Pit Road Penalty Costs McFarland Shot At USAR Hooters Pro Cup Iowa As a veteran driver, Mark McFarland knows the smallest mistake can be the difference between winning and losing a race. On Saturday, one of those mistakes proved to be the ...
Pit Road Penalty Costs McFarland Shot At USAR Hooters Pro Cup Iowa
As a veteran driver, Mark McFarland knows the smallest mistake can be the difference between winning and losing a race. On Saturday, one of those mistakes proved to be the difference between a victory and an 11th-place finish for the driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies/Greased Lightning Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
"We got a penalty for pitting too soon and that just killed our finish," said McFarland (right) after taking the checkered flag in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Soy Biodiesel 225 championship event at Iowa Speedway. "We should have finished in the Top-5 pretty easily, maybe even won the race, but we got that penalty with about 25 laps to go. You have to commit to pit at the start/finish line in the Hooters series and we did that a lap early. The pace car hadn't picked up the field yet. It was our mistake. I guess we weren't paying attention. It was probably my fault. We had to go to the tail end of the longest line, around 26th, on the restart. If we didn't have that penalty, we would have come out around 13th or 14th. Not everyone in front of us pitted and one car that came in and pitted with us restarted 14th or 15th and finished second. I guess you could say that penalty was pretty big."
McFarland's Chevy was one of the fastest cars on the 7/8-mile Iowa oval in Friday's practice session and had the Winchester, VA native looking forward to the second race in the five-event USAR championship series Saturday evening. That optimism was justified after qualifying as McFarland quickly roared through the field at the drop of the green flag.
"We started 10th and drove right to the front," said McFarland. "We were up to second before we pitted around Lap 40 for the first set of tires. I really thought we were going to be home free because our car was just that good. Unfortunately, we wound up getting that penalty and that killed our chances."
McFarland continued to cycle through the field after a series of pit stops until coming to pit road in the late stages of the event for his final set of tires. Hoping to drive through the field one more time, McFarland's dreams of taking the win were short-circuited when he was hit with the tail end of the longest line penalty.
Despite the infraction, McFarland was able to still salvage a good finish passing cars at will in the final 25 laps to finish 11th.
"We had a real good car," said McFarland. "We just made one mistake. We had an open test Friday and we felt really good about our car. We knew we would be real good on long runs, a lot better than a lot of other people especially on old tires. I really felt like we could have won this race. We just had one little mistake and it really bit us."
While the error may have deep-sixed a win at Iowa, it didn't sink McFarland's chances in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup title chase.
"We still had a good points finish and I think we may have moved up one spot from sixth to fifth in the standings," said McFarland. "We've got three races left and we're going to Myrtle Beach in two weeks for the next race. I really love that track. We finished second there the last race and we'll be taking that car plus a new one that we like a lot. Myrtle Beach has always been a good track for me in the past and we'll be looking run good there again this time."