The Heat, The Battles, The Races, The Wrecks & More
ANOTHER SUNDAY, ANOTHER HOT ONE
Just like at Lakeland earlier this month, Saturday night’s Pro Cup race was pushed back to Sunday afternoon because of rain showers.
And just like Lakeland, Sunday proved to be nice and sunny and warm. Very warm. And humid. Very humid.
hoses and we painted the car white and I got a lighter suit. I prepared myself better and drank Pedialite the day before.
“I had to do better than we did in Lakeland. Heck, I am from Florida so I should be able to handle that ya know?”
Being hot also doesn’t help when you have an ill-handling race car, as rookie Chase Pistone found out.
“It was so hot today,” said Pistone. “And that is the worst thing that you can have when it is this hot and you have a car that is handling real bad.”
NORTHERN DRIVERS BENNY GORDON, AJ FRANK HAVE BAD DAYS
Clay Rogers gets iced down after climbing from his car in second-place on a hot and humid day. (51 Photos)
And that all meant the same thing for the drivers; a hot day inside the cockpit of their cars.
“It wasn't quite as bad as Lakeland,” said Jody Lavender. “If it was, I guess maybe we were better prepared for it. I made sure I was hydrated more than I was last time. Ice packs and all sorts of things to make sure I was cool in the car and we didn't have a Lakeland. I felt pretty good in the car. I stayed loaded down on ice but never even drank my whole water bottle even. I think Lakeland was the exception. I had never fallen out of the seat before and I'd like to think I'm pretty tough.”
“That is as hot as I've ever been in my life,” said Derrick Kelley. “I've made fun of those cool suits in the past but I will tell you right now I will never make fun of them again. We had no breeze at all. Usually we run at night so it has never been a problem. Today we ran in the day and it was real hot.”
“Today wasn't anywhere close to Lakeland,” said Michael Faulk, who actually had physical problems after Lakeland. “We were better prepared than we were in Lakeland. We had more vent
It was not a good day for the Northern invaders at Myrtle Beach. Both Benny Gordon and AJ Frank, the two top points leaders in the Northern Division, showed up to Myrtle Beach to race, in hopes of learning something for the championship series race at the track later in the year.
Unfortunately, both drivers left the beach with busted up cars on their respective trailers.
“One of those guys on the backstretch just stopped,” said Gordon, who had to start at the back of the field after qualifying was rained out and after his spotter missed the mandatory spotters meeting. “There was nothing going on, he just stopped. I don’t’ know what happened. Until I see it, I just don’t know what happened. It was ridiculous, whatever happened. The car was absolutely awesome and we knocked the damn front clip off of it.
“It all comes back to raining out last night and having to start in the rear. We were fastest by over a tenth in the practice. We shouldn’t have had to start there. I don’t know. You can only be so cautious. We were just trying to ride. I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
Benny Gordon's day ended against the wall (top, Kathy Bond Photo), while AJ Frank was swept up into an accident later. (Bottom, 51 photo)
Once Gordon loaded up on the trailer, his day was not done though. He ran down pit road and became a relief driver for JP Morgan a little later in the event.
“I jumped in the Ricky Benton’s car. I guess JP was overheated. The car was hot inside. I just ran the last 75 laps in the car for them, trying to keep it out of trouble. We just tried to finish the race off for them.”
Frank was taken out a few laps later, around lap 79.
“We were just riding,” said Frank. “JP was there in front of us. It looked like JP and someone got together and JP went around. I went down low cause the spotter told me to go low. So as I did, he let off the break and rolled down the track and there was nothing I could do.
“It is frustrating. We were looking at this race as a test since we run up north. But now that we are here and we ran it during the day and the race back here later this year is in the night, it wasn’t much of a test. My guys had a bad feeling that we should be here. Sometimes you get those gut feelings. I guess sometimes you should just listen to them.
"I don’t know how bad the car is," added Frank, "but it’s going to be a short, long week for us."
SARVIS, BRUNNHOELZL CLASH ON TRACK, IN PITS
Jason Sarvis had a fast car on Sunday. So did George Brunnhoelzl. However, both drivers fell out of the event when they had a “coming together” of sorts on the backstretch on lap 148.
Then, both drivers had a “coming together” in the pits as well, as they and their teams got into a shoving match before it was broken up by Pro Cup Series officials.
out what happened. If someone is going to wreck me like that, they’d better have an answer on why or how or something. They can say whatever they want, but they’d better have an answer. He screwed up and he just didn’t want to admit it. He didn’t want to talk to me.”
Sarvis was one of the fastest cars on the track all day long, at one time running times two and three-tenths faster than the leaders, but that didn’t matter when he ended up against the wall.
“Being fast makes it feel a little better,” said Sarvis. “It's a shame because Haskel (Willingham) and these guys really work hard on these cars. We've cut tires and spun out. Every race we run well something happens.
