USAR: Jennerstown CS: Race report

Joe Gaita Wins Charlie Campbell Memorial BFGoodrich Tires 250 Jennerstown, PA-Joe Gaita's "Faith" hat never seemed more fitting than in Victory Lane at Jennerstown Speedway on Saturday night. After losing his ride last year and suffering...

Joe Gaita Wins Charlie Campbell Memorial BFGoodrich Tires 250

Jennerstown, PA-Joe Gaita's "Faith" hat never seemed more fitting than in Victory Lane at Jennerstown Speedway on Saturday night.

After losing his ride last year and suffering through and up-and-down '05 campaign, Joe Gaita held off rookie Joey Logano by .342 seconds en route to victory in the Charlie Campbell Memorial BFGoodrich Tires 250 presented by Tom Clark Auto Family.

"You just couldn't have written a better script," said Gaita, who picked up his third Pro Cup win. "It means a whole lot to win in the Hooters Pro Cup Series, but to win in the Championship Series is extra special."

While Gaita's night had a storybook ending, the same can't be said of every other contender in the BFGoodrich Tires 250. Of the six different leaders, Gaita was the only driver not to experience some sort of problem.

Brad Rogers was the first of the leaders to fall by the wayside.

Rogers, driver of the No. 22s Black's Tire Service Ford, stayed out while most of the lead-lap cars pitted on Lap 84 and inherited the lead. Rogers was holding a comfortable cushion on Lap 101 when Chase Pistone's car went up in smoke and soiled Turn 4. Rogers' car snapped around and backed into the wall after hitting the oil. Rogers finished 25th.

Jeff Agnew, driver of the No. 73 NGA Hooters Golf Tour Ford, took the point after Rogers' misfortune. Agnew would lead the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Lap, picking up $1,000 and five-bonus points, but his time out front would be short-lived as well.

After building nearly a four-second margin over the field, Agnew's car fell from the pace at the exit of Turn 2 on Lap 149.

"I guess we ran out of gas," said Agnew, who also stayed out on the first cycle of stops. "I'm used to stomping the gas on my Chevrolet through the floor. These Fords must burn more gas. It's a shame because we had a pretty good car. I don't know if I could have gotten back to the front if I was able to pit. It would have been hard to do, but you never know."

Indeed. Nothing was certain during the plot-twisting 250-lap event.

Laps later, Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 32s WINFUEL Chevy, was the next leader to falter.

On Lap 165, the JR Motorsports car cut a right-front tire while at the front of the pack and impacted the Turn 1 wall. McFarland, who led 15 laps, continued on after changing tires, but his car was ill-tempered for the remainder of the event, dropping him to 26th at the finish.

Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55n Dean Motorsports Chevy, took over for McFarland at the point on Lap 166. But he, too, would cut a right front on Lap 209 and flattened the right side of his car on the Turn 4 wall.

"I never had a chance to save it," said Howard, who held a six-second lead over the field at the time of the incident. "My car was handling great, and the guys did a great job tonight. I thought we had the car to beat. I hate it happened, but I think we showed everybody we're a contender for this title."

Gaita grabbed the lead as Howard crept to pit road, but he still had to safely navigate the final 40 circuits with a mirror full of Joey Logano.

"I could here all kinds of noises in the car," said Gaita. "I thought the rear-end was going to fall out. I thought the tire was loose. It was nerve-racking."

To add tension to an already-tense situation, Gaita had to sweat out a seven-lap sprint after a late-race caution. Logano applied pressure, but the 15-year-old was unable to pull even with Gaita.

"It's a really good way to start the Championship Series," said Logano, who took home $1,000 bonus for being the top rookie. "It kind of stinks that we we're that close and didn't win, though. I thought we had [Gaita], but we just got really tight there at the end."

While Logano's car was tightening up, Michael Faulk, driver of the No. 53s Liftoff Ford, was placing his sight firmly on the rear-deck lid of Logano in the final laps.

