USAR: Iowa CS: Race report

Woody Howard Wins Soy Biodiesel 250 Pristine Iowa Speedway Sparks Photo Finish Newton, Iowa-When the white flag waved for the Soy Biodiesel 250, Woody Howard was running fourth. But when checkered flag flew, Howard eked his No. 55 Dean ...

Woody Howard Wins Soy Biodiesel 250
Pristine Iowa Speedway Sparks Photo Finish

Newton, Iowa-When the white flag waved for the Soy Biodiesel 250, Woody Howard was running fourth. But when checkered flag flew, Howard eked his No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevrolet across the finish line .064 seconds ahead of Daniel Johnson to win the inaugural race at Iowa Speedway.

"My car owner, Jim Dean, said he didn't care if we only led one lap all night as long is it was the last one," said Howard, who led for the first time on the last lap. "I don't even remember which way I made the pass; I was just going where it was open. I'm just glad it all worked out."

Coming to the white flag, Johnson, driver of No. 3 Charlotte Check Cashers Pontiac, looked like he would be the first one to christen Iowa Speedway's Victory Lane.

After a late-race caution set up a green-white-checkered finish, Johnson nudged Mardy Lindley out of the lead on Lap 258, but the contact allowed Howard to get a run on the leader going into Turn 1 on the final lap. With momentum on his side, Howard ducked to the inside of Johnson, and the two went side-by-side for the final lap, banging off each other several times. But in the end, Johnson, who led a race-high 82 laps, fell short of his first Hooters Pro Cup Series win.

"This is an awesome place, and it felt so good running up front here," said Johnson. "I really wanted to win, but this is one of the best runs I've had. We almost didn't make this race due to lack of funds. This definitely helps us out."

As Johnson and Howard fought for the top spot, Justin Hobgood also joined the fray on the final lap. Hobgood, driver of the No. 16 Naturally Fresh Ford, made it three-wide coming to the checkered flag, but the Winnsboro, S.C., driver finished .129 seconds behind in third.

"There's just so much grip out there," said Hobgood, who was the highest-finishing rookie. "We were three and four wide out there. It probably wasn't the smartest thing to be doing, but it was time to go."

While the top three were elated with their podium finishes, Shane Wallace was feeling no elation after cutting a tire with less than two laps remaining.

Wallace wrestled the lead away from Lonnie Rush Jr. with 30 laps remaining in the race and was holding Mardy Lindley at bay for the top spot as the laps were winding down. But as he entered Turn 3 on Lap 249, Wallace's No. 38 EM Wallace Contractors Ford slid up the banking, bringing out the caution and setting up a green-white-checkered finish.

Wallace didn't make any contact and stayed on the lead lap, but his chance for his first win was gone. Wallace did rally back to finish 11th.

Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 80 Champion Spark Plugs Chevrolet, also did some rallying at Iowa Speedway. Rumley bounced off the wall late in the final practice session, but his JR Motorsports teammates prepared the backup car to perfection, allowing the Summerfield, N.C., driver to come home fourth.

Mardy Lindley, driver of the No. 22 Black's Tire & Auto Service Ford, finished fifth, but he had shot to win for the second time in three races with Ricky Benton Racing.

After Wallace dropped from the lead, Lindley looked to be in command of the event, because he had been tracking down Wallace before the caution. But Johnson, who had dropped back in the field after his car cut off on Lap 199, was on the charge.

Johnson immediately put the pressure on Lindley when the final green flag waved on Lap 257. Lindley tried to fend off Johnson, but the two tangled for the lead coming to the white flag, enabling Howard, Hobgood and Rumley to slip past.

Lonnie Rush Jr., driver of the No. 71 Ray Skillman Auto Chevrolet, led 18 laps during the race and came home sixth.

Clay Rogers, who led nine laps, brought his No. 44 Automotive Development Group Ford home in seventh.

Dange Hanniford, making his second start for Mac Hill Motorsports, followed Rogers across the line in eight. Mart Nesbitt, driver of the No. 88 Ford, and Jim Crabtree, driver of the No. 63 McCreary County Funeral Homes Chevrolet, rounded out the top 10.

In addition to finishing third, Hobgood picked up $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race.

After nabbing $1,000 for being the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award winner, Shelby Howard, driver of the No. 20 Speedco/Tony Stewart Racing Chevrolet, finished 12th.

Daniel Johnson picked up the Aaron's Hard Charger Award from advancing the most positions during the Soy Biodiesel 250. Johnson started 31st and finished second. He also took home the Greased Lightning Super Strength Performer Award from leading a race-high 82 laps.

Bobby Gill, driver of the No. 06 USG Sheetrock Brand Ford, led 72 laps during night, including the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Lap, but the 3-time champion fell to 20th after making a late-race pit stop.

The Soy Biodiesel 250 featured 26 lead changes among 14 drivers and was slowed 11 times for 93 laps of caution.

Soy Biodiesel 250 Notebook

Crafty Career

Bobby Gill has made over $1.6 million in his career by being good-and crafty. He showed both sides during the Soy Biodiesel 250 at Iowa Speedway. Gill had a car good enough to lead at will early in the race, but on Lap 123 he did something to help him in the pursuit of his fourth Pro Cup title.

While most of the lead lap cars came to pit road, Gill stayed out to lead halfway and pick up five bonus points before coming to pit road on Lap 126. The last two titles in Pro Cup have been won by 18 points, so bonus points are a premium in the post season.

Closing the Gap

When he took over the helm of the No. 16 Naturally Fresh Ford six races into the season, Justin Hobgood knew he was out of contention for the regular-season rookie of the year. But he knew the Championship Series structure would close the gap, and a string of good runs would do the rest of the final six races. Well, he was right.

Hobgood's third-place finish pushed him to second in rookie points, just eight markers behind Trevor Bayne.

"That was a goal that me and [car owner] Haskell Willingham talked about when we started this deal," said Hobgood. "We wanted to get in the Championship Series and try to win the rookie of the year. If we keep doing this, I think we can win it, and hopefully finish in the top 10 in points."

Go With What Works

When the regular eight-tire rule was lifted for the Soy Biodiesel 250 at Iowa Speedway, Daniel Johnson's teammates looked dumbfounded when he told them to sell all his new tires.

"They thought I was crazy," said Johnson. "We went back in our trailer and got all of our Peach State and Lakeland tires and had them mounted. I just felt like they would work better, and they did."

Not So Far Away, Now

When the Hooters Pro Cup Series added Iowa Speedway to the schedule, some teams thought Iowa was too far away to go race. But after seeing the Rusty Wallace-designed track in person, most had a change of heart.

"It's the nicest track I've ever been on," said Daniel Johnson. "I thought Iowa was a long way to go, but I'd come back here anytime."

The First Step is the Toughest

Clay Rogers came into the Championship Series tied with Benny Gordon for the point lead, but Rogers' seventh-place showing at Iowa Speedway gave the '04 champion a 26-point cushion over Gordon, who fell to third with his 15th-place finish, and a 16-point pad over Woody Howard, who jumped to second, with five races remaining in the regular season.

-credit: usar

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Clay Rogers , Trevor Bayne , Shelby Howard , Justin Hobgood , Johnny R
Teams JR Motorsports