Defending Champ Back On Track with Second-Straight Win
It’s not like Benny Gordon had a bad season heading into Indianapolis Raceway Park on Saturday night. The defending USAR Hooters Pro Cup Champion was leading the Northern Division points (by a commanding margin) and had already picked up two wins in seven races and had not yet finished worse than third in any of the events, including one start in the Southern Division (early in the year at South Georgia Motorsports Park)
But he still hadn’t looked like the dominating Benny Gordon that a lot of people had thought he might. That all changed on Saturday night at IRP though.
“This car would turn right down to the bottom in the center of the corner. Everybody else was running up top. When you can pull one down in the corner, and just get in the gas, it's a good car.”
The rest of the field could do nothing.
Early, pole-sitter Jack Bailey looked to have a car that would be fast, but after leading the first 39 laps, he fell back into the clutches of Gordon and everyone else.
“I probably ran the car just a little bit too hard at the beginning,” said Bailey. “I don’t know, it was my first pole and I just wanted to go out there and feel the wind in my sails.”
It was all about Benny Gordon on Saturday night at IRP. (James MacDonald photos)
After Bailey dropped to the wayside, it looked like the only other driver that would have a shot at Gordon would be Johnny Rumley and Jeff Agnew.
Agnew was charging, but a spin on lap 113 hurt his chances.
Then, it was Rumley’s turn.
Rumley could manage to catch up with Gordon, but he could never do anything but keep a steady distance between the two.
To put it simply, Gordon dominated the field at IRP.
Gordon took the lead from Jack Bailey on lap 40. He led until the round of pit stops when a few other drivers stayed out. Gordon then made his way back to the front of the field on lap 111 and led the rest of the way.
He led a total of 151 of the 212 laps.
In fact, the only time Gordon seemed to struggle was in practice, when he was at the bottom half of the top-10 on the speed charts. And in qualifying, he could do no better than fourth. But from there, it was all “gravy.”
“Right now, I've got a lot of confidence everywhere we go,” said Gordon. “We've been working on a lot of geometry in the front end, and we've been doing other things in-house that's working. We're just fine tuning these cars, and the whole race team is jelling.
“During practice, I was terrible. I've never run good here in practice, but we've run pretty good in the race. Right before qualifying, we changed the springs, shocks and sway bar. We just went off of what we thought would be good on the car, and we hit it right on.
“That is hard to say if I could have got him had the race been longer,” said Rumley. “Benny would hit a lap and he’d get me a tenth. Then, I’d hit a lap and I’d get a tenth on him. I don’t know whether he was playing or what. You never know with Benny.
For a while, Rumley, Agnew and AJ Frank found themselves stuck behind Bailey. Once they got around him, they tried to catch Benny, but it made no difference.
“I don’t think that would have been a difference had we gotten around him (Bailey). We didn’t burn the tires up on Jack or anyone else.”
“Tonight, we were just second-best. And that is not bad against the #66 bunch. That is a good group of guys. Benny is a good driver and they all know what they are doing.”
The thing that the rest of the Pro Cup Northern Division field, and maybe even the Pro Cup Southern Division field, should worry about was a couple of other of comments Gordon made after the race. It could actually get even worse for everyone else.
“This wasn't even one of my favorite racetracks,” added Gordon. “This was one of the tracks I was concerned
with on the schedule. I thought if I could come out of here with a win, that'd be a big accomplishment.”
“I'm ready for the next (North) race, but I'm definitely ready for Myrtle Beach. Someone (Southern Division rival Clay Rogers) says I got one coming down there, so we'll see.”
Johnny Rumley (#8) at speed.
Once Gordon (#66) got around Jack Bailey (#93), late in the race. (James MacDonald photo)
Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 72 JEGS.com Chevrolet, also stayed out of trouble and posted a top-five finish by coming home fourth.
Despite heavy damage to the front end of his machine, Eric Corbett, driver of the No. 75 Larry & Sons Ford, somehow managed to stay on the lead lap all night and rounded out the top five.
Running on seven cylinders, Jack Bailey nursed his No. 93 Ferguson Waterworks Ford to sixth at the finish.
J.J. Pack, driver of the No. 16 Mullins Plumbing Ford, picked up his first Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award of the season by finishing eighth.
Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Snow King/Black’s Tire Chevrolet, battled back from and unscheduled stop to complete the top 10.
The Lucas Oil 250 was slowed 16 times from 96 laps of caution and featured three lead changes among three drivers.
Lucas Oil 250 Notebook
J.J. Pack, driver of the No. 16 Mullins Plumbing Ford, has seen his fair share of adversity since joining the Hooters Pro Cup Series a few years ago. But with a new car owner and his top-10 finish, Pack is beginning to the see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We’ve got a new crew and a new owner. These guys are just awesome,” said Pack. “We’re going to finish up the season with our new owner and put some more sponsors on the car, so tonight is a good motivator and momentum builder for us.”
Travis Kittleson (#33) races ahead of Gary St. Amant (#72) at Mansfield.