Mark McFarland Wins Farmer's Foods 250 No place like home for Virginia driver Shenandoah, Va.-When Mark McFarland joined powerhouse Pete Knight Racing this season, everyone knew that the wins would come. However, after four races, McFarland's...
Mark McFarland Wins Farmer's Foods 250
No place like home for Virginia driver
Shenandoah, Va.-When Mark McFarland joined powerhouse Pete Knight Racing this season, everyone knew that the wins would come. However, after four races, McFarland's best finish was 11th, and some wondered if the too-good- to-be-true pairing was just that.
But a trip to McFarland's home state of Virginia silenced the cynics on Thursday, May 3 as Mark McFarland overcame an early-race spin and penalty to win the Farmer's Foods 250 at Shenandoah Speedway.
"Our tough start to the season was just circumstances," said McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Knight's Companies Chevrolet. "We've had good cars, but we haven't had any luck."
The luckless trend looked to continue early in the Sears Auto Center Northern Division event, when, while battling for third with Jack Bailey, McFarland went for a spin in Turn 1. A few laps later, McFarland was tagged with a penalty for a pitting infraction and had to start at the tail end of the longest line. But through it all, the Winchester, Va., native never gave up and took the lead on Lap 218 en route to his first Hooters Pro Cup win of the season and the second of his career.
"When I first spun, I thought it was going to be a struggle to win, but this team never gave up," said McFarland, who became the fifth different winner in five races this season. "They had an awesome pit stop. We came in 11th and came back out fourth or fifth. After that, I knew we had a shot."
McFarland methodically made his way through the field after the setbacks, slipping into second place on Lap 182. But there was still one hurdle in McFarland's way, and it was the same driver that tangled with early in the event.
"Me and Jack have raced together a lot at Old Dominion Speedway in the past, so I knew he didn't mean to get into me earlier in the race," said McFarland. "It so hard to pass here, you've got to lean on people to get around them. He was just doing what he had to do."
The second time the two battled didn't produce any sparks as McFarland easily swept around the high side of Bailey's No. 11 Hour Homes Chevrolet in Turn 1 and never looked back.
"This team is really pumped up now," said McFarland, who has averaged a 21.5 finishing position in the first four races of the season. "They were a little down, wondering if they were doing the right things earlier in the year. But that was just circumstances. Now, they know they were doing the right things."
Bailey also did a lot right on Thursday night. In his first start with Bullet Racing, the Stafford, Va., driver took the lead just after lap 150 and found himself locked in a fierce battle with Woody Howard for the top spot. While the Virginia duo fought for the lead, Howard caught part of an accident on Lap 168 and was forced to pit.
"I knew if we could keep running under caution that I might have a chance," said Bailey.
Another quick caution at Lap 197 allowed Bailey to keep the top spot, but the next 37 laps were run under green, dashing any hopes of Bailey picking up his first Pro Cup win.
"Mark just had the better car," said Bailey. "It kind of felt like I was at Old Dominion Speedway again, because I grew up following him a lot. I'm a racer, and I wanted to win. But this was a good night for us. This whole deal came together so quick. It's an all-volunteer crew, and everybody worked so hard to get this car here tonight."
Third-place finisher Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 7 JEGS.com Chevrolet, was forced to work extra hard during the Farmer's Foods 250 after needing a provisional to make the event.
"I was geared up for qualifying more than usual, and I nearly spun out," said St. Amant. "To start out back like that and come back up front, we're tickled to death to get out of here with a third-place finish."
With his third-place finish, St. Amant pushed himself into a tie for the Northern Division point lead with Clay Rogers.
Jody Lavender, driver of the No. 4 Greased Lightning Ford, continued his strong start to the Sears Auto Center Northern Division season by coming home fourth and moving into third in point standings.
Eric Corbett, driver of the No. 75 Larry & Sons Ford, completed the top five.
Clay Rogers, A.J. Frank, Sam Fullone, Johnny Rumley and Richard Boswell completed the top 10.
The Farmer's Foods 250 was slowed 14 times for 102 laps of caution and featured five lead changes among six drivers.
Farmer's Foods 250 Notebook
The Sears Auto Center Northern Division has a lot of new faces this season, but some of the familiar favorites are feeling a bit lost after two races.
Benny Gordon, Jeff Agnew, Shane Wallace and Johnny Rumley all find themselves outside the top 10 in points after two races.
Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Samuel Metals Ford, has been involved in two accidents, posted finishes of 12th and 30th and dropped to 22nd in points.
Wallace, driver of the No. 38 Sears Auto Center Ford, has finishes of 15th and 21st in the first two events and is currently 14th in points.
Jeff Agnew, driver of the No. 73 Mark IV Suzuki/Team 7 Ford, finished last at South Boston and came home 15th at Shenandoah, dropping him to 19th in points.
Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Snow King Pontiac, sits 11th in points after finishes of 27th and 9th in the first two events.
Jekyll & Hyde
With only one lap in qualifying, most drivers were cautiously-aggressive. Well, except for Gary St. Amant. The normally placid pilot overshot Turn 1 and needed a provisional to make the field. St. Amant did rally to finish third and picked up the Aaron's "Do The Math" Award for advancing the most positions during the event.
"Talk about a Jekyll-and-Hyde day," said St. Amant. "We didn't have a good car in practice. We were loose-in, loose-in. We didn't put tires on during practice, so we thought the car would tighten up with new tires. Then we had shifter problem right before qualifying, and that got me all jacked up. I overshot Turn 1 in qualifying and had to start at the back. I had to run the high side some and the low side some to get back to the front-and dodge all the wrecks. All in all, it was good day."
For the second Northern Division event in a row, a Southern Division interloper has walked away the victor. But after his victory, Mark McFarland believed another driver may have had the best car, albeit a Southern Division car.
"I think Woody Howard would have been tough to beat," said McFarland. "If he didn't have problems, he probably had the best car."
Makes No Difference
Jody Lavender, driver of the No. 4 Greased Lighting Ford, has only competed on two of the tracks in the Northern Division this season. But the former Southern Division driver isn't letting that slow him down any this season. Lavender has finishes of fourth and eighth in the first two events.
"I like coming to new places," said Lavender, who sits third in points. "They're all black and round, so they're all the same."
Going It Alone
When Sam Fullone checked his mirror midway through the Farmer's Foods 250 at Shenandoah Speedway, it was empty.
Fullone, driver of the No. 48 Pero Vegetables Chevrolet, elected stay on the track while many of the leaders completed their stops. But Fullone didn't wait around for the pack to catch up, the North Collins, N.Y., driver checked out on the field and led a race-high 111 laps.
"Everybody was pitting real early, so we stayed out," said Fullone. "We're still looking for marketing partners, so anytime you can get up front and get the TV on you, it's going to help."
Fullone restarted 17th after making his stop and rallied to finish 8th.