"Mario [Gosselin, Faulk's crew chief] was calling out times to me, and we were a tenth quicker than those guys up front," said Faulk. "I felt like we had a car that could win tonight, but we have to keep the points in mind, too. We'll take third and head to Mansfield."

Divisional Winners Shane Huffman and Benny Gordon would have gladly taken a third-place finish in the championship opener.

Benny Gordon, driver of the No. 66n Predator Performance Ford, started from the Advance Auto Parts Pole and led the first 25 laps, but the Northern Division champ started to backslide through the field. Gordon fell to fourth on the first run, but his team made up two spots on pit road, sending Gordon out right behind Mark McFarland. Gordon applied pressure to McFarland before cutting down a tire on Lap 143. Gordon finished 12th. Fortunately for Gordon, Southern Division champion Shane Huffman's fortunes weren't much better.

Huffman qualified 19th and went for a spin on Lap 3. For much of the night, Huffman, a seven-time winner in the regular season, was mired back in the field. Once the leaders began to drop from contention, Huffman, driver of the No. 81s Knight's Companies Ford, made his way into fourth in the second half of the event and appeared ready to take control of the point battle. But that didn't happen.

On Lap 209, Huffman's car limped to a stop in Turn 2, bringing out the sixth caution of the night. Huffman lost a lap, but he rebounded to finish 11th and holds a one-point lead over Benny Gordon in the standings.

Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8n Lucas Oil Chevy, finished fourth.

D.J. Kennington, driver of the No. 17 SM Freight Pontiac, rounded out the top five.

Daniel Johnson, driver of the No. 56s Charlotte Check Cashers Pontiac, advanced from 30th to ninth to take the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award.

The Charlie Campbell BFGoodrich Tires 250 featured six lead changes among six drivers and was slowed eight times for 56 laps of caution.

BFGoodrich Tires 250 Notebook

Eh' Great Day
D.J. Kennington finished the CASCAR season by winning five out of the last seven races. In the BFGoodrich Tires 250 at Jennerstown Speedway, it looked like the momentum followed the Canadian driver across the border.

Kennington started 22nd, but he rallied to a fifth-place finish.

"We get around this place pretty good," said Kennington, driver of the No. 17n SM Freight Pontiac. "The longer we ran, the better the car got. I think we'll have a good car at Mansfield, too. But we've just got to make sure we qualify. I can race with these guys, but I haven't got qualifying figured out yet."

Streak Continues
Since the inception of the Championship Series in 2001, Shane Huffman has the left the first race of the five-race shootout with the point lead every time. That streak stayed intact in the BFGoodrich Tires 250, albeit by the slimmest of margins. Huffman has a one-point lead over Benny Gordon.

Home Turf
The Northern Division of the Hooters Pro Cup Series showed well at Jennerstown Speedway in the BFGoodrich Tires 250.

Of the first six finishers, five drivers were from the Northern Division. Nine of the first 15 positions went to Northern Division competitors.

Rumblin' Rumley
Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8n Lucas Oil Chevy, had a solid opener to the Championship Series. Rumley matched his best finish of the season by coming home fourth.

"The car was awful tight out there tonight," said Rumley. "But all those other guys had problems, and we're in a lot better shape in points than we were. Maybe that's what we needed."

Rumley jumped to fifth in points with this top-five finish.

Rookie Race
Michael Faulk's third-place finish in the BFGoodrich Tires 250 at Jennerstown Speedway vaulted him into first place in the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year standings.

Woody Howard, who finished 17th, dropped to second in the rookie standings, five points behind Faulk.

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 51n Joe Gibbs Performance Racing Oil Ford, made the biggest gain of any rookie. Logano's second-place finish moved him to third in the rookie standings, 28 points behind Faulk.

-usar-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers D.J. Kennington , Mark McFarland , Michael Faulk , Shane Huffman , Joey Logano , Johnny R , Jeff Agnew
Teams JR Motorsports