BENNY GORDON DOESN'T MIND A LITTLE DANCE IN THE RAIN
Gordon Dominates Rain-Shortened Pro Cup Event at South Georgia
‘Rain, Rain Go Away… Come Again Some Other Day’ could have been the theme song for some at the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Championship Series event at South Georgia Motorsports Park on Saturday evening.
But Benny Gordon wasn’t one of those drivers that was wishing the rain away.
At the beginning of the race, it looked as though it might be Shelby Howard’s show. He jumped past Johnny Rumley at the start and stretched out a hefty lead. Matt Carter was able to catch up with him on occasion and at times the two led the rest of the pack by a half straightaway.
It looked as if it could work out to be a two-car show, but Gordon was about to change that.
On lap 75, Gordon made his move and took the lead. He went forward and left the rest of the field to wreck in the wake of his path. And they did. Numerous cautions slowed the event, which including two red flags.
“It was just a matter of what was going to break, or what was going to happen. What possibly could happen tonight? So then it started raining and I couldn’t see and they restarted the race anyway. The lights here are really bad on the front stretch and then with some water on the windshield I just knew that something was going to happen, but it all worked out good for us.”
On Lap 100, Gary St Amant played some pit strategy, and took the lead. By lap 105, Gordon had reclaimed his top spot.
“During the pit stops, St Amant must have short pitted and once we went green I got by him and put it on cruise control and just rode.“
Benny Gordon in victory lane. (51 Photos)
Dange Hanniford and AJ Frank were running behind Gordon, when the final red flag came out after Trevor Bayne crashed hard into turn 3. That would turn out to be the end of the event. They were the only ones who were able to keep up the pace with Gordon, but the rain just postponed the inevitable when Gordon’s main competitors; Shelby and Woody Howard, ended their chances for the win after making contact with one another on lap 209.
“I didn’t really breathe any easier when Shelby and Woody got together. I had already outrun Woody earlier and then Shelby got around him and I out ran him after a few restarts so I was kind of happy they wiped each other out. It didn’t hurt my feelings.”
The rain came down hard at lap 226, causing the race to be red-flagged. Efforts were made to try and dry the track, but in the end mother nature won.
And so did Benny Gordon.
“I knew I had a really good car,” said Gordon. “The team kept telling me lap times, and I could pick it up and run a couple of tenths faster than any of those guys anytime that I wanted. I got out front and I got comfortable leading and I backed way off. I was still faster.”
While Benny is out of the points chase, the melees behind him, including the one that involved Shelby and Woody, still played a factor in the standings.
“That was second and third in points. That was about the dumbest move of the night with Clay being out of the race. They were second and third in points in the championship and they wrecked each other. That wasn’t very smart, but hey I am not even in it so how smart am I? I don’t know if this puts me in second, but it has to put me really close and that is my goal, to get back to second.”
The caution laps seemed endless, and affected the majority of the cars on the track. Championship points leader Clay Rogers was a victim of one of those cautions.
All Rogers had to do was come into the event at South Georgia Motorsports Park, finish in the top-15 and he would clinch the 2006 USAR Hooters Pro Cup Championship. After the carnage that happened Saturday night in Cecil, he will have to wait until Lakeland to clinch the championship.
“This race track is so hard to pass on,” said Rogers. “It is a lot of fun when you can run it by yourself, but with 35 infantile ego-maniacs running around it tends to get a little pushy and that is what happened.”
Shelby Howard (#20) and Woody Howard (#55) made contact out on the track. (Kathy Bond Photo)
“Someone got into St Amant, turned him around or whatever happened. A tire cut down or something and it just caused a huge melee. I was on the bottom, right up next to the wall and I thought I had it cleared. Someone came from out of the junk out of control cause they were crashing and just nicked us in the right side. It turned me around and I hit Bobby Gill and went straight into the inside wall.
“It was a pretty hard hit, but I am fine. The crew did a heck of a job getting the car back out. Thank goodness we had a red flag there, we only lost one lap but then we were penalized two for working on the car under red, which was well worth it but they did a great job getting everything cut off and the radiator and water put back in it. It was pretty impressive.”
He won’t have to do too much to claim that championship. All Rogers has to do is start the event and then the championship is he. He just has to wait a few weeks for it to be official.
“All we have to do is start at Lakeland,” added Rogers. “If I stay alive the next two weeks we will have won the championship. If we finish dead last and Woody won, and got all of the bonus points and leads every lap, he would still be 63 behind us.
“It’s hard to be happy about it tonight, I think about maybe having a pillow suit made to make sure that I stay alive. It is a tough way to win a championship, but I will take it. “
Clay Rogers' car had seen better days. (51 Photo)
With the championship contenders having a rough go of it at South Georgia, Benny Gordon took the top spot followed by rookie-of-the-race Dange Hanniford, and AJ Frank rounded out the top three.
Gordon's #66 machine is a Ford with a Predator Chassis, and a Predator Performance built engine. Gordon hails from DuBois, Pennsylvania and is the defending 2005 USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series Champion.