“I'm pretty sure it was my fault. I'll watch it on tape. We were running hard and got a little loose off of turn-two. I just ran out of racetrack and the 20 car was there I guess and caught me in the right rear. I'm pretty sure it was my fault. I hate it for these guys.”
Brunnhoelzl's team pushes the #20 behind pit wall after the accident with Jason Sarvis.
“We had a decent car,” said Brunnhoelzl. “I think we were in seventh or so at the time. I think we could have made it even better when we came in for tires, but we couldn’t quite get there.
“We had a guy, Jason, that just got a little bit loose there. Coming down the back shoot, I was outside of him and there was a lapped car on the inside. He tried to pinch me up and I ran out of real estate and got into the wall and he spun around in front of me and hit the wall. I hate it for the crew and the sponsors.
“As for what happened in the pits, I just wanted to find
As for the words that were exchanged in the pits?
“It's just one of them deals in racing. I'd be pretty mad if I were him too. But I'm not going to listen to him talk shit.”
For Brunnhoelzl, it was the continuation to a frustrating season that has seen way more finishes with wrecked racecars than checkered flags.
“The car is pretty bad. It is a clip again and a body. I don’t know, we just can’t do this every week. It is getting way to frustrating and way too expensive. We are going to have to change something.”
GOOD NIGHT, BAD NIGHT FOR ROGERS BROTHERS
Brunnhoelzl's crew clashes with Sarvis' in the pits.
Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes they go right. That was the case for Clay and Brad Rogers on Saturday night at Myrtle Beach.
Clay led a bunch of laps and finished second. However, younger brother Brad, stuffed his #29 in the wall on lap 29, ending his night quite early.
“The only thing that made it fun out there today was being able to sling it sideways there on the last lap and know that it didn’t really make a difference when you got down here to turn one because he wasn’t done racing,” said Rogers of his run to get first from Shane Huffman.
“I hadn’t been quiet about the fact that I don’t like racing here. Hey, I finished second to Shane yet again. You do what you gotta do.”
WALLACE LEADS LAP NUMBER ONE… AND THAT IS IT
Steve Wallace returned to the series after a couple of races off and finally led his first Pro Cup lap in the Groucho’s Deli 250, but it was a very bittersweet single lap led.
After Wallace, son of NEXTEL Cup star Rusty Wallace, made his way around Shane Huffman on Lap 186, he received the black flag. Wallace’s car had lost a seal on the rear end and began to soil the track with rearend grease. Officials debated on bringing him in and finally black flagged the rookie after he took the lead. He never returned to the track and finished 23rd.
“We got our motor Friday night at 1:30am,” said Wallace. “We left the shop at 5:30am and got here 9:30. It rained out then, which saved our butt pretty much.
Brad Roger's #29 was used up after this acident. (Kathy Bond Photo)
Brad’s post-race feelings were a lot more uneasy than his older brother’s.
“Our problem was that we started the race at 20 and 30 (air pressures in the tires) and no one ever let them down,” said Brad. “I couldn’t hold onto it anymore.
“The car is about killed. It is a front and rear clip for sure. I don’t know how bad it hurt the center section.”
It was a tough blow for the family-run #29 team, which runs on a shoestring budget.
“I won’t be coming back without a team, I can tell you that. No more.”
“We unloaded and we had a really good car. We were on sequence with tires and we were just coming up through the pack. I think we really had a car that could have won. Sometimes luck bites you though.
“The damn rear end cover backed off the car and all the rearend grease poured out of it. We took the lead and got black flagged the next lap.”
Wallace also showed up to Myrtle Beach with a new look to his #66. It was the look made familiar by his father in the old ASA days.
Steve Wallace (#66) had a new look to his car this weekend. (Kathy Bond Photo)
“It is a cool scheme,” said Wallace. We don’t have a sponsor. So I talked to Dad and said lets paint it like one of your old cars. I guess it might be good luck, because we should have won tonight.”
NEW TIRES NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER
McFARLAND HAS ANOTHER SOLID RUN
As is always the case at Myrtle Beach, tires played the largest role Sunday.
Mark McFarland knows this. MBS, the "Darlington" of the USAR Hooters Pro Cup circuit, is notoriously hard on tires so the teams were allotted 10 BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials as opposed to the normal eight. This allowed the crews to devise a little different pit strategy.
"Our pit strategy was probably a little different than the other teams’," said McFarland. "It would have worked, but we didn’t make enough adjustments to the car. Our last stop should have been sooner."
Tire strategy can hurt you just as much as it can help you. Just ask rookie Chase Pistone.
“We started off way too free,” said Pistone. “We just were hanging on trying to stay on the lead lap. Because of that we came in and got our tires way too early with 125 laps to go.
“We drove up to second with those tires. When you get tires you feel like Superman out there. Then everyone else got tires and they came back up and we hung on for 14th. It was a good finish the bad start we had so we will take it and go to Hickory.”
