USAR: Illiana: Race report

Jeff Agnew Wins Bakker Produce 250 Veteran beats flu, Gordon to take second win Schererville, IN -- Before the Bakker Produce 250 presented by Greased Lightning even started, Jeff Agnew wasn't sure he would be able to finish. After the race, he...

Jeff Agnew Wins Bakker Produce 250
Veteran beats flu, Gordon to take second win

Schererville, IN -- Before the Bakker Produce 250 presented by Greased Lightning even started, Jeff Agnew wasn't sure he would be able to finish. After the race, he was glad he did.

Suffering from flu-like symptoms much of the day and forced to retreat to his team's transporter before the start of the race, Agnew went as far to ask Brian Ross to be on standby if he couldn't make it the entire night.

Luckily for Agnew, Ross wouldn't be needed.

Agnew, driver of the No. 73 NGA Hooters Golf Tour Pontiac, was able to hold off Benny Gordon to win the Bakker Produce 250 presented by Greased Lightning Saturday night at Illiana Motor Speedway despite his illness, putting a bright spot on a month that's seen the Floyd, Va., driver post two consecutive DNFs.

"I got to feeling a little ill when we got on the airplane [Friday]," said Agnew, who celebrated a birthday on Wednesday. "We had had such a good car tonight. If I would have been feeling good, it would have been pretty easy. I am just proud of all the guys. We've had such a terrible year. We have run really well all year, but we haven't had any luck."

Agnew's luck appeared it was going to remain dire as the race approached the 200-lap mark.

"I didn't think we were going to make it to the end," said Agnew. "We had a terrible vibration on the right-front tire. I don't know how many more laps we would have made it."

Despite the chattering tire, Agnew appeared to be en route to an unchallenged victory.

"Even with whatever was going on with the right front, we still had a good enough car to pull away from them," said Agnew.

But Agnew would see the field pack in after a late-race caution bunched the field for a restart on Lap 240.

"I didn't want to see any cautions, much less the last one," said Agnew.

With Agnew's ride trembling, Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford, mounted a challenge, pulling to the rear bumper of No. 73 Pontiac with less than 10 to go. But the Northern Division point leader was unable to rattle Agnew's cage over the final laps and finished .545 seconds shy of picking up his fifth win of the season.

"I'll tell you what, I had several chances to turn Jeff around there at the end," said Gordon, who led 17 laps, "but Gary [St. Amant] had a couple of chances to turn me around there at the end, and he didn't. It was just good to see Jeff, Gary and Johnny Rumley all running well. Those guys are great drivers, but they've had some bad luck this season. It is so much fun to race with those guys up front, and there was a lot of respect among the top five."

And Agnew was thankful for the sportsmanship displayed by Gordon.

"I have to thank Benny, though, he could have roughed us up there at the end, but he didn't," said Agnew, who led a race-high 232 laps. "I know Benny is going to race me hard, and he's going to rub you a little, but I'm going to do the same thing. It's not a situation where we worry about wrecking each other at the end of the race."

Had the lead battle erupted, Gary St. Amant was poised to pick up his first win of the season. St. Amant, driver of the No. 11 Chevrolet, qualified a season-best second for the event and led the first lap of the race. Throughout the night, St. Amant remained a fixture in the top-five before coming home with his fourth podium finish of the season.

"Jeff had a great racecar tonight," said St. Amant, who finished third. "Our car got a little bit better on the long run, but I don't think it was good enough to catch Jeff."

Mardy Lindley, driver of the No. 16 Hooters Air Ford, came across the line in fourth, keeping intact his 11-race top-10 streak. Unfortunately for Lindley, he failed to close the 35-point gap on Gordon for the Northern Division point lead.

"We missed the set up, and the car was awful," said Lindley. "I'm really puzzled that we finished that good, but that is the way our season has been going."

Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevy, finally had some luck go his way at Illiana. Rumley qualified sixth and finished fifth, giving the Summerfield, N.C., driver his first top-five finish since the third race of the season.

"We basically had a fifth-place car," said Rumley. "I'm proud of our team, because they had a hell of a pit stop. We had a little bit of brake problem there at the end, but I adjusted the brakes and it helped. I don't know what the problem was. I don't think it cost us. We had a fifth-place car, and that's were we finished."

Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy, finished sixth, but his car was much better than its finish.

After losing an engine in qualifying, the rookie point leader was forced to start at the back of the field after an engine swap. Howard rumbled into the top five before losing a few spots during a late-race caution.

"I checked up for that wreck, and a couple of guys got by me," said Howard. "I thought we had a top-five car, but, overall, it was a good night. We'd never been here before, so we can't complain about finishing sixth."

Mart Nesbitt, driver of the No. 88 Blue Cross Blue Shield Ford, took the checkered flag in seventh.

A.J. Frank, Tim Bainey Jr. and Shelby Howard completed the top 10.

The Bakker Produce 250 was slowed 12 times for 60 laps of caution and featured four lead changes among three drivers.

Bakker Produce 250 Notebook

Mo' Money
Jeff Agnew racked up $3,000 in bonus money in the Bakker Produce 250 at Illiana Speedway. Agnew took home $1,000 for winning the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award, $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader, $500 for taking the Tucson Win from the Pole Award and $500 more for picking up the Greased Lightning Blast the Pack Award for leading a race-high 232 laps.

Miller Lite Night
Woody Howard's day started with an engine swap, but the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Northern Division point leader finished the night as the highest-finishing rookie in the Bakker Produce 250 at Illiana Speedway. Howard picked $1,000 for his fifth rookie-of-the-race award.

Rough Night for Rush
Lonnie Rush Jr., driver of the No. 71 Ray Skillman Auto Chevy, has been the feel-good story of the Northern Division this season. Running on a shoe-string budget, Rush has had posted three top-10 finishes in the last three races.

Rush, who qualified eighth, appeared to be ready to push that total to four in the Bakker Produce 250 at Illiana Speedway, but an on-track altercation dropped him to 21st at the finish.

"We were holding our own there, then the lapped cars decided to run me in the fence going down the backstretch," said Rush. "The [No.] 93 car checked up, and I checked up to miss him, and somebody ran into the back of me. That's just racing. It's unfortunate because we've had a good string of races. We had a good car tonight, but we didn't need this."

Back in Blackstock
Roger Blackstock, driver of the No. 1 Dodge Performance Dodge, made just his second start of the season in the Bakker Produce 250 at Illiana Speedway on Saturday night count.

Blackstock rallied form his 27th-starting spot to finish 15th and picked up $500 for being the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger.

Top-10 for Tim
Tim Bainey Jr., driver of the No. 15 Greased Lightning Ford, posted his third top-10 finish of the season in the Bakker Produce 250 at Illiana Speedway. After qualifying 14th, Bainey finished ninth.

"We ran in the top 10 all night," said Bainey. "We still trying to get this car figured out. It hasn't been the same since we got in a wreck at Lake Erie. It's getting there, though. We're trying to get back in the top 10 in points. If we can do that, we'll be happy about the regular season."

Clean Slate
Jeff Agnew may have dropped a few pounds in his bout with the flu, but he lost his hair in an effort to change his luck. Agnew sported a Mr. Clean look when he arrived for the running of the Bakker Produce 250 at Illiana Speedway.

"You may not ever see me with any hair," Agnew said after his win. "I don't care how I look as long as we win."


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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Shelby Howard , Brian Ross , A.J. Frank , Tim Bainey Jr. , Johnny R , Jeff Agnew