Benny Gordon Bests Pro Cup North Field at Motor Mile From USAR Hooters Pro Cup PR
Veteran Grabs Fourth Win at Motor Mile
If the Kmart 250 presented by Toyota at Motor Mile Speedway was any indication of what the Championship Series is going to be like, race fans will be in for a treat come late August when the best of the best gather for the four-race shootout to determine the Hooters Pro Cup Champion.
Benny Gordon, the Sears Auto Center Northern Division point leader, and Mark McFarland, the Greased Lightning Southern Division point leader, battled down to the finish of the 250-lap event before Gordon inched away for his first win of the season
“We had a lot of changes on the team this year, and it just takes a little while to build back to where we have been,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 66n Samuel Metals Ford. “I could see the momentum in the shop and the enthusiasm in the guys. I was really thinking it was going to turn around tonight.”
Though the premonition may have buoyed Gordon’s confidence, Motor Mile is a track where he does not need extra incentive.
With his win on Saturday night, Gordon has now won four races in seven starts at the .416-mile track.
“I don’t what it is about this track, but I love it,” said Gordon, who took home $11,000 for his win. “I grew up racing on a track that reminds me of this track, and I remembered a lot of secrets about how to set the car up and race the track.”
After starting third in the 32-car field, Gordon took the lead from pole-sitter Clay Rogers on the 19th circuit and held the lead until pitting on Lap 38. Most of the leaders followed Gordon’s decision to short pit and came to pit road behind the No. 66 Ford. Though the pit strategy paid off for Gordon in the end, his visit to pit road wasn’t of his own volition.
“I really thought that the winning car would have come in and taken tires later in the race,” said Gordon. “You always have long green-flag runs here at the end of the event. We wanted to pit later, but we had a rivet in our tire, so we had to come in early.”
Tim Bainey Jr., driver of the No. 00n Aaron’s Dream Machine, was one of the few leaders that decided to stay out on the track and took over the lead on Lap 39. Bainey held the lead until tangling with the lapped car of Lonnie Rush on Lap 62.
Benny Gordon celebrates his Motor Mile victory. (Kathy Bond/USAR Photo)
Gordon (#66) held off Mark McFarland (#81) down the stretch. (Kathy Bond/USAR Photo)
Allen Purkhiser, driver of the No. 68n Bill Ellis Barbeque Ford, inherited the lead after Bainey’s misfortune. But his time out front would be brief as Jay Fogleman made his presence known at his former home track, taking the lead on Lap 97.
Once out front, Fogleman, driver of the No. 4n Speedco/The Works Ford, built leads of two seconds over the field before Gordon began to reel him in around Lap 175.
Gordon ducked under Fogleman for the lead on Lap 189. A caution negated the pass, but Fogleman decided to give up the lead and come to pit road.
“I knew we were going to finish second or third if we didn’t pit, so we just put tires on the car to see if we could win it,” said Fogleman, who made it back to third at the finish. “If circumstances went our way and we got a caution with 20 to go, we had a chance at winning tonight.”
With Fogleman trying to rally from the back, Gordon’s focus turned to holding off McFarland.
McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Sears Auto Center Chevrolet, lurked around in the top three all night before pressuring Gordon for the win over the final 30 laps. McFarland closed to within a car length on several occasions, but he came up .305 of a second shy of his third victory in a row.
“My car was the best it was all night at the end, handling-wise,” said McFarland. “We were having brake problems all race, and the [brake] pedal went soft. I really didn’t know what I had each lap until I got to the corner; it was kind of scary. I didn’t want to go in there and wipe Benny out. If I got a really good run at him, I may have tried it.”
Even though McFarland fell short of his third win in a row, his second-place finish gives him a 2.25 average finish in the last four races.
“Everywhere we go this year we’ve been competitive, and we’re good in the race,” said McFarland. “Before we’d been good in the qualifying and backed up in the race. Now we’re qualifying in the top five and moving forward during the race. We’re having a lot of fun.”
Brandon Ward didn’t have as much fun as he did last season, when he won the event, but he brought his No. 93n Super Clean Ford in fourth position at Motor Mile and moved from fifth to fourth in Northern Division points.
Jeff Agnew, driver of the No. 73n Team 7 Ford, had one of the best cars in the first 50 laps, but the former MMS champion suffered damage on a restart. Even so, Agnew did manage to wrestle his ill-handling machine to a fifth-place finish.
Gary St. Amant, Joey Coulter, Mart Nesbitt, Jason Sarvis and Purkhiser completed the top 10.
The Kmart 250 featured five lead changes among five drivers and was slowed 10 times for 53 laps of caution.
Kmart 250 Notebook
Brandon Ward, driver of the No. 93n Super Clean Ford, has seen his fair share of bad luck this season. While the rundown shows Ward, the 2007 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year, finished fourth in the Kmart 250, the event still presented a challenge.
“We’ve had great race cars all year,” said Ward, “but we’ve had bad luck. And once again, we did tonight. We had brakes go away right at the start of the race. We battled that and worked with the brake bias the rest of the night. The cautions saved us, and the brake pedal would go back to 75 percent. We came in and took tires late in the race, and the tires made up for lack of brakes. You hate point racing, but we had a good points night.”
Jay Fogleman has long been known as the “Short Track Shark,” but sightings of the veteran driver in Victory Lane have been scarce of late. It’s been five years since he last stood victorious at the conclusion of a Pro Cup race. But if he keeps running like he has this season, Fogleman may soon return to the top of the food chain.
“The car I had tonight and at South Boston were the best cars I’ve ever driven, period,” said Fogleman, driver of the No. 4n Speedco/The Works Ford. “I just don’t know what it’s going to take [to get back to victory lane]. Who knows? But we ran up front, led halfway and got some good coverage for our sponsors tonight.”
The Curse Continues
Jeff Agnew, driver of the No. 73n Team 7 Ford, has won multiple Late Model titles and countless races at Motor Mile Speedway, but his 0-for-forever streak at his home track continued in Pro Cup competition in the Kmart 250. Agnew charged to the front after starting 11th, but contact on a restart left him fighting to bring his machine home in the top five.
“The car didn’t drive right after that contact,” said Agnew. “Then we lost the brakes, when a bleeder came loose. We pretty much struggled after that. I was trying to bring it home somewhere in the top five. It was tough. I just don’t know what it’s going to take to win, but we’re going to keep trying.”
Jay Fogleman turned the fastest lap of the race on Lap 15 of the Kmart 250, and his lap of 16.276 seconds at 92.013 mph was nearly identical to Clay Rogers’ pole speed….Benny Gordon went nearly 200 laps on his BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials en route to victory.