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USAR: Indy IRP: Race report

USAR: Indy IRP: Race report

Jeff Agnew Wins Lucas Oil 200 Indianapolis, IN-After suffering through a dismal day at Lonesome Pine Raceway two weeks ago, Jeff Agnew had a change of fortune at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Sunday afternoon. Agnew, driver of the No. 73 NGA ...

Jeff Agnew Wins Lucas Oil 200

Indianapolis, IN-After suffering through a dismal day at Lonesome Pine Raceway two weeks ago, Jeff Agnew had a change of fortune at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Sunday afternoon.

Agnew, driver of the No. 73 NGA Hooters Golf Tour Ford, made his way past Mardy Lindley with 42 laps remaining in the Lucas Oil 200 presented by Hare Auto Group at Indianapolis Raceway Park and beat A.J. Frank by 3.069 sec. en route to his 10th career victory.

"I thought we had a pretty good car yesterday in practice, but that car really ran today," said Agnew, who was driving a new car at IRP. "Everybody has worked real hard to get our program back to where it should be. My car owner is making sure we have everything we need. Elvin Rector has come on board with us, and he knows a lot from working on Mardy [Lindley's] car. He built that car, and it meant a lot to come out here and win this race."

It meant that Agnew, who finished last at Lonesome Pine Raceway, went from the outhouse to the penthouse in the matter of just one race. Unfortunately for Joel Kauffman, he did the opposite.

After picking up his first win of the season at LPR, Kauffman ran in the top 10 for most of the day before his engine let go with 31 laps remaining.

"We were way off early in the race, and we short-pitted to get some track position," said Kauffman, driver of the No. 44 ABC Truck Bodies Pontiac. "We made a lot of changes on that stop. I really thought we had something to work with about 75 laps left in the race. I don't know if everybody was falling off, but we started to get some momentum going, then the engine expired. We've had awesome motors this season, but I think we broke a cam or something."

If Kauffman's powerplant had made the distance, the youngster, who trailed Gordon by 20 points coming into the event, was poised to take over the point lead after Benny Gordon cut down a tire on Lap 143. Ironically, it was contact with Kauffman that sent Northern Division point leader to the pits.

As the two battled for position at the entrance of Turn 1, Gordon tried to squeeze under Kauffman, but he ran out of room.

"I got up a little in the corner. But at the same time, he cut down the track," said Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford. "He didn't cut me much room, and I didn't cut him much room. It just wasn't a real smart move for both of us at that point in the race."

A.J. Frank, who was third in the points coming in to IRP, made the most of the point leaders' misfortune.

Frank, who qualified 17th, fell to the rear of the field for the start of the race after his No. 45 American IronHorse Ford needed a new clutch following qualifying. Unfazed, Frank carefully crept his way into contention.

On Lap 117, Frank muscled his way past Shelby Howard, driver of the No. 20 Tony Stewart's Smoke Bar-B-Que Sauce Pontiac, for second spot. Frank briefly dropped to third as Agnew marched to the front, but he followed Agnew past Lindley to pick up his fourth top-five finish in just his fourth Pro Cup start with his runner-up finish.

"I'd like to say that I'm at a loss for words, because I really am," said Frank, who unofficially took over the point lead by 17 points over Gordon. "This is a new car, and I think we got about 11 laps on the track before the race. We had good car today, and a good pit stop. I can't thank everybody involved in this deal enough. I think that me and Clay [Rogers, Frank's teammate] are leading the points in both divisions now."

Brian Ross, the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award winner, pressured Frank to the checkered flag, but the Indiana native had to settle for third. Ross, driver of the No. 42 SPEEDCO Truck Lubes Ford, led the first 109 laps of the race, but he dropped to 15th after his out-of-sequence pit stop on Lap 110. Ross, the 2002 winner at IRP, charged through the pack, but he ran out of laps.

"We wanted to pit first when that caution came out about Lap 80, but there was some miscommunication with the team," said Ross. "It ain't like it used to be when you could lose some spots on the track and make them up. There are too many good cars out there."

