USAR: Lonesome Pine: Northern Division race report

Kauffman Wins Food City 250 Coeburn, VA-What a difference a year can make. Last season, Joel Kauffman was supposed to be a contender every week. Now, a year later, he finally is. After suffering through a disastrous season last year,...

Kauffman Wins Food City 250

Coeburn, VA-What a difference a year can make.

Last season, Joel Kauffman was supposed to be a contender every week. Now, a year later, he finally is.

After suffering through a disastrous season last year, Kauffman made a statement by leading 101 laps in the Hooters Pro Cup Series Northern Division season-opener at South Boston Speedway. On Saturday night in the Food City 250 presented by Greased Lightning at Lonesome Pine Raceway, Kauffman added the exclamation point.

Kauffman, driver of the No. 44 L.A. West Motorsports Pontiac, took the lead from Mardy Lindley on Lap 181, survived a late-race restart and went on to pick up his second career win by .562 sec. over Benny Gordon.

"I couldn't write a better story for this new team," said Kauffman. "Basically, everybody on the team is new. We've only got two guys in shop working on the cars, but these cars are so easy to drive right now. Bill Boger is doing some consulting for us, and I've got a great crew chief in Barry Elvis, and our crew made a great stop tonight. I couldn't ask for a better package than what I have right now."

It's a package that was good enough to make last year's Northern Division champion take notice.

"Joel's on top of it right now," said Benny Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford. "He was fast at [South Boston], and he's got his cars set up good. We're a little behind, because we've been working on getting our new car race-ready. We've got that done. Now, we can start beating back on it."

While Gordon heads back to DuBois, Pa., to start pounding his car into championship-shape, several others in the top five couldn't wait to start massaging sheet metal, albeit each others and not in a productive manner.

With 10 to go, Danny O'Quinn nudged A.J. Frank, who was running third at the time, at the exit of Turn 4. Frank smoked his tires to complete a perfect spin, maintained position and went on finish third.

"I hate it when somebody drives in the back of you and spins you out," said Frank, driver of the No. 45 AmericanIronhorse Ford, "It was kind of my fault because the car was so tight I had to use a lot of brake to make the car turn. I've seen Danny race enough to know he's a clean driver, and he probably didn't mean to spin me out. But I've raced enough, and spun out enough, that I finally figured out how to spin it around, grab a gear and keep going."

Frank went on to pick up $1,000 for being the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race and his first podium finish of his rookie season.

After the contact with Frank, O'Quinn, driver of the No. 02 Race To GED Chevrolet, appeared to be en route to a fourth-place finish, but the Roush Racing prodigy was on the receiving end of a last-lap bump from Johnny Rumley.

Rumley slightly touched O'Quinn as the duo throttled toward the checkered flag. The contact sent O'Quinn spinning and to a 10th-place finish, while Rumley, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet, went on to finish fourth.

"I thought I had a car good enough to run with [Gordon] and [Frank], but I didn't have anything for [Kauffman]," said O'Quinn. "I burnt the tires off trying to get by [Frank], and then we had some bad luck and got turned around at the end, but that's just part of it."

At the outset of the Food City 250, nobody was able to put a bumper to O'Quinn, because he pulled out to leads of two seconds over the field.

O'Quinn, who started from the Advance Auto Parts Pole, cleared Gordon on Lap 2 and led the first 126 laps. Gordon started to grow larger in O'Quinn's mirror around the 100-lap mark, but the Northern Division champion also had a mirror full of Joel Kauffman.

As Kauffman started to pressure Gordon for second, O'Quinn was able to pull away momentarily. But once Kauffman cleared Gordon on Lap 123, O'Quinn would lose the lead for the first time on Lap 127. O'Quinn did stay out front long enough to pick up $1,000 for being the Lucas Oil Products Halfway Leader. Combined with the $1,000 for winning the pole and $500 for picking up the Greased Lightning "Blast the Pack" Award for leading the most laps, O'Quinn took home $4,800 despite the late-race mishap.

O'Quinn's spin allowed Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy, to slip past and take his first top-five finish of the season.

"This was a great run for us," said Howard. "We've just been running so far behind. Before this weekend, we've been working day and night to get caught up. This is still our old car, but we're able to run in the top five and top 10. We're starting to get our team built up. I would have definitely liked to be the top rookie, but I'm not looking at that. We're going to go and try to win this championship."

Mardy Lindley, driver of the No. 16 Hooters Air Ford, followed Howard across the line. Lindley chose to short-pit on Lap 91. Lindley inherited the lead on Lap 141 as the Kauffman came to pit road. But 40 laps later, Kauffman swept past to retake the lead.

Gary St. Amant, Joe Gaita, D.J. Kennington were able to sneak past O'Quinn's spinning machine on the last lap to take seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, at the finish.

The Food City 250 featured four lead changes among three drivers and was slowed 10 times for 70 laps of caution.

Food City 250 Notebook

Seventh Heaven

Gary St. Amant had a terrible start to the season at South Boston after being caught up in an accident and finishing 21st. St. Amant's luck appeared to be headed in the same direction in Food City 250.

The JEGS.com Team arrived late at the track on Saturday morning after experiencing mechanical problems with the team hauler. After making needed repairs at Danny O'Quinn's nearby shop, St. Amant ran just a handful of practice laps and needed to take a provisional to make the field. But he rallied to finish seventh.

"This seventh-place finish is like a win for us," said St. Amant, who spilt the Mr. Gasket Hard Charger Award with A.J. Frank for advancing 18 positions. "From the truck not starting this morning and getting here late, from going up on the hill at Danny's shop and working on the car and the truck, and to only get a handful of practice laps, it's really amazing that we got a seventh-place finish."

First Timers Show Strength

Despite the weather, 39 teams showed up at the Food City 250 vying for 28-starting spots. While many were denied their first Pro Cup start, two of the first timers made some noise during the night.

Donny Lia, a modified ace, showed he was just as capable in a car with fenders, qualifying third and running in the top five before finishing 13th in his first Pro Cup start.

Eric Sartin, a late model ace, finished one spot ahead of Lia, coming home 12th.

Two Cars, Same Result

Going into the Food City 250, all eyes were on Jeff Agnew to breakout. Unfortunately, Agnew had to break out two cars, and they both broke.

After pacing the hour-long practice session, Agnew's No. 73 NGA Hooters Golf Tour Chevy broke during qualifying. His team pulled out a backup car for the race, but it made just three laps before going behind the wall.

Agnew rejoined the field on Lap 129, but he completed just 42 more laps before retiring in 29th position.

Stats:

Time of Race: 1:42:47

Margin of Victory: .562 Sec.

Caution Flags: 10 for 70 Laps

Lead Changes: 3 Lead Changes Among 3 drivers

Lap Leaders: 1-126 Danny O'Quinn, Jr. (126); 127-140 Joel Kauffman (84); 141-180 Mardy Lindley (40); 181-250 Joel Kauffman.

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers D.J. Kennington , Joel Kauffman , Danny O'Quinn , Donny Lia , A.J. Frank , Johnny R , Jeff Agnew