Holman Wins Aaron's 150; McFarland, Robbins Take Titles Local driver wins first Hooters Pro Cup race on the grandest of stages Bristol, Tenn.-Caleb Holman didn't have a lot of fond memories of Bristol Motor Speedway before the Wednesday, August...
Holman Wins Aaron's 150; McFarland, Robbins Take Titles
Local driver wins first Hooters Pro Cup race on the grandest of stages
Bristol, Tenn.-Caleb Holman didn't have a lot of fond memories of Bristol Motor Speedway before the Wednesday, August 20 running of the Aaron's 150.
He missed a Nationwide event by .001 of a second several years ago. The Abingdon, Va., native missed another Nationwide race when qualifying was snowed out in 2006. In his three prior Hooters Pro Cup starts at BMS, Holman's best finish was 19th.
But those are all distant recollections now.
Holman started third in the 40-car field, slipped past Allen Purkhiser on Lap 54 and beat Benny Gordon to the finish line by 1.715 seconds to pick up his first Hooters Pro Cup win.
"I can't believe it," said Holman, driver of the No. 75s Food Country Chevrolet. "We didn't back into this one. We didn't have anybody fall out. We didn't have to have anything crazy happen. We just had a fast piece tonight."
Once Holman took the lead, he had two former BMS winners in tow. Benny Gordon, the defending race winner, and Clay Rogers, the 2005 winner, tried to run down Holman as the race neared the 100-lap mark. But even when Holman's sizable lead was erased for the final caution of the night on Lap 133, neither had anything for Holman.
"Caleb was just a little bit better than us tonight," said Gordon, driver of the No. 66n Samuel Metals Ford. "We made a lot of changes to the car right after practice. We made the car better, but we didn't have the car to beat Caleb tonight."
Rogers, driver of the No. 54s C&C Boiler Chevrolet, took second from Gordon briefly, but he was forced to make a late-race, unscheduled pit stop and fell to eighth.
James Buescher, driver of the No. 84s Mercedes Homes Chevrolet, finished third after starting 15th, giving the 18-year-old driver five top-10 finishes in six starts this season.
"We just stayed patient tonight and worked ourselves up through the field," said Buescher. "We kept the nose clean and were there at the end. We didn't have enough to get by Benny or Caleb, but we had a pretty good car."
Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55n Dean Motorsports Chevrolet, continued his strong second half of the season by coming home fourth after starting 25th.
Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 29s Chevy Racing Chevrolet, received damage in one of the first cautions of the night, made numerous pit stops and rallied to finish fifth.
Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Sears Auto Center Chevrolet, came into the Aaron's 150 with a 44-point lead over Michael Ritch in the Southern Division-and he needed most of them.
McFarland had suspension problems and went behind the wall early. However, his Pete Knight Racing teammates were able to get him back on the track and McFarland came home 22nd. Ritch finished four spots ahead of McFarland, but it wasn't enough to overtake McFarland for the Greased Lightning Southern Division title. McFarland received a $15,000 bonus for his regular season title and a 25-point bonus heading into the Championship Series.
Hunter Robbins, who came into the event leading Drew Herring by 26 points in the Southern Division rookie of the year battle, had problems at the end of the event and finished 21st. But that was better than Herring's night. After starting 11th, Herring was part of a first-lap melee and finished 38th. Robbins took home a $10,000 bonus for being the Miller Lite Southern Division Rookie of the Year.
"That's not the way we wanted to win the award, but we are happy to win the [Southern Division] Rookie of the Year. I have to thank all my guys who have worked hard on this car every week," said Robbins. "I knew once we started shaking the bad luck we would be alright. Winning at Hickory has been the highlight of the season, but the Rookie Award means a lot, too."
But even with the regular-season titles being settled at BMS, the night belonged to Holman. Years of frustration and demons were cast aside in one dominating performance at the Mecca of short tracks.
"It's going to take a few days for this to sink in," said Holman, who won $11,400. "I can't thank my dad and the Hendersons [car owners] for their support. I'm so proud of this team. I always thought we could win in the Hooters Pro Cup Series, but I never thought our first win would come at Bristol. But there's not a better place to do it at."
Aaron's 150 Notebook
Life after Death
It's been James Harris' lifelong dream to tackle the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway. The Bluefield, Va., man passed away before he had the opportunity, but Benny Gordon, the 2007 BMS winner, made sure that dream came true, albeit posthumously.
Gordon's crew strapped a canister carrying Harris' ashes inside the No. 66n Samuel Metals Ford during the first practice session for the Aaron's 150.
"This is huge for them and obviously something that this man wanted and he was a huge fan. Without people like him, I wouldn't be able to enjoy what I do." said Gordon.
With many of Harris' family looking on, Gordon lapped the high banks several times in the 120-mph range.
"This is one thing that he always wanted to do all of his life. When he passed away I said I'm going to get him in a car, someway, somewhere," said Harris' wife Donna.
Moving On Up
Caleb Holman was probably too excited after his win in the Aaron's 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway to realize that he jumped from eighth to third in the final Greased Lightning Southern Division standings. Holman finished last season 15th in the regular season.
With his win in the Aaron's 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Caleb Holman became the fifth, first-time winner this season in the Hooters Pro Cup Series, joining Danny Abold, Derek Kale, Mikey Kile and Hunter Robbins.
How tight was the field in the Aaron's 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway? Real tight.
The top 32 in Awesome Awnings Pole qualifying were separated by just .395 of a second. To make the race on time, the Northern Division drivers had to be within .395 seconds of the top Northern qualifier, while the Southern Division drivers had to be within .300 seconds of pole-winner Wade Day.
Caleb Holman went the entire distance of the Aaron's 150 on his right-side BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials.Allen Purkhiser turned the fastest lap of the event on the 15th circuit. Purkhiser lapped BMS in 15.811 seconds at 121.359 mph, which was nearly a .100 of a second quicker than he qualified.
Caleb Holman's wife has seen the affect that Bristol Motor Speedway had on her husband over the years. The heartbreak was so tough on several occasions that she hoped her husband would forgo competing at BMS forever.
"She's always on me about 'we're never going to back to Bristol,'" said Holman. "I told my wife, 'one of these days it's going to turn around.' I've got a fifth, a first and a bunch of DNFs here, but now I've got a win. Maybe our luck has changed, I hope so."