LINDLEY LEADS WHEN IT MATTERS MOST AT BRISTOL by Matt Kentfield
Bayne and Gill Set The Pace, But Lindley Wins The Race
Nobody understands what short track racing is all about more than Mardy Lindley. He’s been around it all his life, with his father Butch Lindley being one of the most decorated short trackers of his time. All those years of experience and advice from his dad and from some of the people that he grew up with in racing led Mardy to the win in Wednesday night’s USAR Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division race at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN).
“I started off racing at Myrtle Beach and I have been to every single race at Myrtle Beach since I started. I started crew chiefing for (former Pro Cup Northern Division champion) Eric Corbett in the North and I started driving this car at Kenly.
“The first two races were tough. The 18th-place finish at Peach State, we were just barely a top-10 car at Kenly and we had another struggle at Peach State. We took our car apart and went through it all to make sure we had the right spindles and stuff on it so that we would be fast when we unloaded it. That’s basically what I had to do with every other team, but we did it all tonight in our third race together.”
Winnign anywhere is big. Winning at Bristol is even more of a spectacle. (51 Photos)
Lindley played a rather inconspicuous role in the way Wednesday night’s race played out, however. His #22 car was not in contention for the race win until the final laps after Pro Cup veteran Bobby Gill did his best Rusty Wallace “bump and run” impression on 15-year-old rookie Trevor Bayne for the lead with 40 laps remaining in the 150-lap race. Bayne had been quick all day at Bristol, posting the quickest time in practice and qualifying an impressive fourth in his first-ever attempt at the historic track. With usual Southern Division stars Shane Huffman and Clay Rogers as well as 2006 Pro Cup Northern Division champion Benny Gordon not flexing much muscle for the race win, Bayne was turning quick laps as the race wound down, but eventually Gill was able to track him down when contact between the two sent Bayne spinning and crashing into the inside backstretch wall and Bobby Gill to the rear of the field for rough driving.
“What happened was I wasn’t good on the restarts,” said Gill. “I kept restarting in third (gear) and I wasn’t no good and he kept pulling away from me. That last restart I took off in second and it was better. I didn’t mean to hit nobody I just got a heck of a run on the bottom and he just didn’t drift to the wall like I thought he’d do.
Bayne, as can be imagined, had a different opinion of the contact.
Trevor Bayne set the pace for much of the race with his #29 (Top), but Lindley's #22 was out front when it mattered the most.
Of course, being around the short tracks has also made Lindley quite aware of the highs and lows of the sport, especially the peaks and valleys of luck for a race team. Take for example Lindley’s 2006 season. He started the season racing in Pro Cup’s Northern Division with some success, but nothing close to the kind of results that the Lindley name usually are associated with. Shortly after midseason, Lindley got a call from the owners of the #22 Southern Division team, formerly driven by Dange Hanniford. When Hanniford was released, they tabbed the former NASCAR All-Pro Series standout Lindley to pilot their machines.
The first two races at Southern National Speedway (NC) and South Boston Speedway (VA) for the new pairing didn’t immediately impress. All it took was a trip to one of the most historic short tracks in the country, plus early pacesetters Trevor Bayne and Bobby Gill to make contact that eliminated them both from winning contention to bring the name Lindley back to the top of the heap in short track racing on Wednesday night.
“This has been the story of my Pro Cup life,” said Lindley.
“I guess I would’ve let him go if I knew he was going to do that,” said Bayne. “You just don’t race people like that with 30 laps to go. You don’t need to be taking people out in turn two at Bristol Motor Speedway with as fast as you’re going around here.
“Bobby’s always driven me clean. I don’t know what in the world happened there but I guess he just wasn’t thinking. If you’re ready to pass somebody, you just wait for your opportunity to come. We had an awesome car here and we should’ve won I believe.”
The contact handed the lead to Lindley, who then immediately checked out on the rest of the field. But eventually with about 20 laps remaining, the second-place machine of Gordon was able to close in, thanks in large part to lapped traffic.
In fact, getting out to a big lead seemed to be the worst thing to do at Bristol Wednesday night. Shane Wallace did it first, taking the lead at the drop of the green flag after winning his second-straight pole at Bristol. Eventually he gave up the lead in exchange for fresh tires on pit road. The rest of the early lead group pitted on the race’s first caution, but Wallace stayed out until he came in for his mandatory two-tire pit stop.
That put the lead in Gill’s hands, which he would eventually relinquish for a second stop on pit road for tires on lap 113. Lindley took over from there, but late in the race the slower machine of Billy Bigley nearly cost him the lead. Bigley, who was several laps down at the time, was racing with the leader as hard as he could. That slowed
Marty Lindley enjoys victory lane.
Lindley enough to allow Gordon, Rogers and Huffman to his rear bumper. Lindley tried low on Bigley for several laps, but eventually had to find another route by.
“Oh man, I just knew I was going to have to go to the outside,” said Lindley. “Now I’m not knocking Billy. He’s a great racer, but he should’ve known to get out of the way with 25 laps to go. He ran wide open through the corners. I’m not sure how many laps down he was if he was a lap down at all, but he had no chance and he just made it tough. When I knew he wasn’t going anywhere I had to go to the outside.”
Once Lindley did make the move by, it was smooth sailing from there. Gordon put a little pressure on him in the final laps, but it wasn’t enough. Lindley took home his first Pro Cup victory of the season.
Behind Lindley and Gordon were Rogers, Wallace, Huffman and Gill to round out the top five finishers.