Chase Pistone Wins Naturally Fresh 250 Two-Year Wait Over for Young Driver Concord, N.C.-If the world dropped in orbit by about five feet and eight inches on Sunday, it was because it no longer rested on the shoulders of Chase Pistone. After...
Chase Pistone Wins Naturally Fresh 250
Two-Year Wait Over for Young Driver
Concord, N.C.-If the world dropped in orbit by about five feet and eight inches on Sunday, it was because it no longer rested on the shoulders of Chase Pistone.
After two-plus seasons of near-misses and lofty expectations, Pistone finally picked up a win in the Hooters Pro Cup Series.
Pistone, driver of the No. 54 C&C Boiler Chevrolet, led the final 66 laps of the Naturally Fresh 250 presented by Greased Lightning at Concord Motorsport Park on Saturday, April 28 en route to his first win in 26 starts in the Aaron's Southern Division.
"I thought I had the ability to win in this series when I got here, but I realized pretty quick it was a lot tougher than I thought," said Pistone. "I had some top-5s last year that got my confidence up. I just felt like all day today that I could do it. I just knew it was my day.
Two other drivers also appeared to have things going their way until Lap 175.
Michael Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Naturally Fresh/Jackaroo Ford, dominated much of the first half of the event and cycled back into the lead on Lap 126. But as he caught the tail end of the field on Lap 178, Ritch tangled with Bill Plemons, the last driver on the lead lap. The contact sent Plemons around and Ritch to the tail end of the field for a rough- driving penalty. The incident also cost second-place running Mart Nesbitt his position.
Nesbitt, driver of the No. 92 Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. Ford, had to stop before making contact with Plemons and blended into line in eighth.
"That's the second week in a row that a lapped car has cost us," said Nesbitt, who dropped to 13th at the finish. "Who knows if I had anything for Michael? My car was good on the long runs. Once I got back there and the cautions started coming, I just couldn't go anywhere."
Ritch, who led a race-high 108 laps, was able to regain some of his lost track position, moving from 19th to eighth in the final 75 laps.
Without Ritch and Nesbitt to contend with, Pistone still needed to keep Carl Long and Richard Boswell at bay.
Long, driver of the No. 12 Romeo Guest Construction Ford, had several shots at Pistone on late-race restarts, but he was unable to pressure for the lead on a green-white-checkered finish and crossed the line 1.1 seconds behind Pistone.
"We we're just too loose," said Long. "I couldn't get back in the gas. Every time I'd try, the car would wiggle. I'm happy, though, the car's not on a rollback and we'll head over to Peach State."
Boswell, driver of the No. 88 Champion Chevrolet, finished right behind Long and picked up $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race. Boswell's finish was his first podium finish in six Pro Cup events.
"Even if I could have gotten around Carl, I didn't have anything for Chase," said Boswell. "This place is the toughest track I've ever been to. I have to thank Shane Huffman for coming over here and helping me test. It really made a difference."
Frank Deiny Jr., driver of the No. 5 Bailey's/Concept Mining Chevrolet, continued his strong start to his rookie season by coming home fourth. Despite missing his third consecutive Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award, Deiny moved into the rookie point lead in the $66,000 Miller Lite Rookie of the Year program.
Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 29 Chevy Racing Chevrolet, rounded out the top five.
Bobby Gill, who was second in points, dropped out with mechanical problems on Lap 60 and finished last.
Woody Howard, who was the Southern Division point leader coming in to the event, spun, flat-spotted his tires early in the event and lost five laps. However, Howard was able to make up all five laps and finish 14th. The late- race rally helped Howard hold onto the point lead over Pistone by 20 points (402-382).
Pistone's win was the second first-time winner in four Hooters Pro Cup events this season. It also marked the first time that JCR3 Racing, a former All-Pro Championship team, had been to Victory Lane in the Hooters Pro Cup Series.
"To get a win for them means a lot," said Pistone. "The Craigs have won a lot of races and championships, so they have high expectations. They provide me with the best stuff, so if we don't win, it's my fault. They put a lot on me, but it's nothing but fun now. The pressure is off my shoulders now. It's awesome. I knew I had to win when I got in this car. I'm just glad I did."
The Naturally Fresh 250 featured five lead changes among four drivers and was slowed 12 times for 85 laps of caution.
Naturally Fresh 250 Notebook
While most fans show up for the 250-lap Hooters Pro Cup events, the amazing race has been coming in BFGoodrich Tires Pole Qualifying of late.
The starting field for the Naturally Fresh 250 at Concord Motorsport Park was separated by .422 seconds. In addition, 17 drivers bested Shane Huffman's track record of 16.342 seconds. Michael Ritch, who won a $1,000 for being the BFGoodrich Tires Pole Award winner, blistered the half-mile track in 16.026 seconds at 112.317 mph.
Some of the lesser-known drivers in the Hooters Pro Cup Series have begun to make their presence felt this season. After three races, rookies Frank Deiny Jr., Richard Boswell, Matt Hawkins and James Buescher are all in the top 10 in points. All told, 12 rookies are in the top 30 in points and 19 have scored points in the Aaron's Southern Division.
Usually, Pro Cup drivers make two pit stops during each event, one for tires and one for fuel. But in the Naturally Fresh 250, Trevor Bayne had a different strategy.
"We had three runs," said Bayne, driver of the No. 29 Chevy Racing Chevrolet. "We came in on Lap 24 for tires, and we were just going to ride and stay on the lead lap. But wouldn't you know it; we had the longest green run of the night. We came back in at Lap 85 and put our first set of tires back on. We were able to get back up front. It was a good point's night, but we come to the track to win."
Bayne is fifth in the point standings after three races.
Frank Deiny Jr., driver of the No. 5 Bailey's/Concept Mining Ford, didn't have a set plan for the season. He was going to Lakeland for the season opener, and that was the only certainty the Virginia driver had. But after three top-five finishes in four races, including a fourth-place finish in the Naturally Fresh 250, those plans have been scrapped.
"This deal started out as one race; now we are full-blown," said Deiny, who leads the rookie points. "We ran well at Lakeland, so we went to South Georgia. We're going to do them all now. I can't thank Bailey's and my owner, Rusty Skewes, enough for this opportunity.
"I was kind of points racing tonight, because I knew Woody, Gill and Hawkins all had problems early. We were just a little off. But if we keep knocking down fourth-place finishes, we'll make a dent. And we may even win a few."
Deiny currently is tied for third in the overall standings.
Not Settling for Less than the Best
Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevrolet, did the unthinkable by making up five laps during the Naturally Fresh 250 at Concord Motorsport Park.
By doing so, Howard kept the Aaron's Southern Division point lead. But Howard wasn't exactly jovial about his run.
"I'm really disappointed," said Howard. "I really felt like we had one of the best cars here. I went off into Turn 1, hit the dip and just lost it. It's my screw up, but we should have come in and changed tires because I flat-spotted them. We didn't, and then we go out there lose all those laps. We came back in and got tires and made all those laps up. We've got a good race team, but we got some things we need to figure out."