Benny Gordon Clinches Pro Cup North Title In Style at SoBo Series PR Report
DuBois, Pa., driver leads 226 laps in Miller Lite 250 at SoBo; Kile Earns Rookie Title
All Benny Gordon needed to do was beat Gary St. Amant to claim his fourth Sears Auto Center Northern Division title. Well, Gordon did that and more.
Gordon, driver of the No. 66n Samuel Metals Ford, led a season-high 226 laps en route to victory in the Miller Lite 250 presented by Strutmasters.com at South Boston Speedway.
With Gordon’s fourth win of the season, he clinched his fourth Sears Auto Center Northern Division title in the last five years.
“I’m just proud of the effort my team put in tonight and, actually, all year long,” said Gordon, who picked up $20,000 and a 25-point bonus heading into the Championship Series for winning the Northern Division title. “Obviously you want the money, but we really wanted the bonus points, because the big money comes in the Championship Series.”
While Gordon’s 226 laps led may have looked like he cruised to his series-high fourth win, but that wasn’t the case.
After late-race pit stop, Gordon lined up fifth for a restart with 50 to go. Gordon needed just 11 laps to make his way back to the top spot. But as the laps clicked off, Gordon’s lead—and fuel—was dwindling.
Jeff Agnew, driver of the No. 73n Team 7 Ford, caught Gordon with 20 laps to go and looked high and low for a way around. On two occasions, Agnew was able to get a nose under Gordon for the lead.
“I know he was driving like crazy to catch me, but I was driving like hell to stay ahead of him,” said Gordon. “He’s always good at South Boston, but we were a little better tonight.”
After Gordon staved off Agnew’s lead bid, the only question was if Gordon, who never pitted for fuel, could make it all the way. But Gordon not only made it the scheduled distance, he made to Lap 253 after a late-race caution set up a green-white-checkered finish.
“We work on fuel mileage all the time,” said Gordon, who took home $12,200 for his win on Saturday night. “We made a fuel run in practice, and we knew we weren’t going to stop for fuel tonight. This team is spot-on right now.”
Benny's Burnouts have been quite frequent in the Pro Cup ranks this season as he clinched a championship at SoBo. (USAR / Kathy Bond Photos)
Gordon (#66) had to hold off Jeff Agnew (#73) for the victory.
Agnew, who finished .511 of second behind Gordon, agrees.
“His car didn’t budge off the corners all night; he could run straight up off the corners, which really made it tough to get by him,” said Agnew. “He had a great car tonight, and they’re tough every week. If that’s not bad enough, he’s seems to be able to run 500 laps on a tank of fuel.”
Gordon was pretty sure he couldn’t make it 500 laps.
“I know we could’ve gone to Lap 260,” said Gordon.
Jason Sarvis, driver of the No. 8n Black’s Tire/Snow King Chevrolet, posted his best finish of the season by coming home third.
“To finish third in our third race back is awesome,” said Sarvis, the 2002 Hooters Pro Cup Champion. “Johnny Rumley always ran well here in this car. You’ve got to give Mark Huff Motorsports credit. They get around this place pretty good.
“I’m just glad to be back. I love racing, but I hate running bad. It feels good to be competitive again.”
Sarvis, who led eight laps, was competitive enough to hold off Southern Division point leader Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Sears Auto Center Chevrolet, at the end for his first podium finish since 2003.
McFarland’s fourth-place finish was his seventh top-five finish of the season.
Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 7n Jegs.com/Speedco Chevrolet, completed the top five. With St. Amant now 191 points behind Gordon going into the final regular season race at Bristol Motor Speedway, he’s mathematically eliminated from the regular season title chase.
Mikey Kile, driver of the No. 65n VisViva Energy Drink Chevrolet, also closed out the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year race in the Northern Division by finishing ninth. Kile, who also won the rookie of the race, picked up $15,000 in rookie bonus monies for his stellar regular season. With $25,000 in rookie bonuses up for grabs in the final five races, Kile could take home $40,000 in bonuses at the end of the season.
Derek Kale, the 2006 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year, finished sixth in the Miller Lite 250. Kale, who led three laps, was able to stay within six points of Gary St. Amant in the standings heading into Bristol.
Jay Fogleman, driver of the No. 4n Speedco/The Works Ford, finished seventh, giving the veteran five top-10 finishes in eight starts this season. Allen Purkhiser, driver of the No. 68n Bill Ellis Barbeque Ford, continued his best season to date with an eighth-place run.
Mikey Kile is the 2008 USAR Hooters Pro Cup North Rookie of the Year.
Rookie Jonathan Cash, driver of the No. 12n Capital Bank Ford, rounded out the top 10.
Miller Lite 250 Notebook
Benny Gordon’s fourth win of the season was good enough to clinch his fourth regular season title. No other driver has been able to win more than two divisional titles since the series split into two divisions in 2001. What’s the key to success?
“People,” said Gordon. “It’s all about the people you put around you. You have to have a group of people that are fired up, and we were fired up more tonight than we’ve been in a while.
“Basically, I’m the quarterback of this team, and people rally around the quarterback. If I’m moping around and don’t have that enthusiasm that a team needs, then the rest of the team follows. Whether I’m up or down, I keep that fire going and keep everybody pumped up. When that’s going on, everybody works harder. And that’s how we’ve been able to keep this going.”
After Jason Sarvis became the youngest champion at Myrtle Beach Speedway in 1999 and followed up by—at the time—becoming the youngest Hooters Pro Cup Champion in 2002, many felt he was on the fast track to racing stardom. But after a few seasons of changing rides, Sarvis slipped off the radar and into a job at Richard Childress Racing, where he works on an R&D team.
But Sarvis returned to his roots this season, joining up with Mark Huff for a late-season run into the Championship Series. The pairing might not be the most potent in Sarvis’ career, but it may be the most fun.
“I’ve been in some real stressful situations with other people, and we just wanted to have a good time when we started this deal,” said Sarvis. “If one of us doesn’t feel like going to the track, we’re not going to go. All these guys on this team are racers and we’re having fun. Snow King and Black’s Tire are helping us, because we don’t have a lot of funds to race on. But with this group, I feel like we got a shot at winning one of these races before the year is out.”
Gamble Pays Off Somewhat
Derek Kale gambled on staying out and leading a lap late in the race rather than pitting. The move worked when he cycled into the lead on Lap 200 and picked up five bonus points. But when the green flew again on Lap 202, Kale slipped back through the field.
“We’re so close in the points race with Gary [St. Amant], when it presented itself, we went ahead and stayed out,” said Kale, driver of the No. 22n Heritage Equipment Chevrolet. “I knew in my mind that it was the wrong move to win the race. But I’m pretty happy to get out of here with a top-10.”
After stopping for tires with just a handful of laps left, Kale charged back to sixth, one position behind St. Amant. However, by leading a lap, Kale matched St. Amant’s 130 points in the event and only trails second-place St. Amant in the standings by six markers.
Benny Gordon went 199 laps on his first set of the BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials…Gordon also turned the fastest lap (16.005 sec.) on Lap 8 of the event…Several leaders pitted for tires on Lap 21 and went the rest of the way…