Lavender Wins BFGoodrich Tires 250 Altamahaw, NC-It was a barnburner at Ace Speedway on Friday night. And when the smoke, literally, cleared, Jody Lavender drove to victory lane in the BFGoodrich Tires 250 presented by Hess Race Cars, ...
Lavender Wins BFGoodrich Tires 250
Altamahaw, NC-It was a barnburner at Ace Speedway on Friday night. And when the smoke, literally, cleared, Jody Lavender drove to victory lane in the BFGoodrich Tires 250 presented by Hess Race Cars, Inc.
Lavender, driver of the No. 84 H&R Block Ford, and Jay Fogleman, driver of the No. 4 Lucas Oil Ford, waged a spirited battle for the lead over the final 50 laps of the 250-lap event.
With five to go, Fogleman tucked underneath Lavender, and the duo raced side-by-side, trading paint for the remainder of the event. Coming to take the checkered flag, the intertwined twosome swapped sheet metal for the final time.
The contact sent Lavender spinning into the inside retaining wall, but the Hartsville, S.C., driver was .091 sec. ahead of Fogleman at the stripe, giving Lavender his first Pro Cup win and leaving him in a state of disbelief.
"When we came across the line, I thought, nah, this can't be happening," said Lavender. "Those last few laps were just so exciting. I was hanging on, and he was hanging on. We were both were in the same boat, trying to win the race without wrecking each other.
"Jay's just a great racecar driver. When you race against professionals like we have in this series, you can race hard and put on a show for the fans. That's the most fun I've had since I've been racing."
Despite not winning, Fogleman's smile was nearly as wide as Lavender's at the conclusion of the race.
"I'm happy for them. They're a great bunch of guys," said Fogleman. "I ran him just as hard as I could run him. I got a good run on him late in the event. I got under him, but I was just a tick tight. I couldn't get the run to clear him."
Fogleman was able to lead Lap 246, 247 and 248 using the inside line, but Lavender held strong on the outside and led the final two laps.
"When I got in the middle of Turn 3 [on last lap], I just held it to the mat and hoped for the best," said Lavender. "I was either going to win the race or wreck. Luckily, I won before I wrecked."
Had the contact erupted before the start/finish line, Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 32 WINFUEL Chevy, was in the catbird seat.
McFarland, who led the first 88 laps after winning the his third Advance Auto Parts Pole Award of the season, pitted out-of-sequence with the leaders and worked his way back to fourth by Lap 181. The long haul back to the front took its toll on McFarland's car, and he was unable to pressure the leaders down the stretch. McFarland crossed the finish line .288 sec. behind Lavender.
"We had the best car for a while tonight," said McFarland. "We just had to use it up too much getting back through traffic. We just weren't expecting those guys to pit that early. I was kind of surprised. We had planned on being the first car to pit. We got behind those guys, and it was so hard to pass."
The tight confines of Ace Speedway made for some interesting pit strategies during the BFGoodrich Tires 250.
On Lap 82, Clay Rogers, running third at the time, led a group of lead-lap cars to pit road. Mark McFarland and Bobby Gill, running first and second, respectively, stayed on the track as 10 cars behind the came in for service.
McFarland pitted under the next caution on Lap 95, but Gill, who led 26 laps, waited until Lap 113 to pit. And Gill's decision to pit late came back to haunt him on Lap 130.
The three-time champion restarted 16th in heavy traffic. While trying work his way back to the front, Gill tagged the spinning car of Jason Sarvis, suffered severe damage to the No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford and finished the night in 15th.
"I had already committed to the high line, so there was nothing I could do," Gill said of the incident. "Our problems really started when we didn't pit early. There were only three cars a lap down, but it happens like that sometimes."
Michael Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Jackaroo Ford, inherited the lead after Gill pitted and led for 18 laps. Ritch picked up $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway leader before Shane Huffman, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Ford, took the lead on Lap 133.