After leading 41 laps, Lindley dropped to fourth at the finish. But his fourth-place finish may have been the story of the day. Lindley elected to take only two right-side BFGoodrich Tires g-Force T/A radials during his pit stop and still picked up his second top-five finish in as many races.

"The left side tires just gave up at the end," said Lindley, driver of the No. 16 Hooters Air Ford. "If we would have taken right sides, it wouldn't have been a contest."

Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Ford, rounded out the top five.

The Lucas Oil 200 was slowed seven times for 47 laps and featured six lead changes among five drivers.

Lucas Oil 200 Notebook

Go or Go Home
Miller Lite Rookie of the Year contenders A.J. Frank and Woody Howard likely needed an adult beverage after their drama-laden qualifying attempts on Saturday night. Five minutes before qualifying of the Lucas Oil 200, both drivers' cars were on jack stands.

Frank's car lost a clutch before qualifying, while Howard's machine was being mended back in shape after a late-practice crash. With neither driver eligible for provisionals, it was go or go home.

Howard made it to the grid just in time and laid down the 19th-quickest time in qualifying. Frank started his car in fourth gear and slowly made it up to speed by Turn 3, but he recorded the 17th-quickest time.

"I was a little frustrated sitting there knowing I had to make a qualifying run or go home," said Frank, who picked up his third Miller Lite Rookie of the Race award in as many races. "Nobody panicked, and we had a pretty good lap. The clutch was slipping down the straightaway, so I just drove it deep into the corners. I just wonder how good a lap we could have turned had the clutch not been slipping."

Indiana Connection
After skipping one race, Shelby Howard, an Indianapolis native, made his return to the Hooters Pro Cup Series in the Lucas Oil 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. And he did it with the help of another Indiana native.

Howard joined forces with Tony Stewart Motorsports to drive the No. 20 Tony Stewart's Smoke Bar-B-Que Sauce Pontiac. Howard paced the final practice session, qualifying fourth, led one lap and finished 11th in his debut with the new team.

St. Amant a Hard Charger?
For the second race in a row, Gary St. Amant has walked away with the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award. It's a little out of character for a guy who's known as one of the most patient drivers in the business. However, it's also out of character for St. Amant, driver of the No. 11 Chevrolet, to start 25th and 21st in the past two races.

Despite the less-than-choice starting spots, St. Amant posted finishes of seventh and sixth and has jumped to seventh in points after posting a DNF in the season's first event.

Bonus Bucks
Brian Ross would have liked to walk away with the lion's share of the $127,000 purse, but he didn't do too badly for himself with his third-place run.

Ross picked up $1,000 for being the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award winner, another $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader and $500 for winning the Greased Lighting "Blast the Pack" Award for leading the most laps. All told, Ross left IRP with $8,000.

For the ninth race in a row, the Tucson "Win from the Pole" Award went unclaimed. The last time a Pro Cup driver has won from the pole was 16 races ago when Shane Huffman completed the feat at Bristol Motor Speedway.

"Called Shot"
Brian Ross took a page from Babe Ruth prior to qualifying for the Lucas Oil 200. Ross spent some time with Sam Borden, a Make-A-Wish Foundation of Indiana wish winner. Before Ross strapped into the No. 42 SPEEDCO Truck Lubes Ford, he told Borden he'd win the pole for him. And he did just that.

Ross' lap of 22.900 mph at 107.843 mph bested Clay Rogers' lap of 22.902 sec. for the top spot.

Race Stats:

Time of Race: 1:48:07
Margin of Victory: 3.069 Sec.

Caution Flags: 7 for 47 Laps
Lead Changes: 5 Lead Changes Among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders: 1-34 Clay Rogers (34); 35-109 Brian Ross (75); 110-113 Mardy Lindley (41); 114 Shelby Howard (1); 115-151 Mardy Lindley; 152-200 Jeff Agnew (49).


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