Wisconsin driver Brian Hoppe, a part-time competitor with the Sunoco Super Series, brought home the colors for the north in holding off Georgia's Ricky Turner's late rush to win the first ever Patriot 200 at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway on...
Wisconsin driver Brian Hoppe, a part-time competitor with the Sunoco Super Series, brought home the colors for the north in holding off Georgia's Ricky Turner's late rush to win the first ever Patriot 200 at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway on Saturday.
The Patriot 200 featured regulars with the Sunoco Super Series and Southern All Stars in a north-south challenge. Drivers from the north took seven of the top ten positions.
Hoppe earned a starting spot in Sunday's ASA BFGoodrich Traction T/A Tires 300 with the victory. He will start 21st in the 40-car field in a Wal Tom Racing Chevrolet sponsored by CITGO. The car was driven to victory two weeks ago in the Pep Boys 300 at Salem Speedway by Robbie Pyle
Hoppe led the final 51 laps, but had to hang on for the win, holding off a fast closing Turner over the final ten laps. Turner, who scored a Southern All-Star win at Nashville Speedway in May, stopped twice for tires and was running fourth after 169 laps when he made a late charge to the front.
Following the final restart on lap 181, Hoppe built up a lead over fellow Wisconsin driver Charlie Menard as Turner sped past Russell Fleeman for third and passed Menard for second with 12 laps remaining.
With one lap remaining Turner got to the outside of Hoppe coming off of Turn 2 and inched ahead for the lead. Entering Turn 3, Hoppe held to the bottom line and was able to pull even coming off the fourth corner.
Hoppe had just enough grip and horsepower to edge Turner at the checkers by 0.018 seconds for the victory. Georgia driver Freeman finished third followed by Menard and Kentucky driver Chuck Barnes Jr., the 2003 Sunoco Super Series Rookie Of The Year, came home in fifth. Northern drivers Eddie Hoffman and Bobby Murany finished sixth and seventh with southern driver Stanley Smith, a former NASCAR Winston Cup competitor finishing eight. Rounding out the top ten was Northern drivers Ron Breese Jr. and Jeff Lane who both scored Sunoco Super Series wins during the 2003 season.
Fleeman won the second of two qualifying races and started 34th in the 40-car field working his way to the front and make a late attempt to take the lead when his tires went away.
"I thought he had me passed," said Hoppe. " Ricky (Turner) had better tires, but I concentrated on holding my line. He raced me clean coming off the fourth corner or I wouldn't have won."
Turner said he couldn't make a move to the inside of Hoppe with ten laps remaining, but was blocked by a lapped car.
"Once I got the line on him, I thought I had him," said Turner. "He just beat me coming off the corner."
Outside pole sitter J.R. Norris led the first 27 laps when he broke a shifter on a restart and was finished for the night.
Georgia driver Wayne Willard dominated from lap 68 through 119 building up more than a six-second lead. Following a pit stop his Chevrolet came to a stop in Turn two with an electrical problem.
Hoppe led early in the race but was passed on lap 52 by Erik Darnell with an inside move going down the front straight. He retook the lead on lap 159 by moving to the outside of Menard going down the back straight to lead to the finish.
The race was slowed for a total of 62 laps by eight caution periods. There were eight lead changes among six drivers.