Hindsight Isn't Always 20/20 Change of plans gives Rumley, Huff Racing Naturally FreshÂ® 250 crown Xenia, OH-Johnny Rumley wasn't going to run the Naturally Fresh 250 presented by Longhorn at Kil-Kare Speedway, but a little tomfoolery by his...
Hindsight Isn't Always 20/20
Change of plans gives Rumley, Huff Racing Naturally Fresh® 250 crown
Xenia, OH-Johnny Rumley wasn't going to run the Naturally Fresh 250 presented by Longhorn at Kil-Kare Speedway, but a little tomfoolery by his car owner, Mark Huff, coaxed the veteran driver and his team to make a visit to the Ohio track.
Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Bob Huff Chevrolet/Black's Tire Pontiac, tracked down Jeff Agnew with 31 laps remaining in the Naturally Fresh 250 and held off a late-race charge by Benny Gordon to win his first race of the season-and his first in nearly two years.
"I didn't want to come here if we were tight on money," said Rumley. "It wasn't until we got in the van to come up here that we figured out that Mark had made up some stories. [Huff told the team Rumley wanted to come and told Rumley the team wanted to come] That's just Mark, and that's what I love about him. He just loves to race. That's 10 grand, and he needs it. I'm just happy for him."
Rumley is also happy the race didn't go an extra lap.
After rain showers forced the race to be red-flagged with nine laps remaining, Benny Gordon's team decided to come in and take their final two BFGoodrich Tires g-Force radials for the six-lap sprint to the finish. It proved to be a good call.
With only five cars on the lead lap, Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford, made quick work of A.J. Frank, L.W. Miller and Jeff Agnew, moving into second with two laps to go. Gordon caught Rumley on the last lap, but the DuBois, Pa., driver was unable to root Rumley from the lead.
"During that rain delay, Todd [Gordon, Benny Gordon's crew chief] came down and told me they were going to take two tires," said Rumley. "He would have had to move me, and he knew that. And I dang sure wasn't going to give up my line. I looked in the mirror when we crossed the line and saw him spinning. I thought somebody had busted him."
That wasn't the case, however. Gordon tried to turn under Rumley coming to the checkered flag and lost control crossing the finish line and spun into Turn 1 after crossing the finish line .281 seconds behind Rumley.
"We were talking under caution and figured we'd take our two original tires," said Gordon. "With just a few laps left, that really lit this car back up."
Gordon appeared he was going to light up the field once the green unfurled to start the race.
After starting from the Advance Auto Parts Pole, Gordon checked out at the start of the event, building nearly a two-second lead over second-place running Jack Bailey. But Shelby Howard, driver of the No. 20 Tony Stewart's Original Bar-B-Que Sauce Pontiac, began to track down Gordon near the 20-lap mark. And on Lap 25, the two were literally inseparable.
A pack of cars racing at the tail-end of the lead lap tangled, sending Tim Bainey Jr., driver of the No. 15 Greased Lightning Ford, and Jeremy Miller, driver of the No. 18 Ceco Buildings Chevrolet, around on the frontstretch. As Gordon tried to check up, Howard tagged him and sent him spinning.
"When we got turned around, I was really frustrated because our car was so dominating," said Gordon. "I thought that ruined our [day]. The steering wheel was crooked almost a half turn. But when I went back on the track, the car was still good."
Gordon drove from the back of the field after the incident to the front on Lap 107, bypassing Jeff Agnew, driver of the No. 73 Mark IV Honda/Team 7 Pontiac, for the lead. But Agnew refused to go quietly.
Agnew used traffic to knife his way past Gordon on Lap 117 and appeared to be en route to the $1,000 bonus for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader. Gordon had other ideas. Coming to take the crossed flags, Gordon pushed Agnew up the race track and swept past to lead Lap 125. Gordon continued to lead until rain halted the event around Lap 136. Once the track was dried, Gordon mistakenly pitted before the pits were open and had to drop to the rear of the field for the restart.
L.W. Miller, who had pitted early in the event hoping for rain after the halfway mark, took the lead after the leaders cycled through their stops and kept the No. 46 Speedco Ford up front for 40 laps.
"I certainly was [doing the rain dance]," said Miller. "We decided to pit early because we knew had a pretty good racecar, but we didn't have the best racecar."
