Morgan Out-Duels Tenacious Herring For 1st-Ever USAR Pro Cup Series Victory
NEWTON, Iowa (September 19, 2009) -- J.P. Morgan out-dueled a tenacious Drew Herring in the final laps of Saturday's Pork 200 presented by Cookies Sauces and Seasonings at Iowa Speedway to claim his first career victory in the USARacing Pro Cup Series.
Morgan's victory came in his 45th career start and in the second race of the four-event Championship Series.
"Not only is this our first win, but Drew Herring, (his team), I used to race for those guys," said a jubilant Morgan, who drove his team transporter to Iowa. "Man, they were awesome guys! I always had a great time with them. To be able to get our first win racing them, racing clean, hard racing on the track like Iowa, I couldn't ask for a better win. It's just an awesome place and an awesome time for us."
Morgan, who started seventh in his Phil Morgan Pottery Chevrolet Impala, never ran lower than sixth throughout the 200-lap event on the 0.875-mile track. The 33-year-old Morgan first took the lead on lap 120 after diving under Herring on the frontstretch. Prior to that pass, Herring had monopolized the event after taking the lead from Clay Rogers on lap 23.
Despite several laps of dueling side-by-side with Derek Kale's Heritage Truck Centers Chevrolet Impala, early in the run, Herring eventually pulled away by more than a second, as he led 97 of the first 100 laps. John Gibson, who eventually recorded his first top-5 finish this season with a fifth, led for 18 laps before the victory battle focused on Morgan and Herring.
Gibson's MitiGator Ford Fusion was leading when the race returned to green-flag conditions following the fourth and final caution flag with just over 50 laps remaining. Matt Lofton was second, Rogers third and Morgan fifth. Herring was outside the top 5. However, with 50 laps remaining a four-car battle for the lead erupted between Gibson, Rogers, Morgan and Herring. Rogers, however, was soon eliminated from contention when he headed for the garage on lap 154 with mechanical failure on his C&C Boiler Sales & Service Chevrolet Impala.
With 40 laps remaining in the season's 12th race, the event had boiled down to a shootout between Herring and Morgan with the two fighting each other for every inch of asphalt before an estimated crowd of 17,000. Fender-to-fender, door handle-to-door handle, they battled lap after lap. Once Herring ran Morgan up the track. Another time Morgan caught the rear of Herring's Ford Fusion and it wiggled as they exited the fourth turn. Morgan finally overcame Herring on lap 188, taking the lead for good with 13 laps remaining. By the time the checkered flag waved, Morgan had stretched his advantage to 1.341 seconds.
"You want to run hard, you really want to fight with the best car out there," a disappointed 22-year-old Herring said after his runner-up finish in his BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors Ford Fusion. "J.P. pretty much was the best car of the night, period. I didn't have anything for him. I felt like I could hold my own in (turns) one and two. In (turns) three and four, we were just chattering the tires, real tight. I just couldn't keep up with him. He got a good run and got by us. I know they're excited, but, man, second place is tough, especially when you're that close to coming in first."
Herring described the race as a "solid night" overall, and said he was grateful to his crew for working so hard Saturday to get the car ready after he damaged it in practice.
"I spun out in practice, got into the wall," Herring explained. "It didn't look like we were going to be in contention for anything today. They were able to put that thing back together. I was able to go out there and grab the pole for them, lead a bunch of laps . I just wasn't able to seal the deal. That's part of it. It could be a whole lot worse. We've got Rockingham coming up and that's another good track for us."
Bobby Gill, who qualified 15th, pulled out a third-place finish in his USG Sheetrock Ford Fusion and was pleased with his effort.
"This is like a victory for us," Gill said. "We hadn't had too good a year. We got knocked out of Concord [two weeks ago] and finished almost last [22nd in a 24-car field]. We had a good car (tonight), but it was just a third-place car."
Gill noted he gained an advantage late in the race via pit strategy. On his early pit stops he took fuel only, waiting until his final stop to receive four tires. That came during the third caution period that consumed laps 111-116 and provided him with tires fresher than those found on many of his fellow competitors' cars.
Morgan averaged 104.327 mph in the race that was slowed by four caution flags for 30 laps.
The most serious incident of the evening involved Logan Ruffin, who was making his Pro Cup Series debut. Ruffin, who ran as high as sixth, was 13th when his Wolf Pack Rentals Chevrolet Monte Carlo slammed the wall and caught fire after the fuel pump ruptured. Rescuers quickly arrived at the damaged car and extinguished the fire. Ruffin escaped injury and was credited with a 13th-place finish.
The USARacing Pro Cup Series [formerly Hooters Pro Cup] now has two weeks off before traveling to Rockingham Speedway for its Oct. 10 event. The season concludes Oct. 31 at South Boston [Va.] Speedway when the series champion will be crowned. For more information on USAR, go to www.usarprocup.com.