Gordon Wins Lucas Oil 250 North-South Rivalries Heating Up Mansfield, Ohio-Around Lap 70, Benny Gordon sent a message. It read: This is a Northern Division race, and I'm the Northern Division champion and current point leader. Southern Division...
Gordon Wins Lucas Oil 250
North-South Rivalries Heating Up
Mansfield, Ohio-Around Lap 70, Benny Gordon sent a message. It read: This is a Northern Division race, and I'm the Northern Division champion and current point leader. Southern Division interlopers beware!
Gordon delivered the message to Southern Division regular Clay Rogers via the bumper.
Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford, tracked down then- leader Rogers, leaned on him in Turn 1 and the sent Rogers for a spin. Gordon received a rough-driving penalty and had to go to the rear of the field, but he was able to battle back to win the Lucas Oil 250 presented by Donley Ford at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway.
"I ran Clay down from fifth, and he was stopping in the corner," Gordon said of the contact with Rogers. "I was two tenths [of a second] quicker than him, and I just barely made contact and he spun out. I didn't mean to spin him out, but I'm sure he's crying about it."
Although Gordon received a rough-driving penalty, the punishment actually played right into his hands.
"I wanted to pass Clay and lead the race, but we were going to pit early anyway," said Gordon. "The penalty didn't do anything to us, really. We just cycled through and saved the tires. I just rode around for 50 laps, because we didn't have to pass anybody."
But he did have to hold off somebody, and it was a familiar foe.
With 60 laps remaining, Rogers, who led the first 66 laps of the event after starting from the Advance Auto Parts Pole, climbed back into contention, moving past Joey Logano to take second spot. Gordon had pulled away to a 1.7-second lead with 55 laps remaining, but Rogers trimmed that to .7 seconds as Gordon navigated lapped traffic.
Three late-race restarts allowed Rogers a chance at revenge, but the Southern Division regular came up .148 of Gordon's bumper at the finish.
"There were a lot of decisions being made going on down the backstretch on the final lap," said Rogers, who had pulled his No. 44s Automotive Development Group Ford to the rear bumper of Gordon on the last lap. "But I've been beat like that before, and I figured I'd give Benny one more chance.
"With all the adversity we had, and all the traffic we came through, I'm pretty happy to come out of here with a close [second-place finish] without a scratch on the car."
The Gordon-Rogers feud wasn't the only battle to cross divisional lines.
Southern Division regular Joey Logano and Northern Division competitor Jeff Agnew tangled in the waning laps while battling for third.
With seven laps remaining, Agnew sent Logano spinning and received a rough- driving penalty, negating any chance for either driver to fight for the win. Logano dropped to seventh at the end of the night, while Agnew finished ninth.
"Agnew was a little faster than me, but with seven laps left, I'm not going to let anybody go," said Logano, driver of the No. 51s Joe Gibbs Performance Racing Oil Chevrolet. "I guess the only way he could get by me was to spin me out. He took me out, but he put himself to rear."
Earlier in the race, Agnew, driver of the No. 73 Mark IV Honda/Team 7 Ford, was the beneficiary of the contact between Gordon and Rogers, taking the lead on Lap 71.
Agnew, who started eighth, flexed his muscle over the next 50 laps and pulled out to a commanding lead. But while the Floyd, Va., driver was circling the progressively-banked track, most of the field was cycling through the pits. Finally, after leading the Lucas Oil Halfway Lap, Agnew, who picked up five bonus points and $1,000 for leading Lap 125, came to pit road on Lap 128, handing the lead to Gordon.
With fresh rubber underneath the No. 73 Ford, Agnew started to charge back to the front. By Lap 190, Agnew moved from 14th to fourth, trailing only Gordon, Rogers and Logano. After fierce battle for 30 laps, Agnew turned Logano around in Turn 3 with less than 10 laps to go.
Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy, was the beneficiary of the late-race fisticuffs, moving to third after a lackluster performance. Despite the podium finish, Howard wasn't pleased with the overall run.
"We'll take [the third-place finish], but we're still just off a little bit," said Howard. "Everywhere we go, we are a little bit off. It's frustrating, and we've got to figure something out."
Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 72 JEGS.com Chevrolet, also stayed out of trouble and posted a top-five finish by coming home fourth.
Despite heavy damage to the front end of his machine, Eric Corbett, driver of the No. 75 Larry & Sons Ford, somehow managed to stay on the lead lap all night and rounded out the top five.
Running on seven cylinders, Jack Bailey nursed his No. 93 Ferguson Waterworks Ford to sixth at the finish.
J.J. Pack, driver of the No. 16 Mullins Plumbing Ford, picked up his first Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award of the season by finishing eighth.
Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Snow King/Black's Tire Chevrolet, battled back from and unscheduled stop to complete the top 10.
The Lucas Oil 250 was slowed 16 times from 96 laps of caution and featured three lead changes among three drivers.
Lucas Oil 250 Notebook
J.J. Pack, driver of the No. 16 Mullins Plumbing Ford, has seen his fair share of adversity since joining the Hooters Pro Cup Series a few years ago. But with a new car owner and his top-10 finish, Pack is beginning to the see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"We've got a new crew and a new owner. These guys are just awesome," said Pack. "We're going to finish up the season with our new owner and put some more sponsors on the car, so tonight is a good motivator and momentum builder for us."
Shelby Howard, driver of the No. 20 Tony Stewart's Original Bar-B-Que Sauce Pontiac, was running in the top three when he hit some debris and cut a right front tire down. Howard lost three laps while making a green-flag stop, but his car was still as fast as the leaders when he returned to action.
Howard tried to make up the laps lost, but he never could get around Gordon. Rather than force the issue, Howard, who was running behind Gordon, gave way to the rest of the leaders as the laps wore down.
"I race guys the way I'd hope they would race me," said Howard. "I wasn't going to get into anybody to get a lap back. When I saw [Clay Rogers] coming at the end of the race, I just let him go."
Regardless of what happens to him during the race, Jack Bailey, driver of the No. 93 Ferguson Waterworks Ford, seems to be able to post a top-10 finish. Bailey fought through several unscheduled stops and a sputtering engine to finish sixth in the Lucas Oil 250.
"I'm elated with the finish, because we lost a value about 60 laps into the race," said Bailey. "I was just hanging out at the back of the pack, trying to stay on the lead lap. I don't know how we did it, but we just keep running and getting good finishes."
Battle at the Beach
With Myrtle Beach being an event in the Championship Series, it's a likely scenario that several Northern Division competitors will make the trip to the South Carolina coastline to battle with the Southern Division regulars. Benny Gordon is one of those drivers, and Clay Rogers knows that.
"I know Benny's coming to Myrtle Beach, and he better bring his 'A' game," said Rogers.
Gordon says he's planning on it.
"I've won four of the last five races down there, so I think we'll be good," said Gordon.
Using the g-Force
With the outstanding durability of the BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radial tire, many drivers in the Lucas Oil 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway elected to pit before the race reached the 100-lap mark. Benny Gordon made his pit stop before Lap 75 and went the rest of the race on his tires.
"This tire was awesome," said Gordon. "I was running laps a tenth [of a second] faster than what I qualified at with 100 laps on these tires. It makes it fun to race when you don't have to worry about tires holding up."
Clay Rogers pitted around Lap 80 and went the rest of the night on his tires as well.
"I was real impressed with the tires," said Rogers. "We abused these tires hard here. I was back wide open in the middle of the corners and that really works on the right front tire. I didn't think any tire could hold up here as much as we abuse them, but BFGoodrich has a great tire."