McFARLAND’S EARLY BIRD VICTORY WORTH THE WAIT by Matt Kentfield
Ken Forced to Wait Out Augie Grill’s DQ in Tech
It may have been done in a makeshift Victory Lane near the technical inspection area in the Birmingham International Raceway infield, but when Ken McFarland was finally handed the Early Bird 100 trophy nearly two hours after the fall of the checkered flag, his smile lit up the Alabama night sky.
McFarland was forced to wait for race officials to hand down the disqualification of Augie Grill’s #112 car for too much left-side weight, then he had to sit and watch his now-winning car go through tech before he could celebrate his Early Bird win.
Officials found Grill’s car to be too heavy on the left side of the car and his #112 was immediately disqualified. After a lengthy teardown of his motor, it was McFarland who was celebrating the Early Bird win.
Grill did not wish to comment to Speed51.com on his disqualification after it was handed down.
McFarland was pleased that the series officials, in their first race as the newly-formed, All-American Super Late Models, acted the way they did in regards to Grill’s car.
“I commend the officials for making the call and a decision on something that was in such a critical area. They didn’t turn their heads and give leniency. That’s the last thing you need to give any of us is leniency. If you stop the leniency, then you’ll have better racing. I commend them for that because there’s been times where I wondered if they would do something like they did tonight.”
Augie Grill (top) was first awarded the trophy, but it later went to Ken McFarland (bottom) after post-race tech. (51 Photos)
McFarland led the opening laps of the 100-lap feature on a cold and blustery day in Birmingham, but it was Grill that showed the most power when he took the lead on the fourth lap. McFarland would pressure Grill’s bumper for a few laps on restarts but then fade as Grill pulled away. Those were the only two that had any shot at victory, as the third- and fourth-place running cars, Charlie Bradberry and Ted Musgrave, Jr. had a memorable side-by-side battle for third over the final 10 laps. It was Musgrave that got the edge at the checkers, but they were still nearly half a lap behind Grill and McFarland who were battling for the lead.
“Early in the race I didn’t want to race that hard,” said
McFarland (#14) races to the inside of Auggie during the race.
Grill led the final 96 laps but it was all for naught. McFarland, who chased Grill down in the closing laps but could not make a pass, waited patiently again in tech for officials to deem his car legal. When the call came down that he was the winner of the Early Bird 100, McFarland’s emotions were hard to hide.
“I’m just elated right now,” said McFarland. “I knew we had a good car in practice the other day and we had another fast car today. We just went out there and had a great time. I take this stuff pretty lightly, meaning I don’t usually let my emotions get involved, but I’m really excited to win.”
McFarland had settled for second on the racetrack, but he quickly realized that something may be up with Grill’s car when Grill’s crew put a jack to the car in Victory Lane.
“They were jacking the car up. I just don’t think anything should be done to it until it gets back to the pits and scaled and that kind of stuff. I may be way off base and I may not have a legitimate case, but the fair thing to do is to put them on the scales the way they finished. I’m good friends with those guys, I just want them going across the scales the way they finished the race. That’s all I’m asking,” said McFarland after the race.
Turns out McFarland did have a legitimate case.
McFarland. “I started saving tires and he was putting the pressure on us pretty hard. It was our determination just to let him go and see when the cautions would fall and see what we had for the end. At one point I thought we were a little bit better than him, but then we got tight. I thought we ran competitive with him, but we couldn’t beat him.”
But eventually McFarland was heralded as the winner. As he celebrated his victory in the Birmingham pit area, McFarland was immediately taken back by the track’s rich history. The track is billed as one of the oldest racetracks in the country, which is why winning there is such a thrill for the Hueytown, AL, native. Even though he’s won there plenty of times and was the 1999 track champion, every victory at Birmingham is special.
“The other day I was going through some pictures from the 50’s and 60’s from here that a guy gave me... pictures of Red Farmer, Donny and Bobby (Allison), Neil (Bonnett), Charlie Glotzbach. The list goes on and on. There’s even a picture in the parts trailer here and someone walked in earlier and there’s a picture probably from the 40’s or 50’s, but a guy asked me where the picture was from. I said it’s right here. The guy didn’t believe me. I said, ‘Look, there’s the church still standing right behind over here.’”
Being able to win at such a historic track with his family in the grandstands rooting him on makes this win even more special for McFarland.
“This track means a lot to me and my family and it’s such a great feeling to win. I’m pretty big on leaving my kids something and having them be proud. I hope they one day tell their kids that they had a great time with their dad out there and they loved going. Racing’s a big part of our lives.
“These are some really good days right now, and I just want to make the best of it. You really have to cherish times like these. That’s what I want to do. My whole family is here and I’m just glad that we could share it.”