Mark McFarland Finally Wins First Career Pro Cup Race
For Mark McFarland, the 2005 racing season has been a big one. He got signed by JR Motorsports, owned by probably the biggest racing star around, Dale Earnhardt Jr., to race in the Hooters Pro Cup Series full-time and got a full-time sponsor to go along with it in WinFuel and TrimSpa.
Coming from Late Model Stock Cars (and a handful of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Busch Series races), the 2003 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series National Champion had big shoes to fill in 2005 and lots of expectations to live up to.
McFarland took the lead after a round of pit stops by passing Mart Nesbitt on lap 141 and dominated the final 110 laps to earn his first career Pro Cup Series win.
It was a win that was a long time coming for the #32 bunch.
"This feels awesome," said a heated, physically worn down and not-to-talkative McFarland after the race, which was run under clear skies and very hot and humid conditions. "We’ve been waiting and waiting for this to come, but we’ve been coming up a little bit short.
“I can’t thank Dale Jr. and everyone at JR Motorsports enough for giving me the opportunity to drive this awesome car. WINFUEL has been just a super sponsor and everyone has been very good to us.”
“We didn’t fall or sneak into this one,” said crew chief Jefferson Hodges. “We kicked down the front door. It has been refreshing to go to tracks where we have experience, like the last two weeks (Motor Mile Speedway and SNS), and run like we have experience.”
Mark McFarland celebrates his first career Pro Cup Serie win with his team at Soutehrn National Speedway on Saturday night.
And live up to them, he did.
McFarland proved to be a quick learner to the Pro Cup Series. He captured the pole, led a bunch of laps and earned his first career top-10 in just his second career start. He backed it up by earning more poles, leading a bunch more laps and being one of the favorites to contend for the win week-in and week-out.
Heading into Saturday night’s race at Southern National Speedway (NC), McFarland was coming off another pole (his fourth of the season) and a career-best second-place finish in the Northern Division race at Motor Mile Speedway (VA) just a week before. In fact, he hadn’t finished worse than seventh in a Southern Division race since the third race of the year.
Saturday, he didn’t even chance anything but a win for himself and his JR Motorsports team.
McFarland set a steady pace at the beginning of the race while veteran Michael Ritch dominated the first half of the event. However, just past halfway, literally, Ritch’s car came coasting to a stop, the victim of a bad carburetor.
“We got halfway and we started falling off,” said Ritch. “I came onto the radio and told that crew that I smelled fuel around lap 40. I knew that wasn’t a good thing because if you smell fuel, that means you are losing fuel and you probably aren’t going to make it. And I ran out of fuel. That is what happened. We had a screw come out of the carburetor and the only way we could have fixed it was to change the carburetor and we didn’t have a spare carburetor. So that is what happened.
Michael Ritch (#28) was the only other driver to dominate part of the race like McFarland.
“We had a good car though. I might have had something for McFarland at the end of the night.”
So with field under caution, almost all of the lead lap cars came in for their one and only stop of the night. McFarland came into the pits second, and just like has been the case for much of the last few races, the #32 team got him out first in a big way.
“The car was okay at the start,” said McFarland, who rode in the top-five most of the night before making his move to the front. “We were just slipping and sliding around, but it seemed to get gradually better as the night went on. I felt my brakes going away and right before our pit stop, the pedal went to the floor.
weekend) about what adjustments to make to the car to make the tires good on the long run. But you’re always worried when Shane (Huffman) and Clay (Rogers) are back there.”
After the race, you could see the amount of respect that McFarland has gained in the Pro Cup Series when both Huffman and Rogers came over to congratulate the first-time winner in Victory Lane.
“I have to congratulate Mark,” said Huffman, who finished third, after the event. “They have been on top of their game and they’ve been fast almost everywhere we’ve went. It is good to finally get to see their good runs pay off for him. They are a good bunch of guys and they deserved this win today.”
MERCHANTS TIRE 250
Southern National Speedway, Kenly, NC
1. Mark McFarland
2. Clay Rogers
3. Shane Huffman
4. Jody Lavender
5. Richard Landreth
6. Kirk Leone
7. Daniel Johnson
8. Michael Faulk
9. Jason Sarvis
10. Chase Pistone
11. Matt Carter
12. Shane Wallace
13. Billy Bigley Jr.
14. Mart Nesbitt
15. Andrew Rogers
16. J.P. Morgan
17. Jay Fogleman
18. Eddie Massengill
19. George Brunnhoelzl III
20. Wayne Willard
21. Toby Porter
22. Mark Whitaker
23. Bill Manfull
24. Jerame Donley
25. Gabi DiCarlo
26. Bobby Gill
27. Bobby Joe Woodley
28. Mike Herman
29. Michael Ritch
30. Ken Butler III
31. Larry Wilcox
32. L.W. Miller
“Out pit stop couldn’t have gone any better. We made a few adjustments and they were spot-on. Our crew guys are really on top of their game right now/
“Once we got out front, the car just had good forward bite.”
And McFarland’s bark was just as good as his bite.
He was able to pull away at will over Clay Rogers and Shane Huffman, who had moved into second and third respectively. Both tried to chase down McFarland, but neither had a shot.