Gordon Dominates Aaron's 212 Northern Division point leader on a roll, wins two in a row Clermont, Ind.-If Benny Gordon's win at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Speedway on June 10 sent a message, Gordon's dominating run at O'Reilly Raceway Park...
Gordon Dominates Aaron's 212
Northern Division point leader on a roll, wins two in a row
Clermont, Ind.-If Benny Gordon's win at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Speedway on June 10 sent a message, Gordon's dominating run at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis on June 17 provided the exclamation point.
Gordon started fourth in the 32-car field, took the lead from Jack Bailey on Lap 40 and led a race-high 151 laps en route to victory in the Aaron's 212 presented by Fatheadz.com.
"Right now, I've got a lot of confidence everywhere we go," said Gordon. "We've been working on a lot of geometry in the front end, and we've been doing other things in-house that's working. We're just fine tuning these cars; the whole race team is jelling."
And they would need that chemistry after lackluster practice session prior to the race.
"All day in practice, I was terrible," said Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford. "Right before qualifying, we changed the sway bar, shocks and springs. We just did what we thought would be good on the car during the race, and we hit it right on."
After qualifying fourth, Gordon moved to second on the first lap and tucked in behind Jack Bailey, who started from the Advance Auto Parts Pole.
For the next 30 laps, Gordon searched for a way around the No. 93 Vandercar Ford of Bailey, but the first-year driver stymied each advance. Despite the heated battle for the lead, the lead duo was able to pull away from the rest of the field by nearly two seconds. The quick pace, however, would come back to bite Bailey.
"I probably ran the car just a little bit too hard at the beginning," said Bailey. "I don't know, it was my first pole and I just wanted to go out there and feel the wind in my sails."
After a restart on Lap 39, Bailey would find himself looking at the stern of Gordon's No. 66 Ford.
Timing the green flag perfectly, Gordon ducked to the inside of Bailey and took the lead for the first time of the night on Lap 40. Then, Gordon flexed his muscle over the next 40 laps, building a 2.28-second lead over the Bailey, who found himself sparring with Johnny Rumley for the third spot.
Gordon continued to hold down the top spot until leading the majority of the leaders to pit road on Lap 85 and giving the lead to Lonnie Rush Jr. Gordon's Predator Performance teammates narrowly beat Bailey's Vandercar team during the round of stops. Gordon would have to line up seventh behind the out-of-sequence cars, but navigating his way back to the front didn't prove to be much of a problem.
Rush, driver of the No. 71 Ray Skillman Auto Pontiac, managed to pace the field long enough to pick up a $1,000 bonus for leading the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Lap. Just four laps later, however, Gordon would make quick work of Rush, slipping past at the exit of Turn 4 to reclaim the lead.
Behind the leader, Bailey and Rumley rekindled their battle for the runner-up spot. After incessantly dogging Bailey, Rumley finally moved his No. 8 Snow King/Black's Tire Chevrolet into second position on Lap 135. Unfortunately for Rumley, Gordon had gapped the field by 3.1 seconds. Four late-race cautions allowed Rumley to pressure Gordon in the last 70 laps, but the No. 66 car proved too strong.
"Benny was being real safe down in [Turn] 1," said Rumley, who finished .617 seconds behind Gordon. "I wasn't going to be safe, because I knew the only shot we had was to get by him on a restart. I was going to make him earn it. We just had the second-best car here."
After having the best car in qualifying, Bailey faded to fourth at the finish.
"Usually when you have a car that qualifies that well, it's not that good under race conditions," said Bailey, who led 39 laps. "We over-adjusted our car on our pit stop, and it was too hard to handle at the end of the night."
A.J. Frank was having no such handling issues. Frank, driver of the No. 11 LightninFast.com Chevrolet, was turning some of the quickest laps of the race in the final 20 laps, allowing him to bypass Bailey late in the Aaron's 212 and post his first podium finish of the season.
