Benny Gordon Wins Miller Lite 250 Fireworks erupt as Gordon wins third in a row North East, Pa.-The fireworks that followed the Miller Lite 250 presented by Longhorn were merely an encore of the on-track action at the Lake Erie Speedway on...
Benny Gordon Wins Miller Lite 250
Fireworks erupt as Gordon wins third in a row
North East, Pa.-The fireworks that followed the Miller Lite 250 presented by Longhorn were merely an encore of the on-track action at the Lake Erie Speedway on Friday night.
Six rough-driving penalties were handed out, a HANS device was thrown and plenty of words were exchanged amongst drivers after the checkered flag waved. But on this wild night, Benny Gordon steered clear of the carnage and won his third race in a row.
"Right now, I think this team is at their best," said Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford. "All the guys are working together well, things are going well in the shop and we're creating things to make the car better."
It took a little while for those changes to show, however.
Gordon qualified outside of the top five for the first time this season in the Northern Division. And while Gordon, who started seventh, tried to work his way to the front, Jack Bailey, who won the Advance Auto Parts Pole for the second straight week, didn't waste any time trying to distance himself from Gordon-and the field.
After Brad Rogers put pressure on Bailey for the first 20 laps, Bailey's No. 93 Ferguson Waterworks Ford began to inch away from the field. By Lap 40, Bailey had built a one-second lead over Rogers.
The caution waved on Lap 48, giving Rogers a chance to make up the lost ground. But after a few laps of green, Bailey again started to pull away from the pack.
Laps later, Rogers' No. 81 Knight's Companies Chevrolet was bumped from behind by Shelby Howard and sent spinning.
The caution flag sent most of the lead-lap cars to pit road. And that is when Gordon's Predator Performance pit crew may have made the best adjustment to the No. 66, moving him from sixth to first of the cars pitting on Lap 75.
"My pit crew was awesome tonight," said Gordon. "That made a big difference in this race."
Rough driving among Gordon's pursuers also played a crucial part in the finishing order.
Bailey, who was second off pit road, pressured Gordon around the .375-mile track for much of the second half of the race before Jeff Agnew, driver of the No. 73 Mark IV Honda/Team 7 Pontiac, slipped past to take the runner-up position. Agnew began to pressure Gordon for the lead with 40 laps remaining. With the lead trio under a blanket, Agnew and Bailey made contact, sending the No. 73 for a spin and the No. 93 to the rear of the field for rough driving.
The late-race altercation ended any chance Agnew and Bailey had to upstage Gordon.
"You always have to worry about Agnew when he's behind you," said Gordon. "He drives the car so hard. I was getting held up by [Lonnie Rush] a little bit, but I was making sure that I hit my marks and didn't let Agnew by me."
Brad Rogers and A.J. Frank, who had been on the receiving end of the rough- driving penalties earlier in the event, benefited from the Agnew-Bailey clash and rebounded to match their season-best finishes.
Brad Rogers, driver of the No. 81 Knight's Companies Ford, was sent spinning by Shelby Howard early in the event and dodged the flying cars down the stretch to come home second for the second time in as many races.
"These second-place finishes are just like wins for us," said Rogers, who finished second at Myrtle Beach on June 24. "It was an up-and-down night for us, but I can't give enough props to this team. We're definitely getting it turned around."
A.J. Frank had a run-in with Eric Corbett, but he righted the No. 11 LightninFast.com Pontiac and made a late-race charge to pick up his second consecutive third-place finish.
"It's good to be running back up front," said Frank. "It's been that way for two weeks in a row now, but I just wish I could get a little more respect out here. I tried to race everybody clean, but I guess some guys can't do the same. We got dumped, but I think we got those positions back when [Jeff Agnew and Jack Bailey] got together."
Johnny Rumley was one of the few drivers that went unscathed during the event and brought his No. 8 Snow King/Black's Tire Service Chevrolet in fourth.
Gary St. Amant, driver of the No. 72 JEGS.com Chevrolet, rounded out the top five.
Shelby Howard, Tim Bainey Jr., Sam Fullone, L.W. Miller and Derek Kale completed the top 10.
The Miller Lite 250 was slowed 14 times for 81 laps of caution and featured two lead changes among three drivers.
Miller Lite 250 Notebook
Todd Peck, driver of the No. 40 Moreno Welding Chevrolet, is one of the more eccentric drivers in the Hooters Pro Cup Series. In the Miller Lite 250, Peck took racing legend to task, painting a peanut on his hood of his black-and-green ride.
"Our luck certainly couldn't get any worse, so we embraced it," said Peck, who had five consecutive DNFs before finishing 23rd at LES. "It might have started something. We're leaving here with a racecar that's a good starting point for Motor Mile. We've got some bugs to work out, but we'll be alright. I think the peanut may stay around."
Much Needed Miller Lite
Derek Kale, driver of the No. 22 Heritage Equipment Chevrolet, has seen his fair share of conflict since joining the Hooters Pro Cup Series this season. He's been fast, averaging a 10th-place starting spot, but he's finished with battered machines nearly every week. Kale employed a new strategy in the Miller Lite 250-and it paid off with his first Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award.
Kale started 16th and finished 10th in the roughhousing race.
"I tried to change my attitude coming into this race," said Kale, who moved atop of the Northern Division ROTY standings with his second top-10 finish of his rookie season. "I didn't care if we were dead last tonight or first. I just wanted to finish the race with a car that was not torn up. Sometimes I lifted more than I would have liked to, but I tried to keep the car underneath me and come out of here with a decent finish. I am happy about how the night turned out."
The heated tempers on the track during the Miller Lite 250 at Lake Erie Speedway resulted in Shelby Howard, Lonnie Rush Jr., Jack Bailey, Dominick Casola, Woody Howard and Eric Corbett receiving rough-driving penalties.
Short-track racing usually has its fair share of beating and banging, but A.J. Frank believes a lack of respect could be the culprit for the extra incidents.
"Sometimes, these guys just don't show you any respect," said Frank. "It takes talent to pass somebody; you have to set them up and work them. It doesn't take talent to run over somebody."
Brad Rogers landed at Pete Knight Racing this season with high expectations. He was with a championship-caliber team, but Rogers' performance didn't show it. In four races, Rogers posted finishes of 27th, 14th, 18th and 28th. But in the last three races, the No. 81n has back-to- back, second-place finishes and a ninth.
"We ran second to the best car in the Southern Division at Myrtle Beach and we ran second to the best car in the Northern Division tonight. It looks like we're the second-best car in both divisions," joked Rogers. "My brother [Clay Rogers] has been a big influence on me, trying to keep me pumped up. Pete Knight has stood behind me, and I think this team can win anytime now."
It may not show it in the finishing order, but Woody Howard's No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevrolet was fast at Lake Erie Speedway.
Howard qualified second, but had to fall to the rear of the field after finding a faulty hub on the car. Howard went from 31st to second in the first 100 laps before tangling with Lonnie Rush Jr. for the lead. After going to the rear of the field, Howard again charged to the front before a sputtering engine dropped him to 16th at the finish.