Brandon Ward claimed an emotional victory Sunday in the rain-delayed Hampton Virginia Honor Flight 250 at Langley Speedway, a day after the North Carolina resident's father suffered a heart attack in the track's garage.
Rick Ward was rushed to Sentara Careplex Hospital Saturday afternoon where he received two stents and was expected to be released on Monday.
“This is the first Pro Cup race I've been to without him; just about the first race period I've been to that he hadn't been here, so I missed him a lot today,” the younger Ward said after his third career victory and the final race in the series regular season. “Any win in this series is big, but especially with the situation this weekend. Being able to get two in a row, it was a real special win.”
Ward's second straight victory came in a race that was halted for 22 minutes 22 seconds because of a three-car accident involving Drew Herring, Jeff Agnew and Brett Butler. The wreck occurred on lap 79 of the 250-lap race on the 0.395-mile track when Herring spun in turns three and four. Agnew checked up and then Butler hit him, knocking him onto Herring's car that was sitting in the middle of the track. When the smoke cleared, the left rear of Agnew's Ford Fusion was sitting on Herring's roof and the left front was on the right front of Herring's car. No one was injured.
At the time the race was halted, Justin Boston was leading. Once it restarted, Boston led for the next two laps before pitting. Clay Rogers, who had led the first 60 laps, resumed the lead on lap 82 when Boston pitted. Rogers maintained the lead through lap 150 when he pitted for four tires during the seventh of 11 caution flags. When the race returned to green-flag conditions, Matt Lofton was leading, Ward was fourth, Bobby Gill was sixth and Rogers was 10th.
Throughout the green-flag run, Ward and Rogers mounted a charge to the front. By lap 177, Ward was second, challenging Lofton for the lead, while Rogers and Gill were dicing for third. On lap 184, Gill clipped Rogers and Rogers looped his Chevrolet Impala off the second turn.
“The car skated up the race track and I chased it up there,” said Gill, who eventually finished third. “I clipped Clay and spun him out. If I'd wanted to spin Clay out (on purpose), I would have done it the lap before that instead of waiting until then.”
When the race restarted on lap 189, Lofton was leading, Ward was second, Gill was third and Rogers sat 10th. Ward didn't make a bid for the lead until lap 206 when he dove under Lofton's ailing Chevrolet Monte Carlo in turn three to take the lead.
“We were real free on the first run,” Ward explained in talking about how the race progressed for him. “Real free getting in (to the corner) and real free up off, or more or less in the middle of the straightaway. We made some adjustments when we took fuel and I was afraid we'd gone too far, because after we took tires and the fuel had burned off, we got real tight in the center (of the corner). But it probably was what helped us to be good on the restarts.
“I knew Woody (Howard) was coming. They kept telling me he was and he said it best, once you get going, you really have to work hard to slow down. That's what I was trying to do, was slow down, stay on the bottom and keep my laps consistent. We were too tight to run the top, so I knew if I let anybody get to me and get on the bottom, we would be in trouble.”
The 28-year-old Ward was never challenged once he grabbed the top spot, eventually taking a 2.915-second victory over Howard.
“It just wasn't our day,” Howard said after his runner-up finish. “With qualifying rained out and having to start at the back, that just put us behind.”
Gill said his car “wasn't as good” as it was in May.
“We got a third, but we didn't really deserve it,” Gill added. “We struggled all day with the car. We were lucky to get what we did.”
There were four lead changes among four drivers with Ward leading the final 45 laps. Rogers led twice for 129, while Lofton set the pace for 55 laps on one occasion. Boston led for the first time in his Pro Cup career, taking the No. 1 position once for 21 laps.
Ward averaged 81.002 mph in the race that was slowed by 11 caution flags for 61 laps.
The USARacing Pro Cup Series now has a week break before starting its four-race Championship Series Sept. 5 at Concord [N.C.] Motor Speedway.