USAR: Bristol: Race report

Benny Gordon Wins Food City 150 Northern Division interloper takes final Southern Division race Bristol, Tenn.-Benny Gordon wasn't crowned the Northern Division champion for the first time in four years this season, but his win in ...

Benny Gordon Wins Food City 150
Northern Division interloper takes final Southern Division race

Bristol, Tenn.-Benny Gordon wasn't crowned the Northern Division champion for the first time in four years this season, but his win in Wednesday night's Food City 150 presented by Naturally Fresh at Bristol Motor Speedway surely eased his pain.

Gordon took the lead when race-leader Wade Day bounced off the wall on Lap 86 and then fought off Chase Pistone on a green-white-checkered finish en route to his third win of the season and the 24th of his career. But it was the fact that Gordon had finally conquered Bristol that made his smile a bit wider.

"We've always run well here over the years, but we've never been able to win," said Gordon, driver of the No. 66n Samuel Metals Ford. "It's really cool to be the first person to win on the new surface here. I don't know that we had the best car here. But once we got out front, our car was really good."

Chase Pistone's car was pretty good, too. Pistone, driver of the No. 54 C&C Boiler Chevrolet, took a shot at Gordon on the final restart, but he came up .300 of a second shy of his second victory of the year. Pistone's second- place finish was his first top-five finish since his third-place effort at Peachstate Speedway five races ago.

"This was really important for our team," said Pistone, who dropped from first to seventh in points during the mid-season slump. "Hopefully, this will get everybody pumped up heading into Mansfield for the Championship Series."

Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 29 Chevy Racing/DEI Chevrolet, continued his recent upswing by finishing third on Wednesday night. Bayne marched from 23rd to finish second in the 150-lap affair. Bayne's podium finish solidified his second-place seed going into the Championship Series.

"We had an awesome run here tonight," said Bayne, who finished the regular season with four top-five finishes, including his first win. "I really wanted the win tonight, especially after leading laps here last year. We had an early draw in qualifying, and that hurt us. But we were able to fight back from 23rd to finish third. I think we kept second in the points, so it was a good night all around."

While Bayne held onto second, several of the other top drivers didn't fair too well during the Food City 150.

Michael Ritch, driver of the No. 28 Naturally Fresh/Jackaroo Ford, started from the pole and led the first six circuits before coming to pit under the first caution. Ritch lost two laps making his stop and had to settle for 19th at the end of the night. Even with his mid-pack finish, Ritch clinched the Aaron's Southern Division title.

Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Chevrolet, took over the lead after Ritch's misfortune. But his time out front was just as short as Ritch's. As McFarland attempted to come to pit road on Lap 13, his car stalled and never re-fired, dropping him to 36th at the finish.

Rookie Eric Humphries, driver of the No. 33 American Metals Ford, elected not to pit with the leaders early in the event and inherited the lead. But after leading 17 laps in his first Pro Cup start, Humphries gave way to Day on Lap 30.

Day, driver of the No. 96 Lopez Wealth Management Ford, was able to pull away from the field after taking the lead, but he would be the third leader of the night to suffer problems. Coming off Turn 2, Day's car shot up the track and tagged the wall, ending his chances at victory and the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year for the Southern Division.

Matt Hawkins, driver of the No. 2 H&H Electric Ford, looked to have rookie title in hand early in the race, but he was caught up in an accident on Lap 46 and limped home 22nd.

Rookie Richard Boswell, driver of the No. 88 Champion Chevrolet, took advantage of his fellow rookies' struggles by finishing eighth and clinching the $10,000 bonus for being the top rookie during the Southern Division regular season.

Shelby Howard and Bobby Gill completed the top five.

The Food City 150 featured four lead changes among four drivers and was slowed 11 times for 53 laps of caution.

The Champion

Sure, Michael Ritch wasn't too happy to be sitting on pit road as the field rocketed around Bristol Motor Speedway during the Food City 150. But even the unscheduled stop that took him out of contention couldn't dampen his mood.

"We've had a great car all year, and I'm tickled to death to win the Southern Division championship," said Ritch, who started from the Awesome Awnings Pole. "Bristol is a great place for us to come race, but Bristol is not the big picture on my or my team's mind right this moment. These last five races are what determine the USAR Hooters Pro Cup National Champion. That's our goal."

