USAR: Valdosta CS: Race report

Gordon has change of luck, wins Dan Duncan Memorial Travel Country RV 250 Northern Champ moves to second in points Cecil, Ga.-Benny Gordon won five of the first 11 races he entered this season and then went into a tailspin. Over the last seven...

Gordon has change of luck, wins Dan Duncan Memorial Travel Country RV 250
Northern Champ moves to second in points

Cecil, Ga.-Benny Gordon won five of the first 11 races he entered this season and then went into a tailspin. Over the last seven races, Gordon was shut out of victory lane and averaged a 19.14 finish.

The slide was a combination bad luck, mechanical gremlins and missed setups, but none of those issues slowed Gordon down at South Georgia Motorsports Park on Saturday night.

Gordon, driver of the No. 66n Predator Performance Ford, took the lead from Gary St. Amant on Lap 106 and cruised to victory in the rain-shortened Dan Duncan Memorial Travel Country RV 250.

"The car was coming to the front from the opening laps," said Gordon, who started sixth in the 37-car field. "I ran first and second down and passed them really easy, and my lap times were really fast. I wasn't even hustling the car, so I knew I had a good car. It was just a matter of getting a break and not having something happen to the car."

Nothing happened to Gordon's car, but the top three in points couldn't say the same at SGMP.

Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 44s Automotive Development Group Ford, had won three races in a row and built a 191-point lead coming into the Travel Country RV 250, but he didn't get a chance at making it four in a row. Rogers was swept up into a melee on Lap 137.

"It was just a product of this race track being so hard to pass on," said Rogers, who finished 27th. "You can be a half second faster than the guy in front of you, and you can't do anything, so people get frustrated.

"St. Amant got turned around by somebody getting into [Turn] 1, and everybody started jumping on the brakes. We had it cleared then somebody came down the track, caught us in the right side and turned us sideways. I hit Bobby Gill and then turned straight into the inside wall."

With Rogers sidelined, Woody Howard, who was 191 points behind Rogers, and Shelby Howard, who was 193 points behind Rogers, were in a position to gain ground on the leader at SGMP. Instead, they tangled with each other battling for second position. The contact sent Woody spinning and Shelby into the outside wall, ending their chances to gain ground on Rogers. Woody came back to finish eighth, but Shelby dropped to 15th at the finish. The crash also allowed Gordon to leapfrog over both drivers into second in points.

"[Clay Rogers] had already fallen out the race, and [Woody and Shelby] really needed to have good finish so they could have a shot at Lakeland, but they wiped each other out," said Gordon, who closed to within 141 points of Rogers. "I think that takes them out of contention."

Actually, everyone is out of contention for the title, unless Rogers doesn't show up at USA Int'l Speedway for the season finale. All Rogers needs to do is take the green flag to win the championship.

With the top three eliminated early at SGMP, a host of new faces joined the chase at the front of the field.

Dange Hanniford, driver of the No. 65s Mac Hill Motorsports Chevrolet, started ninth and hovered around the top five for much of the night. But as the laps wore down, Hanniford started to close the gap on Gordon before rain halted the race on Lap 226.

"I think, if the race had gone green the rest of the way, we could have given him a run for his money," said Hanniford, who finished a career-best second. "We've had good runs in past, but something always happened. We went to Myrtle Beach and ran in the top 10 all night and finished seventh. We came here and ran in the top five all night and ended up second. I can't complain. I think it's all coming together. I'm just thankful for the opportunity Jack McNealy and Tony Lambert have given me and all the hard work the guys do in the shop."

With his second-place finish, Hanniford moved to within 30 points of Derek Kale in the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year standings.

A.J. Frank, driver of the No. 11n Ohio Technical College Pontiac, matched his best finish of the season by finishing third. With the podium finish, Frank jumped to fifth in points.

"It was great night for us," said Frank. "I've got to thank the whole Bullet race team. We've never set foot on this racetrack before tonight, and it was a good finish. We probably moved into the top five in points and have a cushion going into Lakeland, so we're excited."

