Ward Wins Wild, Confusing First Pro Cup Race by Jeremy Troiano
Gordon & McFarland Each Fall Out of Lead... Agnew Not Happy & More
When Benny Gordon ran out of gas under green, it started a crazy chain of events. (Kathy Bond photo)
A step-by-step, 500-page manual is about the best way to figure out what the hell was going on in Saturday night’s USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series event at Motor Mile Speedway (VA). It was a race… and a finish… that even left many of the drivers confused and smiling and laughing about the craziness of it.
And a simple 130-lap green-flag run set up the whole mess.
It happened like this…
Mark McFarland, Brandon Ward and Benny Gordon all showed they had the best three cars on the track, with McFarland leading first, then Gordon, then Ward. Then, a mid-race, 130-lap green-flag run set the tone for the event.
During the long green-flag run, Gordon, McFarland and Ward found themselves the only cars on the lead lap. Then, all hell broke lose.
Leader Gordon had to make a pit stop for fuel, putting him a couple of laps off the pace, leaving just McFarland, Ward and now Jeff Agnew (who was ahead of McFarland but behind Gordon) the only cars on the lead lap. However, just a couple of laps after Gordon gave up the lead, McFarland then fell off the pace with a broken rear end, handing the lead to Ward.
But even though it seemed like Ward would find himself the only car on the lead lap along with Agnew, it wasn’t such the case. Lonnie Rush Jr. and Jody Lavender were ahead of Ward when McFarland pulled off, putting them back on the lead lap behind Ward.
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Gordon had also made up one of his two laps by getting by Ward. Then, when the caution came out for McFarland’s blown rear end, it put Gordon the only car one lap down. By rule, Gordon got the “Lucky Dog” pass and found himself back on the lead lap as well.
Anyway, it set for a green-white-checkered finish and a battle between Ward and Agnew. Gordon wasn’t a factor, because the “Lucky Dog” rule states that the recipient must start at the tail end of the longest line. Agnew jumped on the outside of Ward heading down into turn one on the white flag lap and actually pulled ahead down the backstretch. But in turns three and four, Ward got up into Agnew and was able to make the pass, grabbing the checkered flag.
“I didn’t think it was over (at the finish),” said Ward. “We knew (Agnew) was going to be tough on that finish. Agnew is always going to be tough here. We knew Agnew had the car to beat us here tonight though.
“When McFarland had the rear end let go, there was a lot of stuff on the track. When we went back green, Agnew got on the outside of me and we were down low in some of the oil dry. We got down into three and four and slid up into him and banged off of each other. He raced us clean. I have to thank him for that. It was just a hard race back to the line.”
In fact, McFarland’s broken rear end might have been a blessing for Ward. During the caution it caused, and with just four cars on the lead lap, Ward was able to come down pit road to get a needed splash of gas while everyone else got tires to try and make a run at the front.
Brandon Ward (#93) was able to get the lead when all of the craziness was done. (51 photo)
“We were laying back there conserving fuel,” said Ward. “We knew they were going to stop for tires. We stopped to take a splash of gas. It was close. We didn’t anticipate going that long of a green flag run. It seems like every other race this year we’ve needed long green flag runs. Tonight, we needed some cautions and couldn’t get them.”
Agnew wasn’t too mad about the bump and run that Ward placed on him to get the win.
“This guy over here that did what he did in three and four… that’s a last lap deal,” said Agnew. “I’m not really upset at him. I don’t really like it, because I passed him clean on the outside over here, but that’s racing.”
Jeff Agnew (#73) had to spend most of the night coming back from a lap down. (51 photo)
Instead, Agnew had some harsh words for officials after the race. Agnew got put a lap down early in the race when he felt he was the innocent victim of an accident that put him a lap down. Agnew felt the caution was already out when he was hit from behind and spun while slowing down. However, Agnew couldn’t get his car righted before the field got to him and he was scored a lap down. He spent most of the night trying to get back on the lead lap after that.
“We had a good car all year,” said Agnew. “We had a car that could win three or four races. If I’m not running over someone, we are breaking something. Jimmy (Wilson, Pro Cup Race Director) got us tonight in that lapped down deal. It’s just amazing to me how that can happen for this to be a professional touring series. I’ve talked to Jimmy 10 times on calls he’s made on us and 98-percent of the time he’s been wrong.
“The caution was already out. There is a big yellow light in our car to tell us that. It came on and my spotter yelled caution. I let off and that is when that guy ran over me.
Then, he puts me a lap down. It’s sickening because we’ve had such a terrible year and had such a good car in so many races.”
Rush was able to parlay his outside pole qualifying effort into a third-place finish. Gordon was able to come back and finish fourth, with Gary St. Amant fifth.
RACE NOTES: Pro Cup At Motor Mile
Final Results… Seven Lead Lap Cars
Even though it was confusing and it looked like only four cars were on the lead lap, it appears that actually a total of seven finished on the lead lap.
Here is what Pro Cup’s Paul Warner clarified for us.
“The reason you see a few more cars on the lead lap is because of the benefactor rule. The benefactor rule states ‘If cars are on the tail end of the lead lap when the race is restarted and in front of the leaders, they are advanced to the tail end of the field and the leader controls the restart.’ When the leaders pitted late, Gary St. Amant, A.J. Frank and Carl Long didn’t pit and should have been moved around the pace car and on the lead lap. But, with all the stuff going on with the red flag, down finger restart and Lucky Dog stuff, they didn’t advance. After the race, it was corrected.”