McFarland had a stout car from the drop of the green flag. He was able to get his WINFUEL Chevy up to the second position before he came down pit road on lap 62 for his first stop. When the other lead cars came in for service on lap 80, McFarland found himself again running second, this time to the No. 16 of Jason Sarvis. He was able to wrestle the lead away on lap 87, a spot he would hold until lap 123. Shane Huffman was able to get by to lead at the halfway point.
"We were trying to hold Shane off to get those five bonus points for leading at halfway and we probably took 20 laps off our tires in the process," said McFarland. "We probably should have pitted when Clayton (Rogers) and everybody came in (lap 173)
because the car was just really loose at the end of that long run.
"After we came in for tires the car was just really tight and I had a lot of cars to get around, I had to pat the gas all the way through the corner just to get it to turn. It was a blast, though, running three and four-wide, maneuvering around lapped traffic," said McFarland.
"Myrtle Beach is still way down on my list of favorite tracks. If they repaved it, it would be an awesome place to race."
KELLEY & LAVENDER GET TOGETHER, NO HARD FEEELINGS THOUGH
Jason Sarvis versus George Brunnhoelzl wasn’t the only action on the track on Sunday. There was also the undercard, Derrick Kelley versus Jody Lavender.
The two drivers made contact on lap 141 when Kelley got into Lavender as the two raced for position inside the top-10.
“Going into three, the car in front of me went high and he (Lavender) shot to the bottom,” said Kelley. “I was going to go between him and run the next groove. He got on the brakes a little sooner than I thought he did and I just tapped him. Here you run on the ragged edge and if you just get touched you are going to go around. It wasn't intentional at all.
Lavender wasn’t upset by the contact, other than the fact that it might have hurt his chances at a win.
“We will take a sixth place,” said Lavender. “Getting crashed a few times and having problems, we'll take this finish. For some reason, that guy punted me going into turn three. They said he came down here and apologized and said it was an accident. I hate that stuff like that happens because it cost me a shot at the win. But I am not mad about it. We will just move on and go to the next race.”
“JUSTIN” TIME FOR A GREAT DEBUT
“It was tiring. I don’t know if I’m all that happy with it, but I’m satisfied I guess. I wanted a top-10. A top-five would have been a big plus and of course, you always would like to be able to contend for the win.”
Jay Fogleman maintained a solid fourth place standing in Southern Division points, but he was frustrated following the race at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
"We were just off," Fogleman said. "We completely missed the setup. The track was as abrasive as ever, but today a good, second grove worked in; usually there’s only one good line around this place. I wish we’d gotten a chance to practice, because we’re a much better team than we showed here, and I think we would have dialed the car in."
FAULK HAS EXTRA SPECIAL HELP
Justin Johnson had never driven a Pro Cup car a week ago, but his top-10 finish in the Groucho’s Deli 250 turned some head amongst the Pro Cup contingent.
Johnson, driving the No. 15 Romeo Guest Construction Ford, ran as high as second in the car normally driven by Richard Landreth before dropping to 10th at the finish.
"I wanted more, but we’re satisfied," said Johnson, a regular in Late Model Stocks around Virginia, particularly at South Boston Speedway. "We ran out of tires right at the end. These cars have a lot more motor than a Late Model, but I thought we did pretty well for our first time. I’m hoping that we can run some more of these races. We’ll see what happens."
Heat would once again be an issue for the teams and drivers, but this time, rookie driver Michael Faulk was ready.
"I worked harder than ever to prepare myself for the heat after the Lakeland race. I was determined that [heat exhaustion] wouldn’t happen to me again," said Faulk.
Faulk’s car was good on the preferred bottom groove. But when traffic got bottled up, Faulk experimented with several different lines to get through the field. Three- and even four-wide situations were not uncommon, but Faulk was able to maneuver his way through the pack relatively unscathed.
Timely pit stops and good race strategy got Michael as high as sixth in the running order.
"I just tried to keep the wheels as straight as possible and not overdrive the turns," Michael said. "We could have waited one more caution to take fresh tires, which would have put us in excellent position to win the race. I can’t say I’m happy with ninth because I think we had the car to beat, but we’ll take it."
The ninth-place finish was the third top-10 finish for the rookie driver, making Faulk the only three-time winner of the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award in the 2005 Southern Division series.
Part of that could be attributed to some special help Faulk had in his pits during the race. That of crew chief Barry Elvis, who crew chiefs for Joel Kauffman on the Northern Division.
“Barry came in from Myrtle Beach today and crew chiefed the car and did a great job. Mario (Gosselin, Faulk’s regular crew chief) is on a cruise. He scheduled it before we did our deal so we knew we had to get somebody up on the box. So why not Barry at Myrtle Beach? He did a great job.”
Justin Johnson sits behind the wheel of his first Pro Cup Series ride. (Kathy Bond Photo)