Gill Shows That Lakeland & Pro Cup Are Still His Playground by Jeremy Davidson
Veterans Or Rookies Can’t Hold Back Pro Cup’s All-Time Best
Bobby Gill stands as the Pro Cup champion for the fourth time in his career. (51 Photo)
Needing a 15th-place finish or better to claim his fourth USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series title, Bobby Gill let a 36-car field play around for the first half of Saturday’s season finale at USA International Speedway.
When the time came for Gill to put himself into position to win that title, playtime was over. When it mattered, the championship – and a series-record 46th victory – was his.
While Gill, who started 33rd after a transmission problem during qualifying, worked through a set of tires that were not to his liking, polesitter Matt Carter put on a show at the front of the pack with third-place starter Mark McFarland. Carter paced McFarland through the early laps of the Robert H. Brooks Memorial Aaron’s 250 and yielded the lead to McFarland on a lap 81 restart.
By this point, Gill had worked his way from 33rd to ninth. McFarland pulled away from everyone after lap 100, establishing a two-second lead over Carter and the rest of the field.
Gill loomed large in the top 10 while McFarland raced hard at the front. Another driver taking advantage of the circumstance was 22nd-place starter Dusty Williams, whose car was the fastest in the field as the race approached the halfway mark. At this point, Williams seemed destined for a career night as he easily raced his way to the third spot behind McFarland and Carter.
The halfway point was marked by the night’s fourth caution period and the leaders pitted for tires and fuel. For Gill, a new set of tires on lap 130 was all he needed to stamp his authority on the race – at the track where he’d won 12 of the previous 38 Hooters Pro Cup Series races.
“Our first set of tires wasn’t good,” Gill said. “The car was loose. When we made our tire stop, we
changed the air pressure on our tires and the on third lap [after the restart], the car was just staying down on that yellow line and I knew I had something.”
After the restart, a trio of rookies – Wade Day, Brandon Ward and Ben Stancill – pulled away from the pack together. By the time Gill had worked his way to the fourth position on lap 147, the lead group had built a 2.5-second lead.
But Gill had seen enough.
The champion-to-be zeroed in on the leaders and quickly closed the gap. By lap 152, the group’s lead was cut to two seconds. Two laps later, Gill trimmed the margin to 1.5 seconds and, on lap 156, he pulled up to the rear bumper of Ward’s third-place car. On lap 159, Gill passed Ward and Day to pull into second place behind Stancill.
Carter, McFarland, Williams, Day, Ward and Stancill had put on a good show at the front of the field but the race now belonged to Gill, who took the lead for good on lap 161.
Gill was tested with two late restarts – including a thrilling final restart that saw Trevor Bayne grab the lead for a lap before Gill returned to the front with one lap to go – but his 46th career victory would not be denied.
“I don’t know how sweet [this championship] is. It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Gill said. “On lap 80, I would’ve told you we weren’t going to win this race. We made our pit stop, put on four new tires, and changed the air pressure some. I don’t know if it was the air pressure or the different set of tires, but that car just came to life. The restarts were killin’ me. It took me two to three laps to get going and Trevor got underneath me there [with three laps to go]. We raced clean and we came out on top.”
SECOND PLACE BAYNE MAKES A STATEMENT
Bayne (#29) tried his best at Lakeland, but catching Gill just was not in the cards for him. (Kathy Bond Photos)
Sixteen-year-old Trevor Bayne entered Saturday’s season finale as Bobby Gill’s top challenger for the Hooters Pro Cup Series title. His chances were slim – he needed to win, lead the halfway point and have Gill finish 15th or worse without scoring any bonus points – but Bayne did all he could to hold up his end of the bargain.
Bayne was leading the race as he and Gill came to the white flag indicating one lap to go. Gill’s car proved stronger in the end, but Bayne isn’t too upset with a second-place finish – in the race and the championship point standings – to a highly respected veteran like Gill.
“We had a clean race there at the end,” Bayne said. “Door-to-door. I guess if you’re going to lose to him in the points, you might as well lose to him in the race. He is the one we’re chasing. We figured he’d come in here and run in the top 15, but he came and won the race. He made a statement – but we did, too.
“We had a left-front brake caliper locking up all day. I just had to start driving around that, picking up the gas and figuring out how to make that thing turn with the left front locking up like that.
“My first year was a new challenge and we‘ve overcome that challenge, for the most part. Bobby Gill’s been in this series since it opened, so I can’t frown too much – just being in the series for two years. Heck, it’s been such a stepping-stone. It’s going to boost my career and hopefully when we get into the NEXTEL Cup Series we can thank the Hooters Pro Cup Series for making me what I am.”
WARD WAITS FOR WORD OF ROOKIE TITLE
Although Gill left no doubt about whom the series champion was, there was plenty of post-race drama for the top Miller Lite Rookie of the Year contenders: Brandon Ward and Matt Hawkins. Series officials crunched numbers for several long moments after
the race, sorting through the various bonus point scenarios that made the difference. When the calculators cooled down, Ward was declared the winner of the $25,000 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award.
Previous Miller Lite Rookie of the Year award winners include Mario Gosselin, Jeff Agnew, Steve Christian, Brian Vickers, Daniel Johnson, Brian Ross, Benny Gordon, Matt Carter, Woody Howard and Derek Kale.
Boswell's #7 crew goes to work.
NO. 7 PIT CREW WINS
Before the race, Hooters Pro Cup Series pit crews took center stage in the BF Goodrich Tires Pit Crew Challenge. The top five teams in the standings took part, with their over-the-wall crews performing a timed four-tire pit stop.
Top honors went to Richard Boswell’s No. 7 pit crew. The team includes jackman Antonio Morrison, front tire changer Austin Jones, front tire carrier J.C. Marchant, rear tire changer Kyle Collins, rear tire carrier Stephan Gonzales and sign man Jeremy White. The crew will split a $5,000 bonus.
USAR HONORS LONGTIME COMPETITION DIRECTOR
In another ceremony before the race, USAR honored longtime official Fritz Augustine, for his decades of service to racing and the Hooters Pro Cup Series.
USAR Series Director Gene Cox recognized Augustine’s impending retirement, telling the crowd “It’s hard for me to say how much you mean to the Hooters Pro Cup Series and these drivers, fans, crew chiefs and owners. You’ve been an integral part of the series.”
Augustine was presented with a plaque from the “Alabama Gang” of Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison and Red Farmer, a plaque from the Allison Legacy Series and a framed photo signed by all the Hooters Pro Cup Series teams and drivers. Augustine began his racing career in 1958.
CATCH THE ACTION
For fans who missed the action at Lakeland, the Robert H. Brooks Memorial Aaron’s 250 can be seen on SPEED. The race is scheduled to air Wednesday, November 14 at 4:00 p.m. Check local listings for more information.
USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series
Robert H. Brooks Memorial Aaron’s 250 presented by NGA Hooters Pro Golf Tour
November 3, 2007
USA International Speedway, Lakeland, FL
1. Bobby Gill, Concord, NC
2. Trevor Bayne, Knoxville, TN
3. James Buescher, Plano, TX
4. Mark McFarland, Winchester, VA
5. Matt Hawkins, Canton, GA
6. Dange Hanniford, Darlington, SC
7. Mike Garvey, McDonough, GA
8. Billy Bigley Jr., Naples, FL
9. Matt Carter, Denver, NC
10. Jody Lavender, Hartsville, SC
11. Ben Stancill, Ayden, NC
12. Benny Gordon, DuBois, PA
13. Johnny Rumley, Summerfield, NC
14. Richard Boswell. Mooresville, NC
15. Bill Plemons Jr., Locust Grove, GA
16. Sam Fullone, North Collins, NY
17, Mart Nesbitt, Asheville, NC
18. Derrick Kelley, Auburndale, FL
19. Kirk Leone, Raleigh, NC
20. Derek Kale, Winfield, WV
21. Brandon Ward, Winston Salem, NC
22. Clay Jones, Goldsboro, NC
23. Woody Howard, Chesapeake, VA
24. A J Frank, Bluffton, SC
25. Joe Harrison Jr., Renick, WV
26. Dusty Williams, Rincon, GA
27. Gary St Amant, Delaware, OH
28. Wade Day, Elizabethton, TN, Accident
29. Jeff Agnew, Floyd, VA, Mechanical
30. Michael Ritch, High Point, NC, Mechanical
31. Ray Love Jr, Faulkner, MD, Mechanical
32. Mike Herman Jr., Kannapolis, NC, Mechanical
33. Tom Hessert, Cherry Hill, NJ, Accident
34. Chase Pistone. Cornelius, NC, Mechanical
35. Shane Wallace, Mooresville, NC, Mechanical
36. Jay Fogleman, Durham, NC, Mechanical
TOP 10 IN FINAL HOOTERS PRO CUP SERIES STANDINGS:
POS. DRIVERPOINTS 1Bobby Gill886 2Trevor Bayne786 3Mark McFarland745 4Mike Garvey740 5Brandon Ward702 6Matt Hawkins701 7Gary St. Amant697 8Matt Carter692 9Benny Gordon687 10James Buescher672
Brandon Ward and the Rookie of the Year award.