USAR: Kil-Kare: Race report

Woody Howard Wins 250 Rookies Fight To Finish at Kil-Kare Xenia, OH-Being a rookie in the Hooters Pro Cup Series, Woody Howard has had to learn new tracks, new cars and new competition this season. But it was another "new"...

Woody Howard Wins 250
Rookies Fight To Finish at Kil-Kare

Xenia, OH-Being a rookie in the Hooters Pro Cup Series, Woody Howard has had to learn new tracks, new cars and new competition this season. But it was another "new" that put Howard victory lane on Friday night at Kil-Kare Speedway-a new strategy.

"We just took two tires," said Howard, who pitted on Lap 75 and went the final 179 without stopping. "When we would put new tires on in the past, I really couldn't tell that much difference, so we decided to gamble."

And it would payoff for Howard in the end.

Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy, took the lead once the lead-lap cars cycled through pit stops Lap 197. Howard had a mirror full of Jeff Agnew and A.J. Frank during the waning stages of the race, but the rookie standout, and his BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials, weathered the storm and Howard picked up his first Pro Cup win in just his seventh start.

"I can't believe it," said Howard, a Joe Gibbs Racing Development driver. "I was almost like, 'If we don't win, it's OK.' I was just happy to be running up front all night. This was our first time running up front since South Boston. I've won some big races before, but this is the best win of my career."

For much of the night, however, Howard's breakthrough win looked like it may have to wait, because another Howard appeared to be en route to his first Pro Cup victory.

Shelby Howard, no relation, started his No. 20 Tony Stewart's Smoke Bar-B- Que Pontiac from the Advance Auto Parts Pole and set a blistering pace in the first 100 laps.

Howard lapped half the field by Lap 54 and built leads of four seconds over second-place running Benny Gordon. Three cautions in the first 65 laps would erase Howard's healthy leads. But each time, the former Craftsman Truck Series driver would check out once the green waved.

Knowing Shelby Howard had the dominant car, many of the leaders, including Woody Howard, elected to short pit under the next caution on Lap 75. After taking only two tires, Howard lined up fifth for the restart on Lap 80.

Shortly after green waved, Shelby Howard's dominating run started to go awry. Navigating lapped traffic, the Greenwood, Ind., native received damage on the right-rear corner of his machine. The damage caused a noticeable tire rub. Howard's times began to fall off, allowing Agnew to pull in to battle for the top spot.

After picking up a $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Halfway Leader, Shelby Howard gave way to Agnew, driver of the No. 73 NGA Hooters Golf Tour Pontiac, on Lap 137 and continued to backslide over the next 30 laps, dropping to sixth place.

While Shelby Howard was fading, Gerald Davis, driver of the No. 28 Action Concrete Supplies Ford, was vaulting into contention shortly after the race's midpoint. Davis, who started 20th, pulled to the rear-deck lid of Agnew by Lap 162 and threatened the defending race winner for the lead. Agnew was able to keep the top spot, but he, along with many of the leaders, still needed to come to pit road for their mandatory stop.

After 112 laps of green-flag racing, Agnew, Davis, Gary St. Amant, Johnny Rumley and Shelby Howard finally got their chance to hit pit road under caution on Lap 195 when the lead-lap cars of Gordon, A.J. Frank and Mardy Lindley tangled with the lapped car of Vince Fanello.

Lindley and Frank escaped with minimal damage, but Gordon lost a lap and fell from contention. Shelby Howard also dropped from the leader board after losing a lap during the cycle of pit stops. With most of the leaders pitting or being involved in the accident, Woody Howard assumed the lead.

Agnew, who led 61 laps, rejoined the field seventh for the green flag a lap 201 and began to make a spirited run back to the front. Passing high and low, Agnew moved to third by Lap 215 and started chase down leaders Woody Howard and A.J. Frank.

By Lap 230, a blanket could have been placed over the top three as Frank looked for a way around Woody Howard for the lead and Agnew tried to root Frank out of second.

Agnew pulled under Frank on Lap 239, but the pass for second took the Floyd, Va., driver four laps to make and allowed Woody Howard to pull away. Agnew finally cleared Frank on Lap 242 and caught Howard on Lap 245. Agnew pulled alongside Howard twice couldn't complete the pass. Agnew had his best run on Howard on Lap 246, pulling even heading into Turn 4, but Agnew's cars snapped violently as the leaders headed toward the start/finish line, allowing Frank to retake second. On the following lap, Agnew's car crept to a stop in Turn 4, bringing out the final caution and setting up the green-white-checkered finish between two drivers looking for there first Pro Cup win.

"I know that Woody was wanting that first win as much as I was," said Frank, driver of the No. 45 Low Country Customs Ford. "I could run him down on the long runs. But, obviously, with two laps, our only shot to win was going to be to rough him up, and I didn't want to do that."

Had Frank rattled Howard, Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 11 Chevy, was waiting in the wings.

St. Amant made a late-race charge to move into third for the two-lap dash to the checkered. Prior to the late-race restart, St. Amant was turning the fastest times on the track. But once the final green waved, St. Amant didn't come up to speed. The hesitation allowed Howard and Frank to pull away at the finish. St. Amant did hold on to pick up his third podium finish in row.

"I'm happy with third," said St. Amant. "I thought we had a car that could win tonight, but we're consistently running up front now, and that's good."

Mart Nesbitt, driver of the No. 88 BCBS/ Chevy, picked up his second top-five finish in as many races by coming home fourth.

Mardy Lindley, driver of the No. 16 Hooters Air Ford, rounded out the top five at the finish.

Shelby Howard was able to make his lap up late in the race, but he could only climb back to seventh at the finish. In addition to winning the Advance Auto Parts Pole Award and the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader Award, Howard picked up the Greased Lightning "Blast the Pack Award" for leading the most laps. Howard led 135 laps.

The 250 was slowed seven times for 49 laps of caution and featured three lead changes among three drivers. 250 Notebook

Lite Fight
As the laps wore down in the 250 at Kil-Kare Speedway, A.J. Frank and Woody Howard were not only battling for the win, but they were also fighting for the $1,000 Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award. Howard was able to take both and $11,000 for his efforts.

Point Shakeup
Benny Gordon had a 101-point lead over Mardy Lindley coming into the 250. But after his ninth-place finish, coupled with Frank's second-place run, Gordon only leads Frank, who moved into second in points, by 80 points heading into Motor Mile.

Hard-Charging Finish
Things haven't gone well for Joe Gaita and Odle Motorsports lately. Ross has suffered mechanical failures in the last two events. Things didn't look like they were going to change on Friday night, either. Gaita, driver of the No. 46 US Insurance Group Ford, started 18 in the 28-car field and made an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 11. But Gaita was able to rebound from the shaky start and picked up the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award for advancing the most positions during the 250.

Follow the Leader
Gary St. Amant's pit strategy was set by Shelby Howard, who set a blistering pace in the first 100 laps, during the running of the 250 at Kil-Kare Speedway. "I didn't want to come in early with the way Shelby was running," said St. Amant. "The leader can catch you real quick at this track, and I didn't want to be fighting to stay on the lead lap."

Pecking Order
Todd Peck, driver of the No. 40 GLR Investments Chevy, turned in his best qualifying effort of the season in 250 at Kil-Kare Speedway. Peck qualified sixth out of the 39 cars in attendance.


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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Tony Stewart , Shelby Howard , A.J. Frank , Jeff Agnew , Todd Peck
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing