Caleb Holman Dominates For Bristol Win By Elgin Traylor
Pit Strategy Keeps Holman Clear of Wreck-Fest Behind Him
Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) is known for its excitement and wild action. Fans who attended the Aaron’s 150 Wednesday night saw that first hand when the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series tackled the half mile. The 150-lap distance is shorter then other Pro Cup races that normally go 250 laps.
The shorter distance made some drivers get impatient, as evident by early carnage, but one driver took it easy at Bristol and it paid off. In the face of all the wrecks, Caleb Holman stuck to his pit strategy and took home his first career Pro Cup win.
Caleb Holman took home his career first Pro Cup win at Bristol. (51 Photos)
“I don’t know what to say, ask me tomorrow,” said Holman on winning his first race in the series.
“I am going to have to sleep on it. We’re taking this car to Food City race night. I told them in Victory Lane we are not even going to clean the thing off. We will leave the champaigne on it.”
Most of the drivers in the field had a plan to hit pit road for the required two-tire pit stop when the first caution flag came out. It didn’t take long for that, however, as Drew Herring stuffed his car into the pit wall on the frontstretch and then slid across the track on lap two, where Kirk Leone hit Herring in the driver side door. The multi-car wreck was enough to draw the red flag for extensive clean up in the turn one area. When the yellow came out all the leaders hit pit road and got their tires. With the pit stop out of the way, Holman had to pick his way around the 10 or so cars that stayed out.
Working his way back to the front could have been another one of those situations where Holman could have been bitten by circumstances beyond his control. Instead, Holman took his time and made his march to the front. His unofficial teammate Wade Day started on the pole, but got caught up in a wreck after only 30 laps.
“Me and Wade (Day) as a team have had no problems getting fast cars. That has not been a problem for the both of us. Little things that we can’t control have cost us. I got into one of my pit crew members at Hickory and there was nothing I could do about that. We hade a brake caliper break off at Georgia, a gear broke at Concord. All of those would have been top fives and if you end up in the top five enough you are going to win.”
As Holman was working his way back to the front, a series of wrecks left several cars damaged or parked behind the pit wall. On lap 54 he took the top spot away from Allen
Purkhiser and left the field. After many wrecks in the opening laps the race, a long run of green flag racing gave Holman a chance to click off laps in search of a win. A late-race caution set up a quick dash to the checkered flag and Holman had to hold off Pro Cup Northern Division Champion Benny Gordon for the win.
“I knew I had to get a good restart because Benny Gordon was going to pounce if he could,” said Holman. “You know, when it’s your night, it’s your night.”
Gordon was looking for his second career win at Bristol. He had to settle for second this time at the half mile.
“We stayed up front and stayed out of the mess, but hey I have wrecked from the lead here in the past,” said Gordon. “There is no safe place around here, but fortunately we stayed out that and we came one in one piece.”
James Buescher was third, Woody Howard was fourth and Trevor Bayne was fifth. Only eight cars finished on the lead lap.
Holman working the high banks at Bristol. (51 Photos)
GORDON LEADS CHARGE INTO CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND
He may have not taken the win at Bristol, but it is clear that Benny Gordon is going to be the man to beat to win the championship. After winning four of the last five North Division titles, Gordon looks to take home his second overall title in the four race championship series.
“The championship and the overall title is what we are looking for,” said Gordon. “We got out of here without a scratch on the car. That’s good for us.”
Gordon has had one bad run, an 11th place finish at Milwaukee. The team has used this as motivation and they haven’t been worse then fourth since May.
“The first couple of races we should have and could have won those as well,” added Gordon. “We have had a fast car every week except for Milwaukee. I kind off needed that beating at Milwaukee to get my eyes open.”
One twist to Gordon’s plan is that he hasn’t had many laps on the tracks in the Championship Series. He’s not about ready to let that bother him.
“Rockingham is a new track for us,” said Gordon. “Iowa wasn’t good for last year as I blew up early. They are all going to be critical. Winning the division gives you some extra points in case you have a bad race you can rebound from it. I haven’t raced on Kenly for five or six years and I am okay with that because it’s my type of race track. You can’t worry about them. You just have to be ready to race.”
MCFARLAND HANGS ON TO WIN SOUTH TITLE
Mark McFarland needed a little help to wrap up the Southern Division Series title. The mass carnage in the early laps actually helped McFarland, who was forced behind the wall to make repairs that were sustained because of a flat tire.
“It was terrible. I didn’t want to win it that way,” said McFarland. “It was just pure luck that he (Michael Ritch) had trouble too . I have to thank the guys on my crew. They never gave up. Probably if we had come in when the tire went flat we would have been alright and not broken the sway bar arm off. We just stayed out too long.”
Michael Ritch got a piece of two different wrecks. He ended up seven laps down in 18th. McFarland lost 32 laps, but still managed to finish 22nd. He was a little surprised the race was as wild as it was.
“Usually our races are better then this. We should have done a better job. We were running into each other, there was no grip out there and we couldn’t pass. All in all It feels good to win the championship.”
Mark McFarland still managed to win the Southern Division title, despite having problems during the race. (51 Photos)
BRISTOL LIVES UP TO ITS NAME
Only 23 of the 40 cars that started the race were running at the end of 150 laps. A series of multi-car wrecks led to a junkyard scene behind the pit wall. A total of six cautions slowed the race and 42 laps were run under the yellow.
BUESCHER COMES HOME THIRD AT BRISTOL
James Buescher had a great view of all the action as all the wrecks happened around the Texas youngster. When all the dust cleared he worked his way to the front and ended up third right behind Benny Gordon.
“I am pretty happy with our run tonight. We started 15th. Just staying out of problems was the biggest key tonight,” said Buescher. “The first three wrecks all happened right in front of me. I should have been apart of them, but somehow I got out of them. I got really lucky with all of that. I just kept my nose clean all night.”
Buescher is no stranger to big tracks, he has run ARCA and Nationwide races already this season and he plans on getting his fill of the Pro Cup car as he will run for points in the championship series.
“We are going to finish up with the Pro Cup schedule. We want to get up into the top-five in points and win some races. I have one Nationwide start left at Memphis and a few ARCA starts left as well.”
ROOKIES ENJOY MIXED DAYS
The first time drivers go to Bristol they have to be a little bit nervous. Several rookies felt the wrath of the concrete as they ended up wondering what happened and why is their car was wrecked. Drew Herring lasted only one lap before he smashed up his car pretty good. Fellow Rookie Matt Merrell was taken out in the wreck as well.
Josh Hamner was making not only his first Bristol start, but hi first Pro Cup start as well. After starting 40th, Hamner stayed out of major trouble and ended up 15th.
“We got some damage, but our main goal was to make the race and to finish the race,” said Hamner. “I never expected to come up here and se the world on fire, it was a learning experience and if I could jump back in the car right now I would be 10 times better.”
Hunter Robbins had a solid run going before a blown tire put in the wall with only a dozen laps to go. Robbins still managed to wrap up the Southern Division rookie of the year honors.
“We locked up the Rookie of the Year honors on the first lap when Drew (Herring) had his crash,” said Robbins. “That’s not the way we wanted to win the Rookie of The Year award, but we are happing with the award. I have to thank all my guys who have worked hard on this car every week. I knew once we started shaking the bad luck we would be alright. Winning at Hickory has been the highlight of the season, but the Rookie Award means a lot too.”
Mikey Kile was the top rookie in the race, finishing on the lead lap in sixth.
(top) Drew Herring walks away from his wrecked race car. (Kathy Bond/USAR Photo) (bottom) This was the scene in the pits as 17 cars did not finish the Aaron's 150. (51 Photos)