Brandon Ward Wins Kroger 250 Veteran move puts rookie in Victory Lane Radford, Va. -- Rookies aren't supposed to make moves like the one Brandon Ward did. But Ward is quickly proving he's not a typical Hooters Pro Cup rookie. Just after taking...
Brandon Ward Wins Kroger 250
Veteran move puts rookie in Victory Lane
Radford, Va. -- Rookies aren't supposed to make moves like the one Brandon Ward did. But Ward is quickly proving he's not a typical Hooters Pro Cup rookie.
Just after taking the white flag, Ward slowed his No. 93 SupplyOne Ford heading into Turn 1, allowing Jeff Agnew to swing to the high side. As Agnew pulled ahead going down the backstretch, Ward knew his move had worked.
"I wanted to force him high," said Ward.
With the preferred line, Ward bounced off Agnew in Turn 4 and nipped the veteran at the line to win the Kroger 250 presented by Star Country 94.9 at Motor Mile Speedway. The victory was Ward's first win in six starts and pushed him to second in the Sears Auto Center Northern Division standings.
"We knew [Agnew] was going to be tough," said Ward, who took home $12,900 for the win. "He had the better car. I hit the oil down in [Turn] 3 and slid up into him. We banged together off Turn 4. It was just a hard race back to the checkered from there."
With just 30 laps remaining, neither Ward nor Agnew looked like they would play a role in the outcome.
Benny Gordon and Mark McFarland had pulled away from the field and lapped all the way up to fourth place during a 130-lap, green-flag run. But while Gordon, who led 64 laps, was lapping through the field, his fuel pressure was dropping fast.
Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Samuel Metals Ford, was hoping for enough caution laps to make the entire 250 laps without stopping for fuel. It didn't work. Gordon ran out of fuel on Lap 223 and came to pit road under green.
"Obviously we didn't have a very good strategy," said Gordon. "We've been bit in the [rear] with it 100 times. We had a lot of caution laps at Mansfield. Then we come here and have hardly any. If we would have had 30 to 40 caution laps, we would have been good."
When Gordon dropped to pit road, McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Knight's Companies Chevrolet, appeared to be en route to his third Northern Division of the season. But with 10 laps to go, McFarland's car began to smoke. Two laps later, a plume of smoke erupted for the back of his car and forced him from the event.
"The rear end gear burnt up," said McFarland. "It never gave any signs or anything. The car was running great and all of sudden starts smoking. It's a tough break because we had a great car."
McFarland's misfortune handed the lead back to Ward. But it also allowed Agnew to put himself in contention, which is something that didn't look possible earlier in the event.
When the caution waved for just the second time on Lap 63, Agnew and Lonnie Rush Jr. tangled and spun in Turn 2. Before Agnew could get his machine re-fired, he lost a lap.
Over the next 100 laps, Agnew made his lap up under green by getting around Ward. But he was still nearly a full lap down to the race leader. Agnew managed to keep himself on the lead lap until the caution for McFarland's misfortune allowed him to pull to Ward's bumper for the final restart. But in the end, Agnew came up .271 of second short of his first win of the season.
"I'm not mad at Brandon for what he did. That was just a lap-lap deal," said Agnew. "I don't like, because I passed him clean in [Turn 2]. But that's just part of racing and the way it goes."
Despite the disappointing finish, Agnew's second-place effort was his best finish of the season and pushed him from 15th to ninth in the standings.
Lonnie Rush Jr. also posted his best finish of the season by coming home third. And he also had to come from a lap down to do so.
Rush Jr., driver of the No. 71 Ray Skillman Classic Cars Chevrolet, received the black flag for jumping the initial start. After being the Aaron's Lucky Dog recipient, Rush ran on the lead lap the remainder of the event and picked up his first podium finish of his career.
"I've been trying to school these young guys on restarts ever since I did it to Benny here a few years ago," Rush said of the penalty. "I guess it looked like I jumped the start. That's part of racing. We didn't give up and brought this car back to the front."
Benny Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Samuel Metals Ford, rebounded from running out of fuel to come back and finish fourth.
Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 7 JEGS.com/Speedco Chevrolet, continued his quest for the Northern Division title by finishing fifth.
The Kroger 250 was slowed just four times for 26 laps of caution and featured nine lead changes among five drivers.
Kroger 250 Notebook
Can't Think of Right Words to Say
Jeff Agnew has been on the cusp of victory at Motor Mile Speedway many times in his Pro Cup career, only to see it slip away. Despite six top-five finishes in 12 starts, he has never earned a victory.
"It's like always up here," said Agnew, who won four Late Model Stock championships at Motor Mile. "We just can't get it done. It's sickening."
Double Your Pleasure
Pro Cup drivers Brandon Ward and Eric Sartin decided that 250 laps of racing weren't enough for them. Both drivers also competed in the 150-lap Late Model Stock feature following the Kroger 250.
One Year Removed
The Kroger 250 marked the one-year passing of Hooters Pro Cup Series founder Robert H. Brooks. All cars still carry the "In Memory of RHB" logo in honor of Brooks. The Robert H. Brooks Memorial 250 will be held at USA Int'l Speedway on Nov. 3.
Wild-Eyed Southern Boys
The Aaron's Southern Division drivers in the Kroger 250 didn't fair too well in their out-of-division start. Carl Long was the only one of the eight interlopers in the field that managed to finish in the top 10.
Worth the Price
Brandon Ward, driver of the No. 93 SupplyOne Ford, is quickly racking up in the Miller Lite Rookie of Year battle. Ward has claimed racked up $3,000 for three Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award and is well on his way to claiming $10,000 for being the Northern Division ROTY. Ward is 83 points ahead of fellow rookie Ben Stancill with just two races remaining the regular season.
Somebody should have taken Johnny Rumley to buy a lotto ticket on Sunday morning, because he seemed to have a way with numbers in the Kroger 250.
Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Black's Tire/Snow King Chevrolet, started eighth and finished eighth.
A Quick One
Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Knight's Companies Chevrolet, picked up his first BFGoodrich Tires Pole Award in the Kroger 250 in grand fashion. McFarland shattered Jeff Agnew's track record by nearly half a second, lapping MMS in 15.866 seconds at 94.391 mph. In addition, every driver in the field qualified below the previous track record and field was separated by .354 of a second.