USAR: Lakeland: Mark McFarland race report

Engine Woes Stop McFarland Short Of USAR Hooters Pro Cup Victory Mooresville, NC (March 17, 2008) -- Mark McFarland had the fastest car and the lead in the late stages of the USAR Hooters Pro Cup season-opening race at USA International Speedway...

Engine Woes Stop McFarland Short Of USAR Hooters Pro Cup Victory

Mooresville, NC (March 17, 2008) -- Mark McFarland had the fastest car and the lead in the late stages of the USAR Hooters Pro Cup season-opening race at USA International Speedway Saturday. Unfortunately, the driver of the No. 81 Sears Auto Center Chevy Monte Carlo never saw the checkered flag as an engine problem saddledhim with a 25th-place finish in the event.

"We broke a valve spring," said McFarland. "That's pretty unusual. We've broken a valve or rod before, but we never had a valve spring problem before. The engine missed a long time before it finally gave up. We were still able to lead and be competitive. I was really hoping it would make it to the end, but it finally blew up with about 25 laps to go."

McFarland and his Pete Knight Racing team had the hottest iron on the block dominating the practice and qualifying sheets prior to the race on the .75-mile Lakeland, FL track. The Winchester, VA driver and his No. 81s Sears Auto Center Chevrolet got off on the right foot turning in the fastest lap of Saturday's practice session with a lap of 21.460 seconds h125.815 miles per hour average) before backing it up with an even quicker r1.436-second clocking (125.956 mph) to win the pole position for the event.

"We had a real good car," said McFarland. "We tried some different things in practice to help us figure out this new tire we're using this year. I thought we actually left a little bit out there on our qualifying lap, but I knew the car was really, really close and that we'd be good in the race."

Unfortunately, McFarland knew from the drop of the green flag that all was notgood with his red, white and blue Sears Auto Center sponsored racer.

"The engine missed all the way to the flagstand," said McFarland of the start of the race. "Michael Ritch got ahead of us on the start and I just fell in and tried to follow him for awhile. I knew right away that something was going on. It just took too long for the car to come up to speed on restarts. I thought it might make it to the end, that it might do it all night because it would always clear up after a couple of laps."

Despite the problem, McFarland was still very much in the mix, surviving slow restarts to battle for the lead. Eventually, McFarland was able to battle his way to the front on a late restart, butthe good fortune was short lived as his car's engine expired on Lap 176, just a handful of circuits from the finish.

"I passed Benny Gordon for the lead and then the engine started to give up," said McFarland. "We were still able to lead for awhile, but then on another restart, it just didn't come up to speed. We were hoping to ride it out, but we didn't make it."

While McFarland was disappointed with the subsequent 25th-place finish, he was still upbeat about his team's Lakeland results.

"We have a great team," said McFarland. "We had a bunch of Sears Auto Center people with us in Lakeland and they were very happy to see us on top of the board in practice, win the pole, be competitive and lead the race. We were hoping to get them their first win. It was disappointing not to do that, but we still had a positive weekend. "

-credit: pkr

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Series Stock car
Drivers Mark McFarland