Agnew Breaks Home State Slump, Wins Food CityÂ® 250 Who Said You Can't Go Home? Coeburn, VA - It took Jeff Agnew nine years and 29 starts, but he finally proved author Thomas Wolfe wrong. In the early '90s, Jeff Agnew won countless races and...
Agnew Breaks Home State Slump, Wins Food City® 250
Who Said You Can't Go Home?
Coeburn, VA - It took Jeff Agnew nine years and 29 starts, but he finally proved author Thomas Wolfe wrong.
In the early '90s, Jeff Agnew won countless races and track championships in his home state of Virginia. But since joining the Hooters Pro Cup Series in 1998, the Floyd, Va., native was 0-for-29 in Virginia before Saturday night's running of the Food City® 250 presented by Longhorn at Lonesome Pine Raceway.
Agnew, driver of the No. 73 Mark IV Honda/Team 7 Pontiac, slipped past Woody Howard on Lap 206 and held off Jack Bailey en route to victory, proving that "You Can Go Home Again."
"We just had a great car," said Agnew, who took over the point lead with his 12th Pro Cup win. "I didn't know we had the best car until we took the lead. In the first run, I told the guys if [the other drivers] didn't make the right adjustments on the pit stop, we had the car to beat."
Agnew did have the car to beat in the Food City 250, but the race wasn't a cakewalk for the Pro Cup veteran.
Moments before Advance Auto Parts Pole Qualifying, Agnew's Pontiac was pushed off the starting grid after the transmission failed. His teammates thrashed to repair the car before qualifying, but Agnew's lap of 17.051 seconds wouldn't put him in the show. Instead, he would need a past champion's provisional to make the race.
"That was the second year in a row that had happened," said Agnew, who had transmission problems in qualifying last year at LPR. "We put it back together last year, and it ended up breaking in the race. All that goes through your mind, but I've got all the confidence in the world with this team we've got."
After starting shotgun on the field, Agnew wasted little time showing his confidence was warranted.
In just 23 laps, the 1998 Hooters Pro Cup Champion knifed his way from 29th to 18th on the tight bullring. By Lap 64, Agnew had cracked the top five. While Agnew was working his way to the front, Benny Gordon, driver of the No. 66 Predator Performance Ford, was trying to distance himself from the pack.
Gordon, who qualified fourth, took the lead away from Richard Landreth, driver of the No. 10 Romeo Guest Construction Ford, on Lap 4 and built a healthy cushion over Jack Bailey and Woody Howard in the first 70 laps.
Agnew picked his way past Bailey and Howard by Lap 75 to move into second place and a caution on Lap 76 allowed him to move to the rear bumper of Gordon's car for the Lap 82 restart.
Agnew ducked under Gordon for the lead on Lap 83, but he slid into the side of the No. 66 Ford and lost momentum. On Lap 92, Agnew would have another dilemma do deal with as Gordon led most of the field, except Agnew, to pit road.
"We were just La, La, La-ing around, and I said, 'It looks like Benny's dropping down to pit,'" said Agnew. "The crew said to come on in with him, but I decided to just stay out. It was a big thing on the radio for a little bit, but we were just having a good time. That's what makes this team so strong; we like to have a good time."
Gordon, on the other hand, wasn't having such a good time after his pit stop.
While working his way back to the point after the cycle of stops, Gordon tangled with Derek Kale and was hit with a rough-driving penalty, sending him from third to 21st in the running order.
With Gordon and Agnew, who dropped to 14th after pitting on Lap 139, at the back of the field, Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55 Dean Motorsports Chevy, took his turn out front. For the next 50 laps, Howard and Jack Bailey battled for the lead. Bailey, driver of the No. 93 Ferguson Waterworks Ford, could pull alongside Howard, but the Pro Cup newcomer couldn't wrestle the lead away.
As the leaders waged war, Agnew had no foes. He passed at will and made up four seconds during a 40-lap, green-flag run. Agnew slipped past Bailey on Lap 201 to take second and, five laps later, he completed his run from the worst to first, slipping past Woody Howard and assuming control of the Food City 250.