Ken Butler III was another driver to post a career-best finish in the Travel Country RV 250. Butler, driver of the No. 00n Aaron's Dream Machine, started 16th and finished the night in fourth position.

"We really had a good racecar tonight," said Butler, whose previous best finish was fifth. "The car got tight on long runs, but I was able to avoid the big wrecks. It was just an awesome night for our team and Aaron's."

Daniel Johnson, driver of the No. 3 Johnson Motorsports Pontiac, picked up his second top-five finish of the Championship Series by coming home fifth. Johnson's finish pushed him to sixth in the overall standings.

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 51s Joe Gibbs Racing Oil Chevrolet, finished sixth; Andrew Rogers, driver of the No. 18s Termidor Pontiac, finished seventh; Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55n Dean Motorsports Chevrolet, came home eighth; Lonnie Rush Jr., driver of the No. 71n Leavitt Racing Components Chevrolet, finished ninth; and Derek Kale, driver of the No. 22n Heritage Equipment Chevrolet, completed the top 10.

The Travel Country RV 250 featured five lead changes among four drivers and was slowed 13 times for 85 laps of caution.

Travel Country RV 250 Notebook

Underdog Gaining Ground

Daniel Johnson, driver of the No. 3s Johnson Motorsports Pontiac, is the battling the behemoths of the Hooters Pro Cup Series with a small budget and big dreams. But after his fifth-place finish in the Travel Country RV 250, Johnson vaulted into sixth in the standings, bypassing drivers like Gary St. Amant, Johnny Rumley, Shane Wallace, Jeff Agnew and Jay Fogleman.

"It was a good night for Johnson Motorsports," said Johnson, who started 31st. "I knew we had a better car than where we qualified, but I messed up in qualifying and hit the wall. The crew made some good stops tonight. The car wasn't handling the way we wanted it to at the start of the race, but the crew kept working on it and they got it fast."

Johnson grabbed the Aaron's Hard Charger Award for advancing 26 positions during the race.

Needing 41

It would likely take a 41-car starting field at USA Int'l Speedway for Clay Rogers to lose the title. As it stands now, Rogers has a 141-point lead over Benny Gordon heading into the season finale and needs to just take the green flag to wrap up the title.

Even if Gordon won, led a lap, led the most laps, led at halfway and picked up the hard charger award, he would still finish 25 points behind Rogers, if Rogers finishes last in a 36-car field.

Restoring Faith

Clay Rogers and Benny Gordon have had a testy relationship at times over the season, but Gordon's team lent Rogers a helping hand at SGMP. Gordon's Predator Performance teammates joined forces with Rogers' team repair the No. 44s Automotive Development Group Ford.

"I've got to thank Benny's guys, because they came over and helped us get everything back on our car where it needed to be," said Rogers. "They showed a lot of sportsman-like conduct by doing that."

Beer Battle

Derek Kale, driver of the No. 22n Heritage Equipment Chevrolet, took control of the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year battle by finishing 10th in the Travel Country RV 250. Kale is 30 points ahead of Justin Hobgood, driver of the No. 16s Naturally Fresh Ford, and Dange Hanniford, driver of the No. 65s Mac Hill Motorsports Chevrolet, going into the final race of the season.

With the slim margin, the rookie battle will likely come down to the last lap of the season-finale Hooters 300. If Kale finished 10th at USA Int'l Speedway, Hobgood or Hanniford would have to finish third to beat him.

40% Dixie

While it appears Clay Rogers will bring the Hooters Pro Cup Series Championship trophy back below the Mason-Dixon Line, he may be just one of four drivers from the Southern Division to finish inside the top 10. Going into the season finale, Daniel Johnson, Bobby Gill and Shane Wallace are the only other Southern Division drivers inside the top 10.

-credit: usar

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Shelby Howard , Ken Butler III , Justin Hobgood , Joey Logano , A.J. Frank , Johnny R , Jeff Agnew
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing