he ran out of fuel on the back stretch of the 3.06 mile course and watched helplessly as one competitor after another passed by.
Inglebright's car coasted to the finish line in 13th place losing an astonishing 12 spots on one lap.
Second-place finisher Mike David said he and the other drivers did not expect to see such a scenario play out on the final few laps. But he said that such disastrous turns of fortune are not uncommon.
"Usually, I'm the one with the flat or running out of gas," David said.
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