Mark McFarland Hits the Trifecta at Southern National From USAR Hooters Pro Cup PR
Point Leader Wins Crane Cams 250 In Kenly
Right now, it’s good to be Mark McFarland.
Many thought the former Late Model Stock National Champion would fade into obscurity after losing his Nationwide Series ride a few years ago. But that hasn’t been the case.
McFarland returned to the Hooters Pro Cup Series found a ride with Pete Knight Racing—and a bit of inner peace. He’s winning and happy. And after his win in the Crane Cams 250 presented by Awesome Awnings at Southern National Raceway Park on Saturday night, McFarland could be on his way to the Greased Lightning Southern Division title and a favorite for the overall Hooters Pro Cup Series title.
“This is the best team I’ve ever been a part of,” said McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Sears Auto Center Chevrolet. “There’s never a negative word out of anybody on this team and everybody works hard, even if we’re just testing. It’s just fun to drive these cars and show up at the race track with these guys, no matter how we run. But winning makes it that much better.”
It took a little bit for McFarland to show his winning hand at SNRP. But once he made his way out front on Lap 178, only a monumental effort by second-place running Michael Ritch was going to keep him from his third win in a row.
“We started off the race real, real loose,” said McFarland, who extended his point lead to 59 points over Michael Ritch with the win. “We tightened it up when we came in to get fuel, then we tightened it up when we came in for tires and track tightened up at the end, so it about made our car perfect at the end of the race.”
Even with one of the best cars in the field, McFarland did have to sweat out several late-race restarts en route to sixth Hooters Pro Cup victory.
“I was worried about Michael on those restarts, because you never know what he saved or what he’s going to pull out,” said McFarland. “I thought our car was better, but I was worried until the checkered flag fell tonight.”
Ritch, who finished second, didn’t think McFarland should have worried too much.
“Mark had a great car,” said Ritch, driver of the No. 28s Support Our Troops Ford. “He was definitely faster from the center off. We got him by [pitting early], but that didn’t work this time. He had the dominant car.”
Mark McFarland celebrates his Southern National victory. (Kathy Bond/USAR Photo)
Ritch (#28) and McFarland (#81) battle for the lead. (Kathy Bond/USAR Photo)
But in the first half, Wade Day and Caleb Holman appeared to have the best cars in the field.
After slipping by pole-sitter Clay Rogers on the first lap, Day, driver of the No. 96s Lopez Wealth Management Ford, led the first 60 laps until Holman took over. The two pulled away from the field and elected not to pit when most of the leaders took tires before the halfway mark.
Holman finally came to pit road after halfway, but Day held the lead until Lap 161, when he dropped down for service.
Holman charged back to finish fourth, but Day was caught up in a minor mishap and finished 11th.
"If I had to do it over again, I would have done the same thing,” said Holman, driver of the No. 75s Food Country Chevrolet. “Like Motor Mile, tires were worth more than most people thought. The only thing I would’ve done different was pass them faster after I stopped.”
Rogers, driver of the No. 54s C&C Boiler Chevrolet, didn’t lead a lap after starting from the Awesome Awnings Pole, but he did pick up his first podium finish since joining JCR3 Racing.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” said Rogers. “With amount of competition in this series, if you can run in the top three, especially with the late start we got this season, you’ve done something. It’s coming together, and I feel our first win is right around the corner.”
With McFarland inching away at the finish, Rogers dogged Ritch over the final 20 laps for second spot, but the two-time Pro Cup champ didn’t take any unnecessary chances for the runner-up spot. And the courtesy didn’t go unnoticed by Ritch.
“I was kind of holding Clay up there,” said Ritch. “He stopped by and let me know he had one shot at me, but he said there had been enough cautions. I’ve just got to thank him for racing me clean.”
Jay Fogleman kept the front end of his No. 4n Speedco/The Works Ford clean all night and continued his hot streak by rounding out the top five.
Bobby Gill, driver of the No. 06s USG Sheetrock Ford, posted his first top-10 finish in four races by coming home sixth at SNRP.
Billy Bigley Jr., driver of the No. 82s Peerless Woodworking Ford, posted his third top-10 finish of the season with a seventh-place effort at SNRP.
Carl Long, driver of the No. 12s Romeo Guest Construction Ford, grabbed his second top-10 finish of the season by crossing the stripe in eighth.
Drew Herring, driver of the No. 22s BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors Ford, picked up $1,000 and the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award for his ninth-place effort.
Gary Helton, driver of the No. 84s Swaggerty Sausage Chevrolet, completed the top 10.
The Crane Cams 250 at Southern National Raceway Park featured five lead changes among four drivers.
Crane Cams 250 Notebook
Drew Herring wanted to treat his horde of faithful followers at SNRP to a great night in the Crane Cams 250. At the start, it looked like Herring may indeed pick up his first Hooters Pro Cup win at his home track, but by the time it was over, Herring was just happy to finish in the top 10.
“I thought we had a really good car in practice, and it was for about 20 laps in the race,” said Herring, driver of the No. 22s BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors Ford. “The car started getting real tight after that. We were pushing, and then we got spun out and lost a lap.
“The guys stayed behind me, made some adjustments in the pits and we got our lap back. We got back to the top five, but the lapped cars were all over the place. We got shuffled out and five cars went by. We passed them back. All that just burnt my tires up. I was just hanging on in the last 50 laps.
“I hate to run like that with all the ‘Drew Crew’ here. But it’s amazing to see all them come out here tonight with the weather forecast the way it was. We’re going to figure this thing out and go up there and get us a win before too long.”
No Gimmies Here
Winning a Hooters Pro Cup race is no easy task, but true racers like it that way. So after his stout run in the first half of the event, Caleb Holman, driver of the No. 75s Food Country Chevrolet, found it hard to be disappointed by his fourth-place finish.
“The thing about this series, what makes it great, is that nobody out here will give you anything,” said Holman. “Nobody is going to give you a win or let you by. Tonight, if we would’ve won this race, it would have been because we absolutely drove the wheels off of it. That’s what you have to do to win one of these races. It’s not going to be a ‘gimmie.’ McFarland is on his game right now; Ritch is good; and [Clay Rogers] has really stepped up. You’ve got to be on top of your game, just like we were tonight, if not better.”
Closing in the Poles
Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 54s C&C Boiler Chevrolet, picked up his second Awesome Awnings Pole in the row in the Crane Cams 250 at Southern National Raceway Park. The pole was Rogers’ 21st of his career and puts him just two poles behind Mario Gosselin for second place on the all-time list. Shane Huffman has the series-record with 26 poles.
Mark McFarland went the final 162 laps on his BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials to win the Crane Cams 250 at Southern National Raceway Park. McFarland’s best lap of the race came on the 234 circuit, when he lapped SNRP in 15.115 seconds at 95.018 mph….Wade Day turned the quickest lap of the event on Lap 13 when he toured the .4-mile track in 15.103 seconds at 95.345 mph.... Michael Ritch went the furthest on his last set of tires, going the final 172 laps on his BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials.