Hawkins Rules in South Georgia by Elgin Traylor
Rookie Wins for The Second Time This Season
Matt Hawkins' winning #2 Ford. (USAR/Kathy Bond Photos)
Home field advantage is often very rewarding in the playoffs. Despite being out of the championship picture in the USAR Pro Cup Series, Canton Georgia’s Matt Hawkins said all along that he was going to win at South Georgia. Not only did he mix it up with the driver fighting for the title, he also backed up his words and won Aaron’s Dan Duncan Memorial 250 at South Georgia Motorsports Park.
That was awesome,” said Hawkins. “We have had bad luck all year long, about every race if we ran in the top five something would happen. We said all along we were going to win this race. We planned all along to stop later, when they all stopped in the beginning I thought we had a pretty good chance. Pretty much everything played out how we wanted it.”
Hawkins’ win was the second in this his rookie campaign in the Hooters Pro Cup Series. The battle to get to the front was marathon that saw several drivers took there cracks at the top spot. Hawkins took the lead from Bobby Gill on lap 197 when the point leader missed a shift on a restart. Hawkins drove low and stole the lead.
“It really wasn’t that bad because I was lying back a bit and shot under him and got clear before the first turn,” said Hawkins.
But the tables were quickly reversed as a yellow on lap 233 took away Hawkins’ 10 car
length lead. The man who sat in second was his future crew chief Mike Garvey who had led a good chunk of the race earlier in the night. Unlike Gill, Hawkins spun his tires setting up a wild first turn that saw Garvey look low only to tangle with a lapped car ending his chances of winning.
“I really hate what happened to Mike,” said Hawkins. “I thought I messed up after I spun the tires, it would have been nice for us to win and have him coming out of here leading the points.”
The final restart lined up Pole sitter Mark McFarland behind Hawkins. McFarland had a wild night after backing into the wall on lap 25. He got turned around in the third turn setting off a seven car tangle up. McFarland’s crew rebounded to keep his car in contention, and in the end they nearly won the race.
“We had trouble all night,” said McFarland. “I can’t believe that we finished second. It just shows how good of a car we had. Nobody on my crew hung their heads after the wreck. We didn’t have anything on the last restart. I thought we might have but the car was too tight.”
The rest of the top five had James Buescher scoring a career best third place finish after leading the most laps. Fourth was Bobby Gill who added to his points lead (see below), and Woody Howard was fifth.
Gill Takes Sizable Lead to Lakeland
Hawkins (#2) and Garvey (#17) go wheel-to-wheel.
The point race was tight heading into South Georgia, but as the tour heads to Lakeland it’s all up to Bobby Gill. The three time champion takes an 80 point lead over Trevor Bayne to the season’s final race at Lakeland. Bayne entered the night only 15 markers back, but a broken transmission leaves them just racing for a win.
“We kind of have to forget about the championship deal,” said Bayne. “Now we are just going to try to win. We were doing what we needed to do we were running in front of Bobby(Gill) and then I lost third gear. Then second gear and I was holding it in fourth gear before it finally broke.”
Gill had problems himself while leading, it’s the second time this season he’s had issues while leading at South Georgia Motorsports Park.
“I missed a shift,” said Gill. “I messed up the front end when we got into somebody. We were just trying to hang on and do what we can then Garvey spun out there, that kind of made things better for us. We had trouble here in the spring, we got wrecked while leading so this place owes us a least one.
He might have some racing in his blood that hasn’t been scene in years. But rookie Ray Love Jr. has some relation to another junior. No not “Little E”, but Junior Johnson. The low budget team has made all of the championship series races with some impressive qualifying runs. He was fifth at Lake Erie and 16th at Iowa. He stayed out early and led 13 laps before falling out with mechanical problems.
Howard Recovers for Fifth
Woody Howard won both the pole and the race in the spring, he was chasing the car early on before settling in to post a fifth place finish. He also made up a lap prior to coming up through the field.
“This place is always different,” said Howard. “We went one way on our adjustments
and the car just went to terrible. We had one of the fastest cars at the end. Getting a
fifth place finish is like getting a win considering the way our luck has been the last few
Buescher Scores Career Best
James Buescher has already won in ARCA and he’s already a champion in ASA Late
Model South. But a top five finish has eluded him all year long in the Pro Cup Series.
After starting tenth Buescher led twice for 63 laps and posted a third place finish. He’s
accustomed to running near the front, but this was their best effort yet.
“I am just happy that we finally got a top five in this series,” said Buescher. “We have
had so much bad luck, even tonight we broke the transmission and I only had fourth gear
over those finally restarts. I was kind of nervous about the transmission because the
restarts are so slow here, but the other drivers like Chase(Pistone) and Bobby Gill stayed pretty far back so we didn’t stack up.”