"I built this car down in North Carolina, and we gave birth to it today," said Frank. "We had a problem in practice and only had about 15 laps. Predator Performance builds a great chassis. I have to thank Bullet Racing and all the guys I used to race with that came by and helped me get this car finished this week. If you saw this car on Tuesday, you would have thought we would never have got it done."
Jeff Agnew, driver of the No. 73 Mark IV Honda/Team 7 Ford, completed the top five in the Aaron's 212, but the defending winner's car was better than a fifth-place piece.
Agnew qualified seventh and quickly worked his way into fourth early in the Aaron's 212. After the round of pit stops, Agnew was following Gordon back to the front when he lost control of the No. 73 Ford and spun in Turn 1. After dropping outside the top 10 with less than 100 laps remaining, Agnew rallied to finish fifth.
Shelby Howard, driver of the No. 20 Tony Stewart's Original Bar-B-Que Sauce Pontiac, was another frontrunner that experienced problems. While running in fourth, Howard hit some debris and cut a left-front tire down going into the Turn 1. Howard bounced off the wall and retired on Lap 49 in 30th position.
L.W. Miller, Woody Howard, Lonnie Rush Jr., Brad Rogers and Travis Miller completed the top-10 finishers.
The Aaron's 212 was slowed nine times for 51 laps of caution and featured three lead changes among three drivers.
Finally a Finish
Brad Rogers' season may have finally taken a good turn. On Lap 113, Rogers was swept into an accident not of his doing, but for the first time all season, he emerged unscathed and went onto finish ninth.
"I was thinking, "Here we go again,'" Rogers said of his close call. "I was wondering what I had to do to shake this back luck, but we got through. This is something we can build on as a team. The cars not tore up and we can make it faster rather than putting a new clip on it."
Beach Bound Benny
Benny Gordon has defended his turf well when Southern Division drivers have moonlighted at Championship Series tracks in the Northern Division, winning Mansfield and finishing second at Jennerstown. Now, Gordon is looking to do a little carpetbagging this week by running the Southern Division event at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
"We're definitely ready to go to Myrtle Beach," said Gordon, who has won four of the last five events at MBS. "Plus, somebody down there says I got one coming, so we'll see about that."
Travis Miller, driver of the No. 76 RaceDepot.com Ford, took home his second Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award of the season by coming home 10th in the Aaron's 212.
With the top-10 effort, coupled with Derek Kale's 28th-place showing, Miller moved into 12th in point standings and leads Kale in the Northern Division Miller Lite Rookie of the Year race by 10 points (657-647)
Sometimes, Getting There Isn't Half the Fun
J.J. Pack's Mullins Plumbing team needed three vehicles to tow the No. 16 Chevrolet from Manassas, Va., to Indianapolis. Adding insult to injury, Pack's crew, traveling from N.C., lost an alternator on their rental car in Kentucky. The crew fixed the alternator, and Pack found a willing soul to get his car to O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. But his troubles weren't over.
Pack had mechanical issues during the Aaron's 212, lost 10 laps and finished 22nd.
Two Races, Two Days
Cameron Dodson, driver of the No. 14 Elite Collision Center Chevrolet, decided to return to his sprint-car roots on Friday night at Toledo Speedway prior to Saturday's running of Aaron's 212 at O'Reilly Raceway Park.
Dodson jumped in to the cockpit of the familiar No. 50m, owned by Dick and Deborah Meyer, to run the Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper Super Sprint (AVSS) Series, set a new track record and won the A-main.
On Saturday night, the 17-year-old driver qualified 17th and finished 17th in the Aaron's 212.
"The communication between Lee [McAllister, crew chief] and it continues to get better and better every week," Dodson said. "I am learning so much from him about the car, how the setup works and how every change affects the car. We are making solid gains in the car, but this series is so competitive, improving our performance every week is hard work for everyone on our team. We are looking for our first top-10 and then keep moving up in the order."