For much of the day, nobody was sure who had the best racecar. Through 175 laps, there had been eight lead changes.
Agnew made it nine lead changes on Lap 186 when he took the lead from Miller and started to pull away to a decent lead. Behind him, Gordon was once again working his way back to the front. But through it all, Rumley had been solidly in the top five all day. With less than 40 laps remaining, Rumley started to chop Agnew's lead down, while Gordon's charge stalled due to a vibration.
Rumley caught Agnew on Lap 219 and made a bold move in traffic to wrestle the top spot away.
"I'd seen that [lapped] car on the outside push up towards the wall earlier in the race," said Rumley, who went low under Agnew. "I knew I had an opening on the bottom. It would have been tougher to pass him [had that not happened], but I think we were better than they were."
"We had nothing for them all night," said Agnew. "We probably had a third- or fourth-place car. It's a shame because we'd been so good here over the years. We tried some stuff to get better because the series is getting so much better and you got to get better. We just weren't even close to where we needed to be."
Agnew was good enough to finish third and was followed across the line by L.W. Miller.
A.J. Frank, driver of the No. 11 Lightin' Fast Spill Technologies Chevrolet, picked up his best finish of the season by coming home fifth.
Jim Crabtree Jr., driver of the No. 63 McCreary Funeral Home Chevrolet, also notched his best Pro Cup finish by finishing sixth. Crabtree's finish gave him Miller Lite Rookie of the Race honors as well.
Eric Sartin, Woody Howard, Derek Kale and Eric Corbett completed the top 10.
The Naturally Fresh 250 was slowed nine times for 68 laps and featured 11 lead changes among five drivers.
Naturally Fresh 250 Notebook
It wasn't quite the "Miracle on Ice," but Jim Crabtree's sixth-place finish was a pretty special moment. Not because Crabtree isn't a competent wheelman, but rather due to the size of his team's budget and his rookie status.
"I almost feel as good as if I'd won the race; I'm happy, real happy," said Crabtree, driver of the No. 63 McCreary County Funeral Home Chevrolet. "We weren't sure we were going to Jennerstown, but I'm pretty sure we're going now."
Crabtree added $1,000 to his purse for being the top-finishing rookie and an extra $500 via the Aaron's Hard Charger Award for advancing 17 positions.
Walking in the Ohio Rain
The Naturally Fresh 250 was scheduled for an 8 p.m. start on Friday night, but persistent showers forced the race to be run at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The delay marked the second time in the last year that an Ohio race was pushed back a day for precipitation. The Mansfield Motorsport Speedway Championship Series event was pushed back due to rain last October.
Cameron Dodson, driver of the No. 14 Elite Auto Collision Chevrolet, picked up his best finish of the season by coming home 11th in the Naturally Fresh 250 at Kil-Kare Speedway. Everything went well for the rookie driver until he crossed the finish line. Dodson tangled with another car and plowed the water barrels in Turn 1. Regardless, Dodson was still happy with the climactic conclusion.
"It is exciting for our team to get a solid finish," said Dodson. "I am really proud of everyone on our May's Motorsports team for working hard to bring us together and keep improving every race. That is a tall order in this series because it is very competitive, but I feel like I am improving as a stock car driver."
Dodson joined the Hooters Pro Cup Series after winning the Auto Value/Bumper-to-Bumper Super Sprint Series (AVSS) championship and rookie of the year title.
I Never Left
Seeing A.J. Frank and his No. 11 Lightin' Fast Chevrolet around the front of the field in the last few weeks has been a welcome sight for fans. But Frank is quick to point out that situations, not performance, put the Bullet Racing team in an early-season hole.
"The first race we were caught up in a wreck. The second race we had a mechanical failure," said Frank. "We've had a top-10 car every week. But, you know, it's a new team and new guys. Now everybody's clicking. We had a few growing pains, but we feel good about the progress we're making, and we hope to keep marching more towards the front."
Best of the Best
The Hooters Pro Cup Series will be off this weekend, but at Jennerstown Speedway on May 27, the best of the best will likely show up for the Northern Division race. And Benny Gordon knows that.
"Jennerstown is going to be a championship-type race," Gordon said of the likelihood of Southern Division interlopers joining the field. "It doesn't count for championship points, but it's going to count for something. We're going to be ready for them."