Mark McFarland Wins Merchant's Tire & Auto Center 250 Kenly, NC-Tired of knocking on opportunity's door, Mark McFarland kicked it in at Southern National Speedway on Saturday night. After posting five top-five finishes in the last five races,...
Mark McFarland Wins Merchant's Tire & Auto Center 250
Kenly, NC-Tired of knocking on opportunity's door, Mark McFarland kicked it in at Southern National Speedway on Saturday night.
After posting five top-five finishes in the last five races, McFarland took the lead of the Merchant's Tire & Auto Center 250 presented by BFGoodrich Tires on Lap 140 and pulled away from Clay Rogers en route to his first career Hooters Pro Cup victory.
"This feels awesome," said McFarland, driver of the No. 32 WINFUEL Chevy. "We've been waiting and waiting for this to come, but we've been coming up a little bit short. We made few adjustments on the pit stop and crew made a great stop. Once we got out front, the car just had good forward bite."
Throughout the first half of the race, Michael Ritch was the driver with all the forward bite.
Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Jackaroo Ford, made his way around Kirk Leone, who started from the Advance Auto Parts Pole, on Lap 32 and led the next 94 circuits, including the Lucas Oil Products Halfway lap.
After picking up $1,000 for leading at halfway, Ritch's car stopped on the track, bringing out the caution and sending Ritch behind the wall for the night.
"I told my guys around Lap 40 that I was smelling fuel, so I knew it wasn't a good thing," said Ritch. "We got to halfway, and the car started falling off. We had a screw strip out of the carburetor, and we ran it out of fuel. The only way to fix it was to change carburetors, and we didn't have a spare one."
Most of the lead-lap cars came to pit road under the caution brought out by Ritch. Jody Lavender led the field to pit road, but McFarland's crew put him out in front of all pitting cars. Clay Rogers picked up two spots on pit road and followed McFarland back to the track.
McFarland and Rogers would line up behind the out-of-sequence car of Mart Nesbitt, who pitted on Lap 82, for the restart, but McFarland needed just five laps to muscle his way past Nesbitt once the green waved on Lap 135.
Rogers, driver of the No. 44 Johnny's Suzuki/Baird Transport Ford, followed McFarland around Nesbitt and the lead duo began to check out on the rest of the field. Rogers made a few runs at McFarland late in the race, but each time the JR Motorsports driver pulled away.
"We learned a lot at Motor Mile about what adjustments to make to the car to make the tires good on the long run," said McFarland, "but you're always worried when Shane [Huffman] and Clayton [Rogers] are back there."
But there would be no need for McFarland to look in the mirror much in the waning laps as he flashed under the checkered flag 3.097 seconds ahead of Rogers.
"We had a good car tonight, but it didn't seem to show," said Rogers. "It wasn't that good on new tires. But the longer we ran, the better it got. The problem was that [McFarland] didn't seem to fall off any. [McFarland] fell off on the first run, but obviously they made some good adjustments. I'm just happy we've been in contention to win every race we've been in this year."
Huffman has also been in contention to win every race he's entered this year, but it took the Southern Division point leader a little longer to get there.
Huffman, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies/Merchant's Tire & Auto Center Ford, pitted twice to fix an ill-handling race car and dropped to 21st before rallying to finish third.
"We had a great car in practice," said Huffman. "We just missed on the sway bar setting for the race, and it came back to haunt us. I'm aggravated that it happened, but you win as team, and you lose as a team. We didn't give up, and the team picked us up a bunch of spots on pit road, so it ended up being a good night for us."
Jody Lavender, driver of the No. 84 H&R Block Ford, also had a good night. Lavender qualified third and ran amongst the leaders until dropping to fourth at the finish.
"On that last long run, I lost my brakes," said Lavender. "I think we had one of the better cars here had we not had that brake problem. But fourth ain't bad with a new car."
Richard Landreth, driver of the No. 15 Romeo Guest/Lemons Auto Parts Ford, rounded out the top five and picked up $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race.
Kirk Leone, driver of the No. 52 Heritage Bank Ford, started from the Advance Auto Parts Pole and finished a career-best sixth.
Daniel Johnson brought his Raleigh-Durham Check Cashers Pontiac home in seventh after starting 26th and picked up the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award.
In addition to the $10,000 winner's check, McFarland picked up $500 for winning the Greased Lightning "Blast the Pack" Award for leading a race- high 110 laps.
Michael Faulk, Jason Sarvis and Chase Pistone completed the top 10.
The Merchants Tire & Auto Center 250 featured six lead changes among five drivers and was slowed seven times for 62 laps of caution.
Merchants Tire & Auto Center 250 Notebook
Sealing the Deal
Richard Landreth, driver of the No. 15 Romeo Guest Construction Ford, has been fast at every race he's competed in this season. In the Merchants Tire & Auto Center 250 at Southern National Speedway, Landreth finally got a finish that was indicative of how he ran.
"Our finishes haven't showed the way we've been running this season," said Landreth. "We've had some mechanical problems and some back luck here and there, but tonight we we're able to finish the race. We had a good car. We didn't have anything for the guys ahead of us. But we'll take fifth, go to South Boston and see what we can do."
Late in the Merchants Tire & Auto Center 250, rookies Chase Pistone and Michael Faulk were battling for seventh position when the two made contact. Pistone dropped from eighth to 10th at the finish, while Faulk continued to finish eighth.
"We we're real loose towards the end of the race," said Pistone, driver of the No. 40 Metrolina Expo Center Ford. "I was racing Michael clean on the outside, and he just put us in the fence on the last lap. It wasn't too bad, we finished 10th, but we should have finished eighth. Now, we know how to race [Faulk]."
Pistone still holds a 40-point lead over Faulk in the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year standings in the Southern Division.
One Bite at a Time
Mark McFarland's win in the Merchants Tire & Auto Center 250 at Southern National Speedway pushed him to second in the points, 93 behind Shane Huffman.
McFarland left the first race of the season sitting 20th in points after a DNF. Since then, he's picked up 18 spots in points over the last nine races.
Modified ace L.W. Miller made his Hooters Pro Cup debut in the Merchants Tire & Auto Center 250 at Southern National Speedway. Unfortunately, it was very brief.
Miller was involved in the Lap 9 caution and parked his No. 19n Discount Furniture Connection Pontiac on Lap 11.