No Losing For Benny Gordon At Lake Erie Speedway
St. Amant Still In Drivers Seat For North Championship
Benny Gordon was the man to beat at Lake Erie. (Kathy Bond photos)
Benny Gordon has won plenty of races in his Hooters Pro Cup career. He’s also won three Sears Auto Center Northern Division titles in a row and picked up the overall Hooters Pro Cup title in 2005 to boot. So why was Gordon stressing so much over a regular-season race Lake Erie (Pa.) Speedway?
Part of the reason is that Gordon hates to lose, but the main reason was that he hates to let people down more.
Gordon had plenty of people on hand for the BFGoodrichTires.com 250 presented by Longhorn, and he didn’t let them down.
The DuBois, Pa., driver led 209 laps, including the final 151, en route to his second win of the season and the 23rd of his Hooters Pro Cup career.
“I was worried to death all day about winning the race,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Samuel Metals Ford. “I would have done anything in the world to be standing in Victory Lane at the end of the race. We had all the people from Samuel Metals here, all the people from Predator Performance and about the whole town of DuBois. This is a big, big win for us.”
Gordon’s self-inflicted pressure was evident on the opening lap of the race. After starting from the outside of the front row, Gordon was determined to take command of the race early. His only problem was that pole-sitter Brandon Ward had a similar plan.
As the duo barreled into Turn 1 on the opening lap, contact was made and Gordon nearly went for a spin before completing the first circuit.
“I about turned it around,” said Gordon, who picked up $13,500 for the victory. “I knew better than to cut across [Ward], and he got into my quarter panel. I dirt-tracked it the whole way around the corner and kept going.”
And going, and going, and going.
Despite the top 20 drivers being within two tenths of a second of each other in Awesome Awnings Pole Qualifying, it was evident that Gordon had the dominant car at LES.
He jumped out to a comfortable lead in the first laps and just surrendered the lead just once during the 250-lap event when he came to pit road on Lap 54.
Gordon needed just 46 laps to make his way back to the front, slipping past Jody Lavender on Lap 99 and pulling away down the stretch for his third consecutive win at Lake Erie Speedway.
“I guess I get around here pretty good,” said Gordon, who moved to second in points with the win. “The car was just phenomenal. After the first 50 laps, I didn’t have to run the car hard at all.”
AJ Frank (#56) found himself second when the checkers flew.
Ward, driver of the No. 93 SupplyOne Ford, ran second to Gordon in the first 50 laps and followed him to pit road. Ward actually was in front of Gordon on the track after the cycle of stops. But once Gordon slipped by, Ward was left fighting for second. And it was a good fight.
After short-pitting, Jody Lavender, driver of the No. 4 Greased Lightning Ford, found himself running second with the laps winding down and under pressure from Ward.
Ward looked to the inside going into Turn 1 on Lap 215 and the two touched, sending Lavender up the track. Ward took the position off Turn 2, but Lavender didn’t go quietly. He tracked down Ward and sent him for a spin in Turn 4. In the end, the move cost both drivers a shot at a top-three finish as Lavender was hit with a rough-driving penalty and Ward blended deep in the field. Ward and Lavender finished eighth and 10th, respectively.
A.J. Frank, driver of the No. 56 Camping World Chevrolet, took advantage of the contact and slipped into second for the final restart on Lap 220. But Frank, like everyone else, had anything for Gordon.
“My car was real good for about two or three laps, once the tires cooled off,” said Frank, who faded to 1.668 seconds behind Gordon at the finish. “I knew if I was going to have shot at him it was going to be on a restart. I’ve been racing Benny for about 10 years, and that’s not to say I wouldn’t give him a shot, but I was going to race him clean. If I got under him that would have been one thing, but I wasn’t going to go in there and dump him.”
Gordon (#66) may have won the race, but St. Amant (#7) still leads the points.
Even with Gordon winning, Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 7 JEGS.com/Speedco Chevrolet, maintained the point lead by coming home third.
“I thought we had a third- or fourth-place car,” said St. Amant, who holds a 65-point lead over Gordon. “But with about 50 laps to go, the car started jumping out of gear. I had to drive the last 50 laps holding it in gear. My right arm is gone, but it was worth it.”
With Ward’s troubles, Ben Stancill, driver of the No. 9 Stancill Farms Ford, took home Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Honors with his fourth-place finish.
Jeff Fultz, driver of the No. 67 Wear Crete Concrete Ford, completed the top five.
Eric Corbett, Jack Bailey, Ward, Lonnie Rush Jr. and Jody Lavender rounded out the top 10.
The BFGoodrichTires.com 250 was slowed 13 times for 83 laps of caution and featured five lead changes among four drivers.
BFGoodrichTires.com 250 Notebook
Good Ride-A-Long Partner
A.J. Frank, driver of the No. 56 Camping World Chevrolet, brought in a ringer for the BFGoodrichTires.com 250 at Lake Erie Speedway. Roman Pemberton, brother of Robin and Ryan, spent Saturday night perched atop the spotter’s stand for Frank.
“Yeah, I had special ride-a-long partner tonight in Roman Pemberton,” said Frank. “He’s a 15-year Cup spotter. He really helped me drive that thing around here tonight. He showed me different lines and told me how to keep the balance in my car during cautions. I can’t thank him enough for that. It seems like that’s something we’ve been missing all year in the spotter’s stand.”
Yin and Yang
Benny Gordon and his crew chief and brother, Todd, often have some of the most heated arguments in the garage area over setups and race strategy. It’s fun to watch, and their banter often leads to some good sound bites. This was again the case at Lake Erie Speedway.
When Todd was asked if Benny, who tested on Friday without Todd, had found something that worked for the race, he said, “No, I had to change everything back. He gets out here and does all this experimental stuff and I have to go back and change it all.”
Sooner than Later
Jeff Futlz has had an up-and-down career as a Hooters Pro Cup driver, but his fifth-place finish at Lake Erie Speedway has the veteran short-track driver feeling that good things are on the horizon in the near future.
Gordon has an interesting relationship with his brother and crew chief (foreground).
“This was definitely a better car than we’ve had all year,” said Fultz, driver of the No. 67 Wear Crete Ford. “We brought in Mardy Lindley to help us this week to help us, and I can’t thank Curtis Venable enough for bringing in these guys. We want to finish in the top five and be competitive for wins. We’re building on that right now.”
Once again rookie Ben Stancill, driver of the No. 9 Stancill Farms Ford, was able to make the most of his first appearance at a race track. Stancill finished fourth and took home Miller Lite Rookie of the Race honors at Lake Erie Speedway. But Stancill can’t wait to get to South Boston, mainly because he’s been there before.
“South Boston is the only track in the entire Northern Division that I’ve actually seen before this year,” said Stancill, who trails Brandon Ward by 65 points for the $10,000 bonus for being the Northern Division top rookie. “Believe it or not, I think we might even go test there, so hopefully we can win the race.”