McFarland Leads Rise Of The South Up North In Pro Cup
Former Busch Regular Wins Prelude To Championship Series
Mark McFarland has now won two Northern Division races in 2007... despite being a regular with the Southern Division. (Kathy Bond photos)
If the Greased Lightning 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park was a preview of the Championship Series event later in the year at the Ohio track, indications are that the South might rise again.
Mark McFarland, an Aaron’s Southern Division competitor, took the lead from Mike Garvey on Lap 147 of the Greased Lightning 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park and led to the finish of Sears Auto Center Northern Division event, making him the first two-time winner of the season. Ironically, both of McFarland’s wins have come in the Northern Division.
“I just think tracks in the Northern Division fit my driving style more,” said McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Knight’s Companies Chevrolet. “At Shenandoah [the site of McFarland’s first win] and here, you can just flat out run the car as hard as you can and still be there at the end.”
McFarland’s flat-out approach was evident in the winning pass. In the span of a lap, the Winchester, Va., driver knifed his way through the leaders and lapped traffic, moving from third to first on Lap 147.
“The leaders started jockeying back and forth, then they hit the lapped cars, and I was able to get past them,” said McFarland. “Usually it’s real hard to pass here, but our car would turn in the middle and still come off [the corner] good. It’s not that often that you get those kind of cars. I’m just glad I could take advantage of it.”
While McFarland used lapped traffic to his advantage, Benny Gordon wasn’t as fortunate in the early stages of the event. After starting from the pole and leading 13 laps, Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Samuel Metals Ford, lost the lead to rookie Brandon Ward while navigating his way around the tail end of the field. Gordon, the defending race winner, tracked down Ward on Lap 39 and tagged the rookie racer, sending him for a spin in Turn 4. Although Ward went around, he didn’t hit anything. But Gordon was hit with a rough-driving penalty, forcing him to restart in 27th.
Gordon charged back to seventh in under 50 laps, but he could only muster a fifth-place finish at the end of the race.
“It’s extremely tough to come from the back to the front here,” said Gordon. “Qualifying and staying up front is critical at this track. That’s what we were doing until Ward got around us in lapped traffic. We chased him down, but I certainly didn’t want to get into him. We were just racing hard for the lead. I think we had a car that could’ve won this race easily. But there at the end, I wasn’t going to do something stupid and turn somebody around.”
Despite getting turned around, Ward, driver of the No. 93 SupplyOne Ford, climbed back into contention in the second half of the event. The former UARA-Stars champion moved into second behind McFarland as the laps wound down.
Ward’s best chance to move around McFarland happened on a restart with 26 laps remaining as he tried to squeeze under in Turn 1. However, McFarland was able clear Ward and finished 0.291 of a second ahead of the rookie. Ward’s second-place finish was his second in as many races and pushed him to third in the overall standings.
“I have to thank SupplyOne for coming on board, and my team for that great stop after we got spun,” said Ward, who leads the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year standings by 54 points over Ben Stancill. “It’s kind of disappointing to finish second two races in a row, because this team really wants that win. But these guys are working hard, and we’re going to get one soon.”
Mike Garvey, driver of the No. 17 JaniKing Ford, appeared to have a car capable of picking up his first win of the season after he led 101 laps in the early stages of the race. Garvey held the point until McFarland blasted to the front and eventually slipped to third. However, his podium finish was his best outing of the year.
“The car was good and all of sudden it got tight,” said Garvey. “I backed my entry up getting into the corners and made it better, but we weren’t as good as McFarland and Ward. We probably had about a top-five car tonight.”
Jack Bailey, driver of the No. 11 Hour Homes/Hawk Performance Chevrolet, continued his string of good runs since joining up with Bullet Racing. In just his third start with the Cleveland, Ohio, team, Bailey has posted his third top-four finish of the season. In doing so, Bailey has rocketed to seventh in points, only 103 behind Gary St. Amant.
McFarland (#81) leads Benny Gordon.
Benny Gordon’s fifth-place finish moved him into second in the standings, just 49 points behind St. Amant.
Lonnie Rush Jr., Derrick Kelley, Ben Stancill, Brian Scott and Shelby Howard rounded out the top 10.
The Greased Lightning 250 featured eight lead changes among six drivers and was slowed 13 times for 94 laps of caution.
Greased Lightning 250 Notebook
No Turning Back Now
Brian Scott, driver of the No. 01 Scott Racing Ford, had—by far—his best run of the season in the Greased Lightning 250 at MMP. Scott set quick time in practice, qualified on the outside of the front row and led 20 laps.
But there are a few things the rookie probably wishes he could take back.
While leading, Scott fired outside of the restart box on Lap 19 and received the black flag. After fighting his way back to the lead lap, the rookie then pitted after being the “Lucky Dog” and had to give the lap back, per the rule book. Give the rookie credit, though. He never gave up and came home on the lead lap and in ninth position.
Pete and Repeat
Pete Knight, Mark McFarland’s car owner, is usually one of the first people at the track
on race weekends. But two times this year, Knight has been unable to attend. And wouldn’t you know it, McFarland won both events.
“I’m trying to find a way to tell Pete that he can’t come back to the racetrack anymore,” a joking McFarland said.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Mike Garvey, driver of the No. 17 JaniKing Ford, hasn’t had the greatest of starts in the Southern Division; the former ASA National Tour standout currently sits 17th in points. But that could change, especially after his top-three finish at MMP.
“We’re not bad, but we’ve got to make it better,” said Garvey. “That’s why we came here, and I think we learned some things to help us.”
Carolina In My Mind
The Greased Lightning 250 featured a bevy of Southern Division competitors moonlighting in the Northern Division event. But in two weeks, fans should look for several of the heavy hitters from the Northern Division to make the trek to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the running of the Greased Lightning 200 at Myrtle Beach Speedway on Saturday, June 23.
Benny Gordon, who has four wins at MBS, is definitely planning a trip to the home track of the Hooters Pro Cup Series.
After being sent to the tail end of the field early in the race, Benny Gordon had a strategy to get back to the front. But it wasn’t the typical way of making up positions.
“I was back there in 28th or 29th and I was just riding,” said Gordon. “I knew some of the guys would start wiping each other out. And they did. After that happened, I really got on it for about 20 laps and passed a lot of cars.”
Mansfield Motorsports Park featured cars from both the North and the South.
Jack Bailey has made up tons of ground in point race after missing the first event of the season. The driver of the No. 11 Hour Homes/Hawk Performance Chevrolet now sits seventh in the point battle, but, more importantly, he now knows how he stacks up against some of the best from the Southern Division after Saturday night’s event.
“This was basically a Championship Series race, so we’re happy with fourth,” said Bailey. “If you can walk away with a top five in this field, you’ve done something.”