It’s good to be Shelby Howard these days. In the span of the two months, Howard has added a co-owner, sponsor and a key crew member to the already-stout Tony Stewart Racing team. And on Saturday night at South Boston Speedway, Howard added to his trophy case.
Despite the jelling team, Howard had to sweat out a late-race charge from Jeff Agnew.
Agnew, who started seventh in the 32-car field, worked his No. 73 Mark IV Honda/Team 7 Pontiac into the lead on Lap 89. But as Agnew paced the field, most of the lead-lap cars, including Howard’s, came to pit road under caution.
Agnew finally elected to pit on Lap 140, handing the lead to Howard. Agnew made a late-race scramble to pull into second with nine laps remaining, but Howard was able to pick Agnew on lapped traffic in the waning laps and hold the Floyd, Va., driver off at the finish.
"The cautions and lapped traffic hurt us at the end," said Agnew. "We were quicker than anybody, but we just ran out of time."
Shelby Howard won another race this season, coming just before the start of the Championship Series. (Kathy Bond Photos)
Jay Fogleman, driving the No. 4s Romeo Guest Construction Ford, nearly played the role of spoiler in the 250-lap event.
Fogleman, subbing for Richard Landreth, was putting pressure on Howard with 20 laps remaining. On several occasions, Fogleman pounded the rear bumper of Howard, but the Southern Division interloper couldn’t budge Howard out of the top spot.
As the leaders battled, Agnew tracked down the leader duo and moved past Fogleman with nine laps remaining. Fogleman held on to finish third.
A.J. Frank, driver of the No. 11 Schaffer Oil Pontiac,
Benny Gordon locked up the Northern Division Championship despite a 20th-place finish.
Howard fended off a late-race barrage by Jeff Agnew to win the Naturally Fresh 250 presented by Tri Star Racewear by .346 seconds. The win was Howard’s second of the season and his first since partnering with Speedco, Odle Motorsports and new team member Chris Rice, a former crew chief at Kevin Harvick Inc. and Bill Davis Racing.
"We struggled a little bit in the first half of the season," said Howard, driver of the No. 20 Speedco Pontiac. "But in the second half, we’ve picked up Speedco and [Chris Rice], and Laughlin has been helping us with our chassis quite a bit. The whole team is working great right now, and that’s what it takes to win one of these races."
picked up his second top-five finish in as many races by coming home fourth.
Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 72 JEGS.com Chevrolet, rounded out the top five.
Benny Gordon clinched the Northern Division point title, but he didn’t have the night he wanted. After sitting on the pole, Gordon’s car became ill-handling. After several unscheduled stops, Gordon finished the night in 20th.