St. Augustine, FL - Although at times it looked as if Mario Gosselin was going to finish the 2000 season without a win, the Lake Wales, Florida driver finally found victory lane Saturday night. Gosselin won the Naturally Fresh Foods 250 at...
St. Augustine, FL - Although at times it looked as if Mario Gosselin was going to finish the 2000 season without a win, the Lake Wales, Florida driver finally found victory lane Saturday night. Gosselin won the Naturally Fresh Foods 250 at Florida Speed Park to claim his first win of the year and become the only driver to win at least one race during a season since the USAR Hooters ProCup Series began competition. Gosselin also increased the number to 10 different winners this season.
Gosselin outlasted Stacy Puryear by .8 of a second to get the win. Miller Lite Rookie of the Year candidates Brian Vickers and Clay Rogers followed in third and fourth, while Jay Fogleman enjoyed his first top-five finish of the season.
"What a great night," said Gosselin. "We had a strong car all night and I want to thank the crew, Irmo Grading and Carter-Grandle for this tonight. This win is for them."
While Gosselin celebrated in victory lane, Bobby Gill quietly clinched the 2000 USAR Hooters ProCup Series championship. Gill led 35 laps during the contest only to fall back late in the race when his PGT Industries Ford began to have brake problems. Gill was able to finish in the top 15 and ahead of Steve Christian. Christian, who entered the night second in the standings, was the only driver with a mathematical chance of catching Gill.
Rogers set a new USAR Hooters ProCup Series track record to win the Discount Auto Parts Pole Award with a time of 17.316 seconds (103.950 mph) and led the field to the green flag only to be passed by Christian on the first lap before Shane Huffman hit the turn four wall bringing out the first caution. Huffman was uninjured in the crash which set his Johnsonville Bratwurst Ford on top of the retaining wall before coming to a rest on the frontstretch.
The race was one of the most competitive of the season, with 13 lead changes among six different drivers. Rogers took the lead from Chirstian on lap 14 and remained in front until Gill assumed the top spot on lap 41. Rogers regained the lead on lap 56 and led the field until Gosselin took it for the first time on lap 61. Gill and Gosselin exchanged the lead twice until Vickers took the lead under caution when the leaders decided to pit on lap 110.
Hal Goodson passed Vickers after the restart and led until lap 128. Goodson was able to collect the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader Award which he collected for leading lap 125.
Gosselin and Goodson put on a show for the fans, racing along side one another for the next several laps, until Gosselin edged in front of Goodson from laps 129-131. Goodson led the next 31 laps before Gosselin took the lead for good on lap 164.
The race was slowed 11 times by caution for 80 laps. Gosselin was able to hold off a hard-charging group of drivers led by Puryear and Rogers each time.
"The restarts are always something you think about while leading," said Gosselin. "We had such a good car tonight on restarts I knew if I did my job we would be okay."
Puryear, who won the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award, was happy after his strong finish despite not getting the win.
"We had a good car tonight," said Puryear. "We were good on longer runs and it is good for us to get a second-place finish. We have struggled some this year but I am happy for the entire Black's Tire Service team tonight. They have stuck with me and hopefully we can finish the season strong at USA (International)."
Derrick Kelley advanced from 32 to eighth to win the State Fair Brand Corn Dogs Hard Charger Award, while members of the media voted Ricky Benton the W.J. Plemons Investments Crew Chief of the Race Award winner.
The final race of the 2000 season for the USAR Hooters ProCup Series will be held on November 25 at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Florida. The Alan Kulwicki Memorial/Hooters 300 will have an impact on the final points standings and also give three drivers an opportunity to win a $25,000 bonus if they can win the final Four Champions Challenge Series event of the year. Mardy Lindley, Gill and Jeff Agnew are all eligible for the bonus if they win in two weeks.
NEWS & NOTES FROM FLORIDA SPEEDPARK
Forty-five drivers attempted to make the Naturally Fresh Foods 250. Among the drivers who failed to qualify were: Shane Sieg, Jimmy McClain, Ron Beauchamp, Jr., Joe Harrison, Jr., Keith Montgomery, Jimmy Britts, Chris Gordon, Michael Williams, and Calvine Redwine.
Gosselin has 16 career USAR Hooters ProCup Series wins. Gosselin now leads second-place Gill by four in the category for most career wins. The win was also the first for car owner Haskell Willingham in the USAR Hooters ProCup Series. Gosselin also became the fifth driver to collect over $50,000 in regular-season earnings. Gosselin joins Gill, Vickers, Lindley and Rogers in that category. Florida Speedpark was a good place for Gosselin this season. He finished second in the spring race. Lindley experienced motor problems for the second race in a row, forcing him into a backup car. He was able to qualify for the race and collected a top 20 finish. However, Vickers took advantage of his third-place finish to move into third place in the points standings. Vickers now leads Lindley by 72 points.