And it looks like an attainable one for Ritch, especially if he can string together five races like he did in the middle part of the regular season.

After starting the season with a mechanical failure at USA Int'l, the veteran driver reeled off finishes of second, eighth, second, first and first over the next five races. The scary thing is that it could have been better.

"It's not like we lucked into the Southern title; we dominated a lot of the year," said Ritch. "There are several races where I made a couple of mistakes and got black flagged while I was leading when we pretty much had the race won. It happened at Concord and South Georgia."

The only blemishes on Ritch's season came in the final two races. Ritch finished 28th at Hickory and 19th at Bristol. By grabbing a 25-point bonus for the Southern title, Ritch will have the luxury of a mulligan during the Championship Series, but he can't afford two lackluster efforts. Ritch doesn't think that'll be a problem.

"It's taken us six years, but this is a Championship-caliber team now," said Ritch. "I feel real comfortable going into the last five races."

The Rookie

Richard Boswell and his JR Motorsports teammates had a goal to start the regular season: win the Aaron's Southern Division rookie title.

But when he pulled his car behind pit wall after his eighth-place finish in the Food City 150, the rookie still wasn't sure if they had achieved that goal.

Boswell, driver of the No. 88 Champion Chevrolet, came into the final Aaron's Southern Division race trailing Matt Hawkins, driver of the No. 2 H&H Electric Ford, by 23 points in the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year race. Hawkins had problems early in the event and finished 22nd, and once the final points were tallied, Boswell edged Hawkins by nine points for the $10,000 bonus.

"Winning the rookie title is great; it was our goal at the beginning of the year," said Boswell. "We've had a lot of bad luck this year, but to even have a shot at the title coming into Bristol was awesome. We were able to capitalize on a lot of the [rookies'] misfortunes tonight, and I'm real happy we did."

After three races, Boswell was fifth in points. But after finishes of 24th and 28th at Peachstate and Myrtle Beach, Boswell dropped to 11th in the standings with two races remaining. Boswell didn't fold, however.

In the final three races, Boswell finished eighth, 11th and eighth to take the Southern Division rookie title and move to ninth in the regular season final standings. With one goal down, the JR Motorsports group will try to check off a few more in the Championship Series.

"We want to win a race. That was one of our goals at the beginning of the year," said Boswell. "Shane [Huffman] and Mark [McFarland] have shown over the last couple of years that this team was capable of winning races. I'm a little disappointed not to have won yet, but this is a team with a rookie driver and rookie crew chief. We'll just get ready for the Championship Series, and maybe we can come away with a win there and get the overall rookie title."

Food City 150 Notebook

Glad To Have You Back
Danny O'Quinn Jr. was always a favorite in the garage area during his three- year stint in the Hooters Pro Cup Series, so it was nice to see the gentle giant make a cameo in the Food City 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

O'Quinn, driving the No. 45n Speedco Ford for Odle Motorsports, started 19th and finished 28th after developing mechanical problems. Later that night, O'Quinn finished 10th in the Craftsman Truck Series event. The Coeburn, Va., driver ended his weekend with an 18th-place finish in the Food City 250, driving for Mac Hill Motorsports.

Sigh of Relief
Benny Gordon has plenty of memories from Bristol Motor Speedway. But until his win in the Food City 150, one stood out more than others.

"I was here in an All-Pro car back in 1997. I was borderline of the making the field, so I really had to hammer down," said Gordon. "I lost the car during the qualifying and hit the wall hard. It was one heck of an accident. I've been real [at Bristol] successful since then, but had never won a race. We got it done tonight."

Brighter Days
Wade Day appeared well on his way to a breakout win in the Food City 150, but the bright day turned bleak on Lap 85. Day, who led 56 laps in the middle stages of the race, cut a tire and pounded the Turn 2 wall, dropping him to 30th at the finish.

"The car started to get tight right before that," said Day. "I must have run over something and started losing air. They say Bristol can bite you, well, it did."

-credit: usar

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Trevor Bayne , Shelby Howard , Mark McFarland , Danny O'Quinn , Richard Boswell
Teams JR Motorsports