USAR: Salem: Race report

Joel Kauffman Wins BFGoodrich Tires 250 Salem, IN--Johnny Rumley and Benny Gordon brought the fans to their feet, and hometown hero Joel Kauffman kept them there. Gordon and Rumley tangled while battling for the lead on Lap 199 of the...

Joel Kauffman Wins BFGoodrich Tires 250

Salem, IN--Johnny Rumley and Benny Gordon brought the fans to their feet, and hometown hero Joel Kauffman kept them there.

Gordon and Rumley tangled while battling for the lead on Lap 199 of the BFGoodrich Tires 250 presented by WQMF 95.7 & WAMZ 97.5 at Salem Speedway on Saturday night and crashed, clearing the way for Joel Kauffman, driver of the No. 44 Chevy, to pick up his first Hooters ProCup win. And the Indiana native did just that.

Kauffman, who now lives in Mooresville, N.C., was able to lead the final 50 laps en route his first win in the Series and his first at his home track.

"We had an awesome car all weekend," said Kauffman. "We came here and tested [on Friday] and that's what made the difference because we didn't get to get any practice in today because of the weather. [Testing] really paid off.

I've been racing since when I was 13, and this is my first win. We've had our share of bad luck here. We've been in position to win a couple, but it didn't work out. This win is a longtime deserved."

While Kauffman avoided the carnage usually associated with the high-speed, half-mile track, other drivers were not as fortunate.

Before the first lap was logged, a multi-car incident broke out in the second row of the starting grid. And with the field set by points after qualifying was rained out, the crash ruined the night for many top runners.

Jason McLellan, driver of the No. 3 T.D. Smith Transport Chevy, and Brian Ross, driver of the No. 42 US Insurance Group Ford, were unable to complete a lap before their night ended.

Mardy Lindley and Glenn Gault also received damage in the accident, but they were able to continue, albeit many laps down.

Jeff Agnew, who started second, bypassed Rumley, who picked up $1,000 for being the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award winner, on the first lap and led until Rumley made his way out front on Lap 27.

"The guys on the team put a great racecar under me," said Rumley. "It was my first time here so I thought I need to follow somebody. I let Jeff go and followed him, but he was holding me up a little bit. We got out front and the car was super fast."

Indeed.

Once Rumley unleashed the No. 8 Lucas Oil Ford, he turned his quickest lap of the race on Lap 33 and was able to break free of field. Kertus Davis, driver of the No. 68 N-ergy Beverage Ford, was the only driver to stay within earshot of the Winston-Salem, N.C., driver. But even Davis couldn't keep the torrid pace as Rumley pulled out to a seven-second lead by Lap 100 and lapped all the way to fifth position.

Rumley led the race until coming to pit road for service on Lap 134. Rumley paced the field down pit road, but he returned to the track in fourth. Kauffman's team put the Indiana native back on the track ahead of Gordon, Danny Sammons and Rumley for the restart on Lap 138.

Kauffman held the lead for 19 laps before Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford, made his first trip out front on Lap 155. Rumley followed Gordon past Kauffman and stayed glued to Gordon's bumper over the next 40 laps, searching for a way around the race leader. Rumley appeared to have an opening on Lap 199, and that's when things became unglued.

Heading into Turn 3, Rumley dove underneath Gordon and pulled alongside the 2003 Rookie of the Year. The two made contact and Rumley turned hard into the outside wall, destroying the Lucas Oil Ford and Rumley's chances at back-to-back wins.

"When Benny was leading, he was getting tight off [Turn 2]," said Rumley. "We got a couple of runs on him and barely bumped. That last time, I got a good run on him and squared him up. Maybe it was a rookie mistake on my part going into [Turn 3] two wide, but I figured he would check off. Well, he didn't."

After extensive repairs, Gordon was able to return to the track, but his chances at winning were gone.

"We were racing hard, and he hit me a couple of times," said Gordon. "It was a hell of a race, but he went in over his head. I don't think he would have made the corner even if I wasn't out there. He didn't lift, destroyed his car and destroyed my car. At a race track like this, you're going hard enough as is. He just needed to use better judgment."

With Rumley and Gordon out of contention, Kauffman was able to cruise to the easy win. In addition to the $10,000 check for winning, Kauffman picked up an extra $500 for being the Hard Charger.

Danny Sammons followed Kauffman across the finish line to take second. Gary St. Amant picked up $1,000 for winning the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race by virtue of his third-place finish. Jeff Agnew faded to fourth at the finish, while Jeff Roark rounded out the top five.

Knowledge Pool

Before the start of the 2004 Hooters ProCup season, Danny Sammons, Clay and Brad Rogers formed an alliance to share information to benefit all three teams. After his stout start to the Northern Division season, Sammons feels like the coalition is paying dividends.

"This deal is really working out for us," said Sammons. "Clay is running great and we're running great. If we keep building momentum, we'll win one of these sooner or later."

With Sammons' second-place finish, the New Jersey driver has finish inside the top six in the last three races.

Career Best

Jeff Roark notched his career best finish in the BFGoodrich Tires 250. The rookie driver from Abingdon, Va., finished fifth. It was his first finish inside the top 10.

In My Safe Place

It's no secret to drivers that Salem Speedway is tough to get around by itself, much less with a gaggle of racers at your side. Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 11 Bullet Racing/Jegs.com Chevy, chose not to worry about the competition and finished third.

"Had I been racing racecars, I would have ended up in the wall," said St. Amant. "I was just trying to race the track."

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Series Stock car
Drivers Brian Ross , Joel Kauffman , Johnny R , Jeff Agnew