Bailey followed Agnew around Howard and stayed within earshot of the No. 73 Pontiac, but he fell .407 seconds shy of his first Pro Cup win.
"We had a great car at South Boston, but we couldn't close the deal there," said Bailey, who was making his second Pro Cup start. "We really worked on this car 110% before we came here. Randy Humphrey and Robert Huffman have provided me with a great opportunity here. They believe in me, and I believe in them. This was great run for us."
Gordon was unable to stay with Agnew as they worked their way back to the front, but he did manage to slip past Howard for third late in the race. Gordon picked up the Greased Lightning "Super Strength Performer" Award for leading a race-high 89 laps.
Howard, who led 67 laps, came home fourth.
"I just haven't got this place figured out," said Howard. "We made the car better on the pit stop, but what we needed to change couldn't be changed on a pit stop. Overall, it was good points night."
Johnny Rumley, driver of the No. 8 O'Quinn Trailer Sales/BTS Chevy, rebounded from an early-race pit stop to finish fifth.
Ken Butler III, driver of the No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine, moved his 24th-starting spot to finish sixth and picked up the Aaron's Hard Charger Award.
L.W. Miller finished seventh. Rookie Jeremy Pate finished eighth and picked up the Miller Lite Rookie of the Race Award. Caleb Holman came home ninth. Shelby Howard pushed his top-10 streak to three races with his 10th-place finish.
The Food City 250 was slowed 13 times for 74 laps of caution and featured five lead changes among four drivers.
Food City 250 Notebook
Johnny Rumley is without a sponsor this season, but the Mark Huff-led team isn't sitting around and sulking. Huff found support in the Food City 250 from a former Pro Cup competitor's family. O'Quinn Trailers sales adorned the side of the No. 8 Chevy, which was painted just like Danny O'Quinn Jr.'s former Pro Cup car.
"I just have to thank O'Quinn Trailers for their help tonight; we need all the help we can get," said Rumley. "Black's Tire Service has helped us out in the first two races, too. We thought we had a car to mix it up tonight and put on a good show for them, but we were struggling at the end."
Over and Under
Jeremy Pate has always been over-achieving and under-funded during his racing career. But now he's got a chance to make some noise in the Hooters Pro Cup Series, and he showed some of what he's capable of during the Food City 250. Pate qualified 13th and finished eighth to take home Miller Lite Rookie of the Race honors.
"I love this series," said Pate, driver of the No. 67 Wear Crete/Diamond Concrete Ford. "I've worked day and night with no money to get to where I'm at right now. I've never had a dime to bring to the table.
"This isn't the greatest funded team, but we've got one good car and a motor. We're just trying to get some good finishes and hopefully we can land a good sponsor."
Lucky, Lucky Me
Aaron's Sales & Lease Ownership sponsors the "Lucky Dog" award this year in the Hooters Pro Cup Series. While Ken Butler III, driver of the No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine, didn't use the Lucky Dog during the event, he did need some luck to make the Food City 250.
"Without [Jeff Agnew] having problems in qualifying, I wouldn't have made the show," said Butler III, who qualified 24th. "It was good to get lucky finally. We needed it, missing South Boston was tough."
Butler used his lucky break to his advantage and picked up a career-best, sixth-place finish.
"To run like we did tonight makes me feel that I belong in the series," said Butler. "It was good to race clean with everybody. I had a fun night."
After breaking the Virginia slump, one might have thought Jeff Agnew would be partying to the wee hours of the morning. But that wasn't the case.
"I've got a seven-year-old and a two-year-old that I got to get home," said Agnew after the race. "I'm just going to go home and go to bed."
Doesn't Matter What They Do
Jeff Agnew's strategy to pit nearly 50 laps later than the rest of the field had a lot of drivers talking after the race, but Johnny Rumley didn't dwell too long on the subject.
"I don't think it mattered when anybody pitted," said Rumley. "Jeff was the class of the field. He could turn and get off the corners better than any of us. I couldn't do it, and Woody and Benny couldn't do it."