McFarland Keeps on Rolling at “The Beach” By Elgin Traylor
High Road Leads To First Career Win at Myrtle Beach
All season long people were asking Mark McFarland when he was going to win a USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series race. When was he going to get the monkey off his back? When was he going to get on a roll? Well now the only questions they are asking him is when is he going to stop?
McFarland rolled in to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as a disgruntled driver who never really got a knack for the tricky Myrtle Beach Speedway. He left with the point lead in Pro Cup’s Southern Division, the winner’s trophy and the bragging rights after he won the Greased Lightning 250.
“It’s great to win here at Myrtle Beach,” said McFarland. “This place is not one of my favorite tracks. We needed to run good here and we had a good points night. We still need to keep plugging away.”
The race had a strange twist to it as many teams were looking to use different game plans to get a good finish. That all went out the window when the first run of the race went well over 125 laps caution-free. Pole sitter Dange Hanniford set the pace early and led the opening laps. He was quickly overtaken by McFarland who pulled away a bit and led a good chunk of the early part of the race.
Mark McFarland led 157 laps at Myrtle Beach on his way to the win. (51 Photo)
Rogers Has Solid Run at Myrtle Beach
Early on in 2008, Clay Rogers was off the Pro Cup radar without a ride. Now after signing with JCR3 Motorsports he has his hat back in the ring to win races. Myrtle Beach was no different as he ran in the top five much of the night before ending up fourth.
“They already know we are here,” said Rogers. “They’re really going to know it soon.”
Rogers is a two time former Pro Cup champion is out of the chase for the South Division crown after missing the first few races. The season ending Championship Series however is still in grasp for the 28-year-old.
“I am really enjoying racing with JCR3,” said Rogers. “We are definitely going to be a contender in the Championship Series. Everything goes back to zero and we’re working the bugs out now.”
Rogers has been up and down in the NASCAR ranks with several Nationwide and Truck series starts. He knows that even as a two time champion that making the next level it tough.
“I have been doing it long enough to know I can get up on the wheel,” said Rogers. “This sport can be pretty cruel to everybody. It doesn’t matter what you have done, or how many wins you have under your belt, or how many races are printed on the back of your hero card. All that matters is the all mighty dollar and these people with JCR3 are able to see through that and it’s going to be a good year.”
“This is place is just so hard to drive,” said McFarland. “You have to drive 50-percent 99-percent of the time. It’s not a lot of fun, but it’s great when you can win here. It’s not too bad if the high line is working and we worked it up high tonight.”
The high line was his best friend until 20 laps prior to pit stops. The car got so loose and McFarland slipped back through the field and was doing everything he could to hang on.
“I was okay on the long run,” said McFarland. “The car just got way too loose and I had to let the guys go and try to stay on the lead lap.”
When the yellow finally came out on lap 132, the entire field hit pit road, with some taking tires and some taking fuel. Those who took fuel first were expecting a quick yellow in a few laps so they could get tires. That quick yellow did come only a handful of laps later and the race off pit road had McFarland back in the top spot. Matt Hawkins had a good pit stop and his car came alive on the restart, allowing him to battle with McFarland for the top spot.
“I knew I had a better car then Hawkins on the longer run,” said McFarland. “If he took the high line away from me I was junk. I couldn’t even run on the bottom when I was passing a lapped car.”
Hawkins used the low groove to take the top sport for four laps before falling back through the field.
“I didn’t know if I could hold it,” said Hawkins. “I knew we fell off pretty good on the first set of tires. I was hoping I could get by him and check out a little bit. I didn’t know if I burned them up a bit when I got by him. We were just way too loose off the center to do anything with him. “
McFarland took the lead and sailed away for the victory. Woody Howard got by Hawkins for second and closed in on McFarland, but could not get any closer then five car lengths in the final laps. Hawkins was third, Clay Rogers fourth and Trevor Bayne was fifth.
“I am glad we had a good race car here tonight,” said Howard. “It’s fun to have a car where all you have to do is hit your marks. It’s been tough out here for us in the past so this is a great run for us and I am happy to bring home a second.”
Michael Ritch came into the race with the points lead and had lots of trouble. He had a flat tire and had to make a pit stop under green. He then ran over the air hose forcing him back to pit road. He later would have more trouble before he fell out and finished 29th, taking him out of the point lead that McFarland holds thanks to his victory at Myrtle Beach.
The Southern Division will be back in action at Southern National Speedway (NC) on July 19th.
McFarland in victory lane. (Kathy Bond / USAR Photo)
Hometown Kid Comes Up Short
In a one-race deal, local driver Dange Hanniford took a lot of people by surprise by speeding to the top of the charts in qualifying, scoring his first-ever Awesome Awnings Pole Award. He then proved that it was not a fluke by leading the opening 28 laps of the race.
“This is a one-race deal with Ricky Benton,” said Hanniford. “I drove for him in 2006, we parted ways and they gave me another shot to come back and run this race. We threw this deal together in about a month.”
After he lost the lead he still ran well, and on lap 130 he returned to the top spot. Everything was looking good until the second set of tires through the team through a loop.
“I was enjoying the long runs,” said Hanniford. “These guys prepared a good car for me tonight. It was like a Sunday afternoon cruise. I was just saving my tires and I couldn’t wait until we got our second set of tires and we were ready to race for the end. I don’t know what happened with that second set.”
Hanniford struggled with the handle of his car with the wacky set of tires, eventually finishing sixth.
Green, Green and More Green
The green flag got a big work out at Myrtle Beach as the first half of the race went caution free. When the yellow did come out, only eight cars were on the lead lap. The long green-flag run made it confusing for some. At one point in the race Dusty Williams blew by the leaders and took the lead. It wasn’t until five laps later that he posted as the leader on the scoreboard.
Electric scoring was the saving grace until the yellow came out just after halfway and all parties were back on the right page.
Helton Grabs Top Ten in Fill-in Roll
Veteran short tracker Gary Helton was at “The Beach” driving for James Buescher who was in Milwaukee for the Nationwide Series race. Helton ran a team car to Buescher’s last year for Turner Motorsports, but this was his first start of the season in 2008. They had a game plan that really backfired at first.
“We had our car set up a little different,” said Helton. “We thought we would come in around lap 100 or 125. We never thought it would have been 140 laps. It messed us up a bit. We had a strategy and we came close, but the cautions just didn’t fall like we need them too. That’s just racing here at The Beach.”
Despite the long run, Helton did manage to get into the top-10 and brought home a solid eighth-place finish. Myrtle Beach can be tricky for any driver, even the veterans. Helton found his touch after a few laps and after the race compared the track to another tricky half-mile in the South.
“I haven’t been racing in six months so it wasn’t too bad,” said Helton. “It’s a lot like Pensacola. It was demanding tonight like it always is.”
Dange Hanniford sat on the pole at Myrtle Beach and finished sixth. (51 Photo)