Tough Night To Be A Leader
Late in the race, it looked like it could be either Benny Gordon or Mark McFarland’s race to lose. However, both of them were able to find ways to lose the race within about 20 laps of each other.
First, Gordon fell off when he ran out of gas under green.
“How was the strategy? Well, the strategy wasn’t very good,” said Gordon. “We got bit in the ass with it. At Mansfield, we had 100 caution laps. We had six up until the end there. We figured we could go the whole way on fuel if we got 30 or 40 cautions laps. If we would have had that, we would have been good. We didn’t get it and we ran out of gas.
“Actually, we had a fast car and we were just taking care of the tires early. I was letting the tires cool down and we got around him (Ward) and led and got in a good rhythm.
Mark McFarland looked to be on the way to the win before the rear end gear. (Bond photo)
We set the pace and then ran out of gas. We came in and got a couple of laps down. Then we got a lap back and got the lucky dog at the same time. Hell, I was so confused I didn’t know what was going on. They were telling me I was in fourth, then third, then first. Then they all pitted and they said I was in first, but then I had to start at the tail end of the longest line. So I didn’t know what the hell to do. But it was a lot of fun and that is how I like to race. We got to race all over the track. It was a lot of fun.”
McFarland looked like he was on his way to a third Northern Division win of the year until the rear end broke less than 10 laps from the end of the event.
“Rear end gear burnt up,” said a dejected McFarland sitting outside of his hauler. “It never gave any signs or anything. All of a sudden, it started smoking and it just broke. It’s a tough break because we had a good car.
“We knew (Benny) was going to run out of gas. We knew he wasn’t going to make it all the way. He was just hoping for a caution. We were going to win that race if it hadn’t broken the rear end gear.”
Gordon ended up fourth, while McFarland was 15th.
Huffman At Race, But Not Racing
One interested observer at the track on Saturday night was that of Shane Huffman. Huffman was recently released from JR Motorsports and his full-time ride with the NASCAR Busch Series.
Huffman is a former Pro Cup champion and a regular visitor to Victory Lane.
As of now, Huffman has not announced any plans. However, while sitting in the suites at the race, Huffman did say he wanted to thank all of his fans and supporters and will hopefully announce something soon.
What A “Rush”
Lonnie Rush was our front all by himself in the first couple of laps... because he jumped the start. (51 photo)
Lonnie Rush Jr. shocked a lot of people by qualifying on the outside pole at Motor Mile Speedway. But things went downhill from there. He was black-flagged for jumping the initial start of the event, then got into the back of Jeff Agnew during a later caution.
However, when all was said and done, Rush was able to get his #71 back on the lead lap and come home fourth.
“They tell us in the drivers meeting you can leave when you get to the starting line,” said Rush. “The 81 (McFarland) went and then he stopped because I had a pretty good launch. It is what it is.
“I put myself in a hole and we got it back. We just ran our tires off getting there. Unfortunately, but fortunately, we ran third. I just screwed us up from the beginning. It’s a great run for this team though.”
Former Champ Missing
One major absence in the pit area at Motor Mile Speedway was that of Clay Rogers. Rogers had been running for the Bowen Homes team in the Northern Division, while Buckshot Jones started the season with the team in the Southern Division. However, the team got rid of Buckshoot and merged operations with Trevor Bayne’s team.
But Rogers wasn’t in Virginia. And the word in the pit area is that the Northern Division team for the Bowen Homes team will not run anymore this season.
Speed51.com will follow this situation as it progresses.
That Is How You Win Championships
Gary St. Amant knows how to win championships. He’s won two of them with the now-defunct ASA National Tour.
On Saturday night, he took a not-so-good car and was able to come home with a fifth-place finish. He continues to lead the Northern Division standings.
“You got to stay at it,” said St. Amant. “We never gave up. At one point, our car was terrible. I was moving around on the race track and I found a sweet spot. Then, I started running cars back down and passing them for position. It was surprising for me when they told me on the radio that we were in fifth spot.
“I’m just glad we made it on fuel. Everything turned out fine and we came home fifth after being two laps down to McFarland.”
Gary St. Amant had a smile on his face before and after the race. (51 photo)
A Quick One
Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Chevrolet, picked up his first BFGoodrich Tires Pole Award in the Kroger 250 in grand fashion. McFarland shattered Jeff Agnew’s track record by nearly half a second, lapping MMS in 15.866 seconds at 94.391 mph. In addition, every driver in the field qualified below the previous track record and field was separated by .354 of a second.
Richard Boswell's day came to an end early. (51 photo)
Tough Break For Boswell & Rest of Southern Drivers
Richard Boswell, one of the many Southern Division regulars that showed up to run at Motor Mile, had a good run going before getting into the wall on lap 63.
“We just lost the front brakes getting into one and I just lost it,” said Boswell. “We just lost the front brakes, because I could feel the rear brakes when I got on them. It just snapped around real quick.”
Carl Long was the only one of the eight Southern Division regulars in the field that managed to finish in the top 10.
Double Your Pleasure
Race winner Brandon Ward that 250 laps of racing weren’t enough, as he also competed
in the 150-lap Late Model Stock feature following the Kroger 250. Unfortunately, his luck wasn’t the same and he came home 26th in the 28-car field.
Defending NASCAR Weekly Racing Series champion Phillip Morris won the event, followed by Chad Harris and Brian Frisselle.