LOCAL FAVORITE BOWS OUT TO NORTHERN INVADER by Jeremy Troiano
Controversial Penalty On Ricks Gives Gordon Win At “The Beach”
Thanks to the movies, we all know there is no crying in baseball. And thanks to Stuart Ricks, we know there is no crying in racing either.
The penalty put Northern invader Benny Gordon in the lead, which he would never relinquish.
However, Ricks didn't not complain and whine (nor did he confess to the penalty), but just chalked it up to part of racing and spent much of the post race time apologizing to his team for letting them down.
“I don't really know,” said Ricks when asked about the penalty. “I'm not sure what the rules are here for these cars. I thought the leader was suppose to start the race. Those guys behind me (Gordon and Brad Rogers) were pushing me. If I hadn't gone, my back tires would have been off the ground. If I started before the box it was five feet.
“I just brought it in and stopped. I didn't have time to argue with anyone about it. That was the call that was made and I had to get it back going. We still came out fourth.
“I am just disappointed because I let my guys down. They did an awesome job tonight. I let them down. I feel sorry for them.
“I'm glad we got a fourth, but we easily had the car to beat. Was a little off the first half, made the changes and the car was awesome. I just don't know what to say. I just don't' know.”
USAR ProCup officials, including race director Jimmy Wilson, have been known to be very strict on their rules with everyone in the race, from the leader to the last place car. Officials stuck by their decision after the race.
“The driver's are given all of the rules and told that things will be watched closely in the driver's meetings,” said ProCup
A late-race penalty, questionable or not, put the brakes on what would have been a heart-warming and storybook finish for Ricks on Saturday night in the USAR ProCup race at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
Ricks, a hometown hero who has dominated Late Model Stock competition at Myrtle Beach the last couple of years, was issued a “stop and go” penalty on lap 212 when ProCup officials deemed that he jumped the restart while in the race lead. Officials said Ricks started well before the designated “start box” (an area predetermined and presented to competitors during the driver's meetings), resulting in the stop and go.
Stuart Ricks was the man to beat at his home track on Saturday night, but ProCup officials derailed his winning plans. (51 Photos)
Ricks is a regular at Myrtle Beach and had the crowd of 8,000 plus on their feet most of the night.
Media Relations Representative Tim Southers. “There is a specific point on the track that the drivers are suppose to start the race and they are told if they start before that point, they will be penalized. The ProCup officials made the correct call and stuck by it. It was not a call made by one official, but several who had their eyes on the situation. Everyone is subject to the same, no matter if they are the leader or anyone else in the pack.”
A look at the replay of the start after the race showed that Ricks did jump the start and that ProCup officials made the correct call.
Gordon had a bird's eye view of the late race restart that resulted in Ricks' penalty as he restarted second, right behind Ricks.
“I figured they'd penalize him because he started in the middle of the corner,” said Gordon. “They are pretty strict on that. I think I had him anyway. I wasn't concerned about it because I jumped him on the outside anyway. I figured I'd pass him and we'd hold him off.”
BFGoodrich allowed the team's 10 tires (as compared to the normal eight) for the race due to the higher tire wear at Myrtle Beach. That threw in an extra kink into many driver's plans, as they would now stop twice for tires. Most had planned to stop for four tires once and two a second time, but a few, including Gordon, put on three (both right sides and the left rear) on each occasion.
But let nothing of Ricks' penalty take away from the great performance put on by Gordon, last year's ProCup Rookie of the Year.
Gordon qualified second and led from the drop of the green flag. He led on three different occasions and for more laps (106 of 250) than anyone else.
“It was off and on,” added Gordon. “We took off right off of the bat and then lost the tires. We backed up about seven or eight positions and made sure we didn't get in any trouble. We let the guys go that were faster.
“We came in and got tires and we took off and lead a while again. We lost two or three positions that time because the car was really good. We knew we would come in and get three more tires. It was a good pit decision. We took three and three. The left front went 250 laps.”
Benny Gordon stole the show from the Southern regulars.
“The last time we fixed the car a little more and it was on a rail from there on out. We took it easy and made sure we didn't burn the tires up. We were good to go.”
Gordon now has the upper hand for the ProCup's second trip to “the Beach,” which will come later in the year during the crucial Championship Series. Gordon is the defending race winner at Myrtle Beach in the Championship Series, but things are different with the new BFGoodrich Tire in 2004.
Gordon's #66n lit up the night sky with a series of donuts following the win.
"This was all about preparation for the championship series. We have a race on Friday night (July 2 at Kil-Kare Speedway, OH), so we were taking a chance by coming here. But we learned a lot tonight for what we got to do come the championship series time when it pays all of the money.”
And if Gordon doesn't have the advantage and Ricks makes the championship, we might really see who has the upper hand come October.