Huffman led for 27 laps until Lavender, who started 19th, completed his run to the front on Lap 160.
Lavender checked out briefly over the next 20 laps, but a caution on Lap 187 brought Fogleman back to his bumper. And Fogleman stayed there the remainder of the evening.
Like McFarland and Fogleman, Mike Garvey, driver of the No. 17 Jani-King Ford, also pitted on Lap 95 and was able to make his way back to fourth at the finish.
Chase Pistone, driver of the No. 40 Metrolina Expo Trade Center Ford, picked up $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race after he finish fifth.
Lavender and McFarland both led 88 laps and spilt the Greased Lighting "Blast the Pack" Award for leading the most laps. Lavender also took home $500 for winning the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award for advancing a race-high 18 positions.
The BFGoodrich Tires 250 was slowed 15 times for 85 laps of caution and featured seven lead changes among six drivers.
BFGoodrich Tires 250 Notebook
Many Pro Cup teams finely manicure the front ends of their machines, block off as much air flow as they can and run brake blowers rather than air ducts from the front end. While there may be an advantage to this, Bobby Gill showed a competent driver can still make a world of difference on a short track.
After losing much of his front end in an accident on Lap 130, Gill's team kept him on the lead lap and he returned to the track in 17th position. Gill made his way up to eighth by Lap 195 before cutting a tire and losing two laps to make repairs.
"I think I could've finished in the top five," said Gill. "I was all over [Mike] Garvey, and he finished fourth. I couldn't see that well, and I think I hit the guard rail and knocked the tire off."
Mike Garvey saw firsthand how many Pro Cup drivers navigate traffic on the tight quarters of Ace Speedway. After being pushed around in the first half of the event, Garvey joined the push-fest and picked up his first top-five finish in three races.
"It was definitely wild and rough out there tonight," said Garvey, driver of the No. 17 Jani-King Ford. "There was a lot of beating and banging and pushing and shoving. At a little track like this, I guess you have to expect that. We just started rooting, pushing and shoving and got a fourth out of it."
Hitting His Stride
Chase Pistone burst on to the Pro Cup scene with a pole at USA Int'l Speedway in his first start in the series. Though he knocked down two top-10 finishes in first five races of the season and was leading the Miller Rookie of the Year standings in the Southern Division, Pistone had yet to pick up a Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award. That changed in the BFGoodrich Tires 250.
Pistone finished fifth and took home his first Miller Lite Rookie of the Race award.
"We've had a top-10 or top-five car in every race we've been in. We just don't have the finishes to show for it," said Pistone, driver of the No. 40 Metrolina Expo Trade Center Ford. "Tonight, we finally got the finish we deserved...I'm looking forward to going back to [USA Int'l Speedway], and we're going to keep getting better."
After a lackluster effort at Concord, Michael Faulk showed he isn't about to fade in the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year race. Faulk started 18th and finished sixth in the BFGoodrich Tires 250.
"We had a lot of problems at Concord," said Faulk, driver of the No. 53 LIFTOFF by Herbalife Ford. "We broke a shock in the first five laps at Concord, but the way we've been running isn't a fluke. We had a great car tonight, and Mario [Gosselin, crew chief] made the right calls. I think we had a car that could've won the race, but the breaks didn't go our way. We'll take sixth, keep going and try to finish in the top 10 in points [at the end of the regular season] and win the rookie of the year.
"The bad thing about tonight was the only rookie that beat us is Chase [Pistone], and he's the one we're chasing right now."
Time of Race: 1:58:53
Margin of Victory: .091 Sec.
Caution Flags: 15 for 85 Laps (1 Red Flag 2:58)
Lead Changes: 6 Lead Changes Among 6 drivers
Lap Leaders: 1-88 Mark McFarland (88); 89-114 Bobby Gill (26); 115-132 Michael Ritch (18); 133-159 Shane Huffman (27); 160-245 Jody Lavender (88); 246-248 Jay Fogleman (3); 249-250 